A Fictional History of the United States



Like A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, A Fictional History of the United States (with Huge Chunks Missing) aims to give a voice to the voiceless, and to feature stories regularly excluded from popular histories of the nation. The world of fiction that unfolds includes everything from a transvestite prostitute version of Huckleberry Finn to a short story about the 1937 Woolworth's strikers.

The collection also draws inspiration from the general thesis that "history is fiction." To this end, many stories playfully expound upon moments in mainstream American history—such as the moon landing—and roots historical events in interpersonal situations, anecdotes, and imaginative scenarios. Ultimately, the book has a down-to-earth understanding of what it can or can't accomplish in this respect with a mere 17 pieces. Nevertheless, the entire collection is a stimulating exercise for the historical imagination. What begins with Paul La Farge juxtaposing conflicting tales of America's discovery moves on to Kate Bornstein's riotous and vividly rendered continuation of the Huck Finn saga—in which the rascal runaway becomes a tranny hooker in a New Orleans bordello—and the anthology finally ends with Daniel Alarcón's vision of 2011 (it involves a president with an amputated leg). A lively mix of pieces fills in the chronology, including Thomas O'Malley's poignant story about a boy's emotional anxiety over the moon landing, Keith Knight's insightful comic strip about the Harlem Globetrotters' crushing 1971 loss to the Washington Generals, and Neal Pollack's cynical tale of one journalist's ride to fame through a few dates with Monica Lewinsky.

A Fictional History of the Uni­ted States (with Huge Chunks Mis­sing) reads something like a 1001 Arabian Nights for marginalized American voices: Richly det­ailed stories unfold within pre­existing historical narratives, subtly revealing the inexhaustible nature of the stories we tell about our nation. Ultimately, the reader is left to revel in the pleasure of these retellings.


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