What is something written in our time period that would be considered American Literature and probably studied in the future by college kids?
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Well, this is such a subjective question, as no one can really predict what we will be reading/studying/teaching in a few years time, and unfortunately one of the problems with the publishing industry today is that so much rubbish is churned out and it is hard to distinguish or identify "contemporary classics." Some would argue that the phrase "contemporary classic" is a paradox, as one thing that needs to happen for a text to become a "classic" is for it to pass the test of time, which by its very nature a contemporary classic is unable to do.
However, having given this preface, one author I have been greatly impressed with is Cormac McCarthy, especially his dystopian fiction The Road, which presents us with a grim future world with the majority of humans dead or eaten by other humans because all other food sources have gone. The journey of the father and his son to find the sea is an updated take on the ancient archetype of the voyage, and the challenges they have to overcome ask serious questions about morality and ethics. An unforgettable book, and one which I think we will be studying for some time.
I would bet that some or all of the works of Sherman Alexie will be common to the reading lists of future college students, not only because it receives so much literary praise already, but because he is so prolific, and because of his Native American perspective, which will serve as a contrast to other authors and traditional works.
I really appreciate the works of Barbara Kingsolver. Her work, though prose, is so beautifully poetic. It has a mellifluous quality that is soothing, even when tackling a thoroughly horrible subject. The Poisonwood Bible is excellent, as is The Bean Trees. I will be surprised if she doesn't end up on many reading lists for high school and college as her books have already been routinely chosen by book clubs everywhere.
Wow. Great question. Books get to be classics in all kinds of ways--sometimes when the author is still alive and productive and sometimes after the author has lived a life of obscurity and is gone. I guess I would venture a guess based more on subject matter than on style. The novels which explore the tensions of the Middle-eastern world seem like inevitable must-reads. Things like Reading Lolita in Tehran and The Kite-Runner would top my list right now, but it's still just a guess.
I would look to the prize winner authors. Obviously authors like Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou are already widely taught, but what about popular and prolific Pulitzer prize winner Geraldin Brooks, who won for March but has also written the very successful Year of Wonders and Peole of the Book.
I agree with The Kite Runner being considered a classic at some point. It discusses the life of an immigrant in America, a country to which modern times will be linked (Afghanistan), and is a masterful first work for an author.
I do think that you might see one or two of Jodi Picoult's books being taught, not her novels which include supernatural elements, but some of them that deal with very American issues that not many novelists care to write about (19 Minutes comes to mind). In addition to her topic choices, Picoult's prose, especially her sentence structure is admirable.
One other book that I read this summer, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, has received wide acclaim and seems like it might be a good candidate for American Classics.
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