What is a recent short story (after 2000) about the American Dream?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The American Dream is a perennial subject of interest to fiction writers in the United States. In this millennium, the subject increasingly includes multiple cultural and gendered dimensions, while earlier authors most often wrote about the topic primarily in terms of class and sometimes in terms of race. Some of the newer stories about the Dream emphasize its dystopian side—the American nightmare. Many continue in the trajectory of exposing the hypocrisy of social climbing aspirations, while others highlight the unequal opportunities given to Americans of different backgrounds, including “Dreamers” and other immigrants. Some of them operate within standard conventions of realism, but you will increasingly find authors using postmodern strategies of multiple narrators and abrupt changes of setting to parallel the fragmentation of daily life.

Here are a few likely choices:

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self (2010), Danielle Evans. This is a collection of stories mostly set in Georgia. You might look at “Robert E. Lee Is Dead,” which contrasts the lives of two teenage female students in a suburban high school.

Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri. The title story in the collection (2008) focuses on three generations of an Indian and Indian American family.

"An Honest Exit," Dinaw Mengestu. In this story, Mengestu uses the theme of “exit” to explore immigration from Ethiopia to the United States. The author won the MacArthur “Genius Grant."

“The Next Thing," Steven Millhauser (2008, collected in We Others). The author scrutinizes the “hoopla and . . . vague promise of a better life” of American consumerism when a big-box store comes to a small town. Millhauser’s interest in the American Dream was laid out as a literal dream in his 1996 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel Martin Dressler.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial