Saturday, October 07, 2023

Seven novels that defined the Obama era

Andrew Ridker was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1991. His second novel, Hope, is now out from Viking.

[Q&A with Andrew Ridker].

His debut novel, The Altruists, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a Paris Review staff pick, an Amazon Editors’ Pick, and the People Book of the Week. It won the Friends of American Writers Award and was longlisted for the Prix du Meilleur livre √©tranger and the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Prize.

Ridker is the editor of Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, Le Monde, Bookforum, The Paris Review Daily, Guernica, Boston Review, and elsewhere. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Ridker lives in Brooklyn, New York.

At Electric Lit he tagged seven novels that capture the cultural moment of Obama’s America, including:
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The historical novel, once considered fusty and stale, was gut-renovated in the 2010s. During Obama’s two terms, novelists (and especially Black novelists) turned history (and especially Black history) on its head in a series of formally inventive books. James McBride’s National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird was a comedic reimagining of the life of John Brown and his raid on Harper’s Ferry. Marlon James’s Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings was a polyphonic telling of (among many other things) a real-life assassination attempt on the life of Bob Marley. And then there’s Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, which won pretty much every prize there is. To focus on the premise underpinning Whitehead’s novel—what if the Underground Railroad was, in fact, a functioning railroad?—is to miss his even more audacious thematic gambits, collapsing centuries of oppression into one phantasmagoric journey.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Underground Railroad is among Andrea Wulf's top ten books about unlikely revolutionaries, Chris Mooney's six intelligent, page-turning, genre-bending classics, Rachel Eve Moulton's top ten literary thrillers, Nathan Englander’s ten desert island books, Greg Mitchell's top ten escapes in literature, and President Obama's summer 2016 reading list.

--Marshal Zeringue