Adam Mansbach 2008

Adam Mansbach  books  events  bio  music  interviews  other writing 


A Fictional History of the United StatesA Fictional History of the United States With Huge Chunks Missing
edited by T Cooper and Adam Mansbach Akashic Books
Contribtors include Ron Kovic, Amy Bloom, Darrin Strauss, David Rees, Neal Pollack, Daniel Alarcon, Paul LaFarge, Alexander Chee, Benjamin Weissman, Kate Bornstein, Adam Mansbach, T Cooper, Felicia Luna Lemus, Sarah Schulman, Thomas O'Malley, Keith Knight, and Valerie Miner.




Dear Reader, Browser, or Shoplifter:

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. We can’t remember who said that, so here we are repeating it.

We’re Americans, and as such, we can’t remember shit. Perhaps that’s why, as we write this, the massive, orchestrated effort by the current administration to revise history even as it occurs is experiencing almost total success. Events are being reduced to sound bites; sound bites are becoming mantras. The truth -- if you edit carefully enough, omit artfully enough, distort brazenly enough -- becomes lies. And lies, if repeated relentlessly, become truth. Especially if they are wedged immovably between the covers of the kind of history text that bored you to tears in high school.

You ever wonder how it’s possible that history – the story of everything that’s ever happened – got so damn sterile and uninteresting that you and your friends spent most of tenth-grade American History ditching to smoke cigarettes in the parking lot?

Well, to haul out another old saw, it’s because history is written by the winners. Those stale-ass textbooks, just like our received cultural memories, are packed with names, dates, places, and single-sentence summaries of events that, in reality, resonated differently for hundreds of millions of people.

The goal of this collection is to move beyond the obvious and the canonical: to challenge, tease, and expand upon the hegemonic single-narrative of mainstream American history. Here are some of the moments and people left out of the textbooks. Here is what else happened on some of the dates and during many of the eras we were forced to memorize in school or take into the stride of our daily lives.

So why use fiction as the way to get at the truth? Two reasons. The first is because that’s what the best fiction is: a lie that reveals the truth. (That’s somebody else’s line too, by the way. We’re most likely totally mangling it, but since we can’t remember who said that one either, let’s just apologize to their estate and move on.)

The second reason is that history is fiction. How can it not be? History becomes fiction the minute someone attempts to write it down, to re-tell it in any way, shape or form. So much intervenes between the moment history unfolds and any attempt to relay it: power, pain, bias, sadness, tragedy, elation, time, fear, desire--to name just a few. Plus, there’s the problem of who gets to tell the story. Howard Zinn addresses this issue beautifully in his important, comprehensive book, A People’s History of the United States. In fact, that was a title we considered borrowing for this book – you know, doing the little cutesy thing where you insert an extra word with a little arrow:

A People’s /\ History of the United States

Because in some ways, this collection is meant to be in the spirit of Zinn’s book. These stories take up the same challenge of speaking for the voiceless--who all too often are voiceless because somebody who will later be made into a statue is standing on their necks.

As you can see, the name of the book ended up being A Fictional History of the United States With Huge Chunks Missing. This is simply an accurate description, not an attempt to pre-empt readers who might ask questions like, "What about the Watts Riots?" or "What about Eleanor Roosevelt's purported lesbian relationships?”

To such questions, we say: Right! Good point, boss! What about those things, and so much more? How about the entire eighteenth century, for instance? We totally left that out. By all means, write a letter to your favorite author, asking him or her (or anywhere in between), exactly why they did not take up a particular historical incident or event and contribute it to this anthology.

But even if every author in America had returned our e-mails and letters (and in one case, text messages), this would still be a patchwork history, an anecdotal history, one with huge chunks missing. The stories in this book reflect the moments that moved this particular, eclectic batch of gifted and courageous writers and cartoonists. Of course, there are millions more stories, and we hope this collection provides some impetus for them to be told. We think the seventeen pieces that did make it between these covers are riveting, inventive, timely, funny, and -- most pressingly for us -- politically imperative.

A Fictional History of the United States with Huge Chunks Missing picks up -- and yanks on -- the thread of America's supposed commitment to seeking the truth... even if that truth happens to be revealed in fiction.

T Cooper & Adam Mansbach
New York City
August 2006


Adam Mansbach  books  events  bio  music  interviews  other writing