American Romances

American Romances
Essays




Press Reviews

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


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


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


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


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