Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays

Notes from No Man s Land American Essays Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for CriticismWinner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction PrizeA frank and fascinating exploration of race and racial identityNotes from No Man s Land Ameri

  • Title: Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays
  • Author: Eula Biss
  • ISBN: 9781555975180
  • Page: 357
  • Format: Paperback
  • Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for CriticismWinner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction PrizeA frank and fascinating exploration of race and racial identityNotes from No Man s Land American Essays begins with a series of lynchings and ends with a series of apologies Eula Biss explores race in America and her response to the topic is informed by the experienWinner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for CriticismWinner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction PrizeA frank and fascinating exploration of race and racial identityNotes from No Man s Land American Essays begins with a series of lynchings and ends with a series of apologies Eula Biss explores race in America and her response to the topic is informed by the experiences chronicled in these essays teaching in a Harlem school on the morning of 9 11, reporting for an African American newspaper in San Diego, watching the aftermath of Katrina from a college town in Iowa, and settling in Chicago s most diverse neighborhood.As Biss moves across the country from New York to California to the Midwest, her essays move across time from biblical Babylon to the freedman s schools of Reconstruction to a Jim Crow mining town to post war white flight She brings an eclectic education to the page, drawing variously on the Eagles, Laura Ingalls Wilder, James Baldwin, Alexander Graham Bell, Joan Didion, religious pamphlets, and reality television shows.These spare, sometimes lyric essays explore the legacy of race in America, artfully revealing in intimate detail how families, schools, and neighborhoods participate in preserving racial privilege Faced with a disturbing past and an unsettling present, Biss still remains hopeful about the possibilities of American diversity, not the sun shininess of it, or the quota making politics of it, but the real complexity of it.
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    914 Comment

    • Julie Ehlers says:

      I’m going to begin this review by telling a boring but hopefully illustrative story. I’ll try to keep it brief.A couple of months ago I was in a park in the Rittenhouse Square area of Philadelphia at around 9 a.m. on a weekday. By this time everyone else was at work and the park was fairly deserted and peaceful. After I finished my coffee, I still had some time to kill before I had to be somewhere else, so I decided to go across the street to a large chain bookstore on the square. I wasn’t [...]

    • Eric says:

      She admits to tracing Didion’s sentences as Didion admitted to tracing Hemingway’s – much of this is Didionish, personal-historical, my neurosis intersects the vastness – but three of the essays, "Time and Distance Overcome," “Is this Kansas,” and “No Man’s Land,” are distinctive and strong. You can read them on her site and you should. I liked the shoutouts to Marilynne Robinson and the fighting abolitionists of the Middle Border. The blurbs oversell her; if Biss tells you a [...]

    • Cheryl says:

      My skin is white, but I still have the ravaged blood of Africa in me.The more I read essay collections produced by Graywolf, the more impressed I am. There is something deeply personal and yet alluringly informational about the personal essay form; maybe it's in the brusque style, or in the compendious structure. I enjoyed Eula Biss's absolutist style and provocative non-censorship of her personal feelings, but what I really admired was the look at consciousness, the same thing I loved in Solnit [...]

    • Rebecca Foster says:

      Originally published in the United States by Graywolf Press in 2009, this powerful essay collection about how identity is bound up with race and place has recently been made available in the UK by Fitzcarraldo Editions, who previously published Eula Biss’s On Immunity, a wide-ranging study of vaccination practices.Although Biss is white, she considers herself to have had ‘mixed’ influences in her life. For instance, her mother converted to the West African Yoruba religion and had a black b [...]

    • Roxane says:

      This is a very readable, elegant book of essays. Smart, engaging, well-researched and the writing interrogates race and class in America within the context of privilege and whiteness. Nearly all of her observations are stunning and so beautifully phrased. I really enjoyed this book and learned a great deal, found a great deal to work with and think about. One thing tweaked me a bit. Biss discusses her whiteness quite a lot, as if we might have forgotten it between or within essays? I realize tha [...]

    • Garrett says:

      Essays were extremely well-written, thought provoking, the book went by like a breeze but Biss unfortunately seems to have predetermined those who it is worth examining and who not. The "white trash" she comes across in Mexico are an embarrassment to her, so she makes no attempt to get to know them. At one point she acknowledges her holier-than-thou attitude, and exclaims that she shouldn't think of herself as better educated, more cultured, etc than most whites-but she continues to do just that [...]

    • Martha Silano says:

      This is the best book of essays I've read in over thirty years--since I read Joan Didion's Slouching Toward Bethlehem and The White Album. Biss is a master of language--her sentences skip along--but they are also PACKED with insights about America's continuing struggle with racism, especially with regard to brown and black Americans. Biss writes about what she witnesses, connecting the dots between historical and newsworthy occurrences and her own eyes and experience. Case in point: the frat boy [...]

    • Katy Benway says:

      I discovered this book in the "Ethnic Studies" section of Powell's Books in Portland. Intrigued by a book of nonfiction "American Essays" about race and written by a white woman, I browsed only to discover my hometown, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, mentioned on page 5. It went home with me, needless to say.Eula Biss didn't disappoint. Weaving together personal and public encounters with racism, fear, prejudice, as well as hope, Biss is honest. She acknowledges white guilt, her guilt, and is, in writing th [...]

    • Dan Phillips says:

      Race in America is undoubtedly an important subject, and Eula Biss -- a white essayist raised in a multi-racial household -- comes at it from a unique perspective. She taught English at a Harlem school, wrote for a black newspaper in San Diego, and, as of the writing of this collection, currently resides in Rogers Park, Chicago's most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood. In short, this book had the potential to be very interesting, as Biss travels literally from coast to coast, observin [...]

    • Elizabeth says:

      Themes of escape, isolation, prejudice, and the search-for-self penetrate this book. Which I could enjoy if executed in a different style, but I did not enjoy this book whatsoever. I think that Eula Biss sounds extremely pretentious, presumptuous, naive, and at times careless throughout the entirety of her book.The embarrassing irony of this book is that if it were written by a man I do not believe it would have been published. As a female and as a mid-westerner - one who is not ignorant to the [...]

    • Amanda says:

      This book helped me understand how essays work. How meandering and studying and processing could work. How writing works as a reflection of living. There is so much to say. But this book took me a long time to read because I was busy, so I don't have good recall. There were some essays that were paragraphs jumping from one spot to the next. From one place to another. I want to explore this. It started off talking about telephone pole lynchings. It talked about black dolls and barbies, teaching a [...]

    • Ellen Keim says:

      I would say that the central theme that runs through these essays is more about identity than about race, although racism is certainly a big part of most of the essays. The author pulls together a lot of research and events from her own life to illustrate the fluidity of identity, but not just racial identity. Even so, her topics are diverse enough that I didn't feel like she was saying the same thing over and over. Although there are many references to her own experiences, the author manages to [...]

    • Nicola says:

      I found lots to love, consider and explore in this book. A white author who expounds and so carefully considers race is a difficult find, and Biss uncovers contrasts that both acknowledge and defy whiteness as a default. She deals with themes of race, age, cultural experience, ignorance and fear. These essays are sometimes personal, other times academic, often intentionally provocative, and they all reflect the ways we define and divide ourselves up. A great mind is at work here, I can't wait to [...]

    • MaCashen Nyberg says:

      This book left me all but completely aggravated. There were times when I wanted to track down Biss and punch her in the face. Honestly, to me this book seemed like a white woman complaining about her whiteness and almost refusing to approach any situation in a non-white fashion. This book upset me so much and I was so happy to be done with it when I finished. This book could have been better titled "Eula Biss and Her White Guilt". It would have given the reader a much better idea of what the ess [...]

    • E.B. says:

      The award for My Current Number One Nonfiction Writer Crush goes to Eula Biss. She is so damn talented and brilliant and her writing is down to earth and honest and really fucking SMART. Her research makes my brain explode. This was by far the best book I read in 2014. And maybe even ever. Marry me, Eula.

    • Ben says:

      Using the personal as a filter for seeking an understanding greater than our own lives.More - bentanzer/2014/11

    • McKenzie Watson says:

      Another book that I devoured. I first encountered Eula Biss when my roommate told me that she was a white woman who wrote about being a white woman who lives in a Black neighborhood. Shortly after that I listened to her appearance on the podcast “On Being” with Krista Tippett. Then I found her essay “No Man’s Land” published as ‘the Long Read’ on The Believer, and her book went on my to-read list. I checked with every bookstore I could think of, but nowhere had a copy, so she staye [...]

    • Riley says:

      Notes from No Man's Land is incredible. I read it in pretty much two big sittings, and I did the same with another book of hers "On Immunity." Her depth of feeling and personal interrogation are matched only by the thoroughness of her research and an open-mindedness toward that research. What I mean is, it doesn't feel to me like she is trying to assert some sort of pre-formed agenda. She seems to be honestly searching for the truth, and her place or role in the story of that truth. The associat [...]

    • Irie Gonah says:

      Eye opening was the first word that came to mind as I finished up Eula Bliss's Notes from No Man's Land American Essays. It was eye opening because basically the novel is about race from the point of view of Eula Bliss who is white but grew up with African influence, she writes with beauty and terror and I said eye opening. I liked that she was straight forward, not afraid to go over risky subjects with confidence. When she talked about whiteness as an identity she wasn't afraid to say that peop [...]

    • Kailey says:

      Read this for my Baldwin class. I don't agree with all of Biss' assertions, and I'm not sure she has the right to make some of them, but the exploration is provoking, which I think is the point. The metaphor of a treacherous "no man's land" where the very ground beneath you is deceptively unstable is a very apt way to describe this text, a fact that makes it clear the provocation is intentional. Her argument that guilt is the racial heritage of white Americans is certainly offensive to some, but [...]

    • Marianne Murray says:

      I first came across Eula Biss on the radio show, On Being (link below) and she's well worth listening to. This book of essays takes what she addresses in her interview to a far-ranging, provocative, personal, and wise exploration of cultural diversity. She ponders our collective strangeness, beauty, violence, injustice and unconsciousness, and especially the phenomenon of forgetfulness that perpetuates the dominant culture. Her writing is so heart-felt and creative - I feel as though I've been i [...]

    • Linda says:

      I savored this book for a few weeks. It's for adults and older teens, a series of essays written about Eula Biss's life, her moves, her response to racism and often, how it happened to be that way. She backs her thoughts and experiences with research and adds further thoughts about each one in an afterword. I learned a lot of history and new ways to contemplate what I see and read in other areas. The review ends with this: Faced with a disturbing past and an unsettling present, Biss still remai [...]

    • Melanie Dawson says:

      Stunning in a way that makes you rethink all you thought you knew but in the same breath confirms all you thought you knew. Thankful for the airport bookshop employee who recommended it after I had told her I had already read many of the books she offered. She said "you're a deep thinker, I can tell, so read this."

    • Meg Tuite says:

      A brilliant collection of essays on race, identity, geography written by Biss through her own experiences and the incredible research that makes up each of these essays! It was a mesmerizing learning experience and my LOVE is for the macro through the micro story! LOVED THIS!

    • Luke Hillier says:

      I was first made aware of this book and Biss herself when after an acquaintance from college shared a condensed version of "No Man's Land" that had been published somewhere online. I can't remember the last time I'd been so captivated by something I'd found via Facebook, and when I reached the end (a feat that demonstrated my fascination, given how long the piece was) and saw that it was a part of a book of essays, I knew I had to pick it up. This is so rarely the case, but I am thrilled to say [...]

    • SJ says:

      I chose to read this book because it was selected as the campus-wide "Common Book" for new students at my University. I'm not a new student though, so I didn't really get to benefit from all the in-class discussions that went along with it, and I think I would have really liked to participate in those discussions. Because I can see how this is a good book to talk about, how it would undoubtedly spark vibrant conversations, maybe even arguments, but since I was reading it by myself I didn't have [...]

    • Stop says:

      Read an excerpt from No Man's Land at Stop Smiling OnlineFrom the essay "Black News" in Notes From No Man's Land:When I was not the only white person at the events I covered for the [San Diego Voice and Viewpoint:], the other white person was usually a politician. Once I arrived at a speech by a candidate for state assembly, Vince Hall, and sat down at a table next to an elderly man who looked at me, looked at my camera, looked at Vince Hall, and asked me, with a tilt of his head, “You related [...]

    • Cindy Leighton says:

      Oh. my. Eula Bliss is my new favorite essayist- right up there with Gloria, Ta-Nehisi, James Baldwine's that good. Consider me a new fan of Graywolf Press also- a small, independent press in Minneapolis. Bliss is so bright and insightful, yet so very approachable and readable as it feels like she is simply having a conversation with you. This collection of essays focuses on race and identity in America (and yes she's white and she has valuable insights). Guess what if you have me for anthro or s [...]

    • Tom says:

      I'm in awe of this collection. If you're at all interested in race, you have to read this book. I didn't actually know that was the main thread tying these pieces together when I bought the book, although it basically says so on the back cover, which I guess I didn't read. Anyway, this is accessible, engrossing stuff, and all the more impressive because it doesn't get repetitive, which I think is really difficult to pull off with this kind of collection. That it doesn't cover the same ground ove [...]

    • Roy Kesey says:

      One of my favorite kinds of book--essays afraid of neither micro nor macro--and a wonderful example of it. Hard clear elegant thinking about race, and geography, and fate. I'd argue here and there with her conclusions, and there is a bit of repetition amongst the essays that isn't necessary when they're all read in one go, but overall I really enjoyed its precise thoughtful pummeling--the book has such a terrific eye for the statistic that will crack the sternum. Some favored bits:Oreo Fun Barbi [...]

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