In grade school history lessons, the United States is often described as a melting pot of people, cultures and religions from all around the world. In July, we celebrate the birth of our country and Independence Day. In the July 4th issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, more than 15,000 people were said to be sworn in to become new U.S. citizens in naturalization ceremonies around the country. Inspired by the snippets of the backgrounds of these people, such as a Pakistani pharmacist and Iranian software engineer, this month’s audiobook selections feature the stories of Americans, past and present. From ordinary people to soldiers, these stories show there is no one American experience and the rich diversity of all of our people.
American Pastoral by Philip Roth (CD Fic Roth)
Seymour ‘Swede’ Levov, a Jewish American businessman, and his perfect American middle class life is turned upside down in the political and social turmoil of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency and the 1960s. A Pulitzer Prize winner and made into film in late 2016.
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (CD Fic Franzen)
The idyllic lives of civic-minded environmentalists Patty and Walter Berglund of St. Paul, Minnesota come into question when their son moves in with aggressive Republican neighbors, green lawyer Walter takes a job in the coal industry, and go-getter Patty becomes increasingly unstable and enraged. A window into American life and family dynamics in the 1980s to early 2000s.
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (CD Fic Crane)
A classic novel set during the American Civil War about Henry Fleming, a Union Army soldier who runs from battle and his subsequent shame and desire to redeem himself.
Also available as an e-audiobook.
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín (CD Fic Tóibín)
Eilis Lacey finds herself reluctantly starting a new life in 1950s Brooklyn after she is given the chance to emigrate from Enniscorthy, Ireland by her family priest but later finds herself called back to Ireland due to a family tragedy. Made into a feature film in 2015.
On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry (CD Fic Barry)
Through journal entries, 89-year-old Lilly Bere narrates her story of fleeing from Ireland with her son to start a new life in America. She lives through the losses of loved ones, the civil rights movement, the Kennedy assastination, and the Vietnam war to the Gulf War while holding onto hope. Third in Sebastian Barry’s novels of the Dunne family.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (CD Fic Whitehead)
The story opens with the capture of Ajarry, grandmother to Cora, and follows Cora from her life on a Georgia plantation to her escape through the Underground Railroad. In her pre-Civil War journey from South to North, she must outrun Ridgeway, a slave catcher, and encounters cruelty from whites, other slaves and freedmen. Winner of the 2016 National Book Award and the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (CD Fic Saunders)
Inspired by the story of President Lincoln and his grief over the death of his son Willie, George Saunders takes artistic license to craft a story about the after-life of Willie Lincoln and his experience in the Bardo, the Tibetan name for the state of existence between death and the next life.