American Romances

American Romances
Essays





The Brooklyn Rail

"Like cowgirls? Like flyboys? Like reading? Then you'll really like Rebecca Brown. . . . These essays mash autobiography with heritage in mischievous but poignant, painful prose. Imminently readable, unambiguously personal, and ultimately revelatory, each essay begins with a quote or two by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Brown traces the arc of our cultural identity from the original 'City on the Hill' to a 'suburb in the sand' (where the Beachboys lived in Hawthorne, California). Brian Wilson's bleak childhood is juxtaposed with both Hawthorne’s and the author’s. These high interest matrixes make for a galloping read. Coupled with an uncanny knack for finding connections, is a percussive, even mesmerizing rhythm. . . . We come from guilt — Brown lays bare our wounds and in doing so she kindles our hope for understanding."
— Jeffrey Cyphers Wright


WILLA: Women in Letters and Literary Awards
Nov 16, 2009

Women in Letters and Literary Arts started The WILLA List to note great books by women that Publishers Weekly missed in their all-men top ten "Best Books of 2009." American Romances is included on the list.

- Cate Marvin & Erin Belieu, WILLA

"Writing is Emotional and Mysterious" An interview with author Rebecca Brown
Mar 1, 2013

"I met Brown in her cozy blue house (decorated with paintings by fellow Seattleite Nancy Kiefer and Belle and Sebastian posters), where the author lives with her wife Chris and their two cats. Out in the backyard, in her writing studio, Brown works among statues and stained-glass images of saints, a Franz Kafka puppet, pictures of her family, heaps of CDs and sheets of paper, as well as many books. 'It's a pit," Brown comments, "it’s packed with books, and vaguely I can get to them.'"

- The Gay & Lesbian Review

Newsday

"The essays in American Romances cover a lot of ground: listening, faith, invisibility, extreme reading, the West. They practically read themselves, that's how much fun they are." —Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times


Activisms, Assimilation and Beyond: An Interview with Rebecca Brown
Sep 4, 2009
"Rebecca Brown's twelfth book, American Romances, a collection of gonzo "essays," was released by City Lights in June, 2009... Jory Mickelson: Tell me how your newest book American Romances came together. Rebecca Brown: I am calling them essays. They are part fantasy, speculation, silliness and research. I’ve done journalism off and on. Writing nonfiction is also something I have done for a number of years, which is one source..." - Jory Mickelson, The Betty Pages

Lambda Literary Foundation

"In American Romances, her new book of essays, Rebecca Brown has a voice that is full of pop references, family stories, and the fruits of a lifetime of  -- in her perfect phrase – extreme reading.  The voice is a hoot, and it is dead serious.   This is writing with exquisite control, fully up to the task Brown takes on of playing a fierce game of beach ball with deep problems of American (and personal)  history and identity." —Susan Stinson


Sixers Review

"Rebecca Brown's American Romances tickles the minds of her readers, enticing their imaginations and provoking their sensibilities to follow her on journey through a course of history that explores all figures and moments iconic to the American experience. Making bold statements in drawing delightfully unexpected connections, this collection of essays conscientiously acknowledges its wild, sometimes carnivalesque perceptions and flourishes them for the reader unapologetically. With its frank curiosity and often irreverent confessions, Brown’s pen produces a voice that is both refreshing and confidential – one has the distinct impression that as readers we are being offered a glimpse into thoughts and experiences that have not before been uttered, let alone written. The endnotes that culminate each chapter maintain the collection’s insightful and witty humor. Drawing upon literature, film, music and history, American Romances is a work whose wide spectrum probes at the reader’s senses and, as varying frequencies resonate within her audience, Brown has written a book that, in fact, Becomes more your own with every read."

—Natalie Yasmin Soto


Interview with Rebecca Brown

"We caught up with Rebecca Brown, author of American Romances (Citylights Publishers), on a warm and rainy afternoon and she was kind enough to set aside some time for us. Here's some of what she had to say..."

- Sixers Review

Rebecca Brown's American Romances
Aug 21, 2009

"The first essay alone, 'Hawthorne,' is worth the cover price. A sure thing, a hit single at the beginning of the album, it moves seamlessly between—or rather interweaves, somehow—the lives of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Beach Boy Brian Wilson, the Puritans and surfers, the witch trials and Abu Ghraib. . . . Bloody. Brilliant."

- Christian Peet

Constant Reader
Jul 28, 2009

"Brendan Kiley has already written about it in The Stranger's book section, but it deserves to be repeated: Rebecca Brown's new book, American Romances, is an incredible collection of essays. And like most really good books, as soon as you finish reading it, you want to read more books that are just like it. But that's impossible—books are all bad in the same sort of way; good books are good (in part) precisely because they are unique."

- Paul Constant, The Stranger

Molossus

"Ultimately, American Romances offers bold reflection on the complicated question of trying to figure out just what is and isn't American. Rebecca Brown has written a fun and powerful book that balances its insight with entertainment."

—Ted English


The Bellingham Herald

"In American Romances, Brown uses author Nathaniel Hawthorne and his work as a springboard for leaping into considerations of literary history, religion, music, pop culture, human sexuality and more. A little surprisingly, the automobile does not figure into this eclectic mix, but I'd still advise buckling your seatbelt before you take off through Brown's amazing mindscape, and holding on tight as she careens in dazzling form and at breakneck speed around ideas about work ethic, race and gender warfare, religious fanaticism, family dynamics, memory and manifest destiny." —Barbara Lloyd McMichael


Los Angeles Times

"'Some things, no matter how far apart, occur again the same. They happen the same again and over again. The same except for different, and forever.' Now that we are swimming in information, facts often seem more like flotsam than train tracks leading anywhere. The circle seems ever more appropriate as the shape of history.
Rebecca Brown, info-entrepreneur, can write her own history, pairing, for example, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Brian Wilson (who grew up in Hawthorne, Calif.). 'Hawthorne, writer from the east, and Hawthorne, suburb in the west, are twisted in a Mobius strip: the child and its evil twin, the maker and its son. The City on the Hill became the suburb in the sand.'
Out of this archaeology comes a new view of Puritanism, scarlet letters, dreams of the Founding Fathers. Snail paths intersect at junctions (matrices) formed by common names and places. Brown admits to being a nostalgic child (nostalgia as a kind of pain, 'The pain of returning returns . . . the pain of leaving what you left / and knowing what you wanted never was.')
The essays in 'American Romances' cover a lot of ground: listening, faith, invisibility, extreme reading, the West. They practically read themselves, that's how much fun they are." -- Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times


The Stranger

"Brown's voice sounds more relaxed, more confident, than ever before. Her new stories fold history, theory, memory, and outright lies into rich, articulate essays that stretch the boundaries of your brain." —Brendan Kiley


The Gifts of the Body
Nov 30, 2008
"The Gifts of the Body is the best book about AIDS I have ever read. The author, Rebecca Brown, is a former home-care worker and her compassion for the dying and unstinting generosity in meeting people's needs is astonishing. It is not entirely clear to me if this is a work of fiction or non-fiction, but in the reading it begins not to matter. It just a book about one person helping others. The narrator sees people for who they are and she recognises what they need. It is a book about empathy."
- Charlotte's Web

Unlucky Old Sons
Oct 21, 2008
"On Brian Wilson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, the Waves of California, the Melancholy of the Beach Boys, and the Stories the Young Can't Escape
Hawthorne n

1: California suburb where Brian Wilson, American composer and Beach Boy (b. 1942, just released 10th solo album, That Lucky Old Sun), was raised

2:
Nathaniel (1804–1864) American author

The Puritans dreamt of the City upon a Hill and came to the New World to build it.

Then when it went to hell their sons and sons of sons went west and daughters, too. Get away if you can! The future's there! And beaches, too!

And so, to California, there they went, eventually to Hawthorne, suburb of the City of Angels. It was the last place they could go because the land runs out, the only thing that's left beyond is water, which no one can, unless they're Jesus, walk on, but they tried (on boards) and to degrees they could but then they couldn't. Because as much as anyone tries to ride a wave, a wave can't last forever."
- Rebecca Brown, The Stranger

Library Journal

"In this anomalous collection of eight essays, Brown (The Gifts of the Body) juxtaposes her personal history with classic literature and movies. . . This whimsical flight of imagination shows how books and reading have influenced the author's life. Recommended for creative writing students and aspiring writers." —Joyce Sparrow