american exceptionalism | WAMC

american exceptionalism

Book cover for "Stakes is High" - red and gray text on a black background
Bold Type Press / Bold Type Press

Mychal Denzel Smith’s last book, "Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching," was a powerful account of what it means being a young black man in America. In his follow up, he confronts the well-meaning liberal reaction to the 2016 election and calls on us all to reckon with who we are as Americans and, perhaps more importantly, who we want to be.

We have been invested in a set of beliefs about our American identity: our exceptionalism, the inevitable rightness of our path, and the promise that hard work and determination will carry us to freedom.

But in his new book, "Stakes Is High," Mychal confronts the shortcomings of these stories--and with the American Dream itself--and calls on us to live up to the principles we profess but fail to realize. He exposes the stark contradictions at the heart of American life, holding all of us, individually and as a nation, to account. We’ve gotten used to looking away, but the fissures and casual violence--of incarceration, poverty, misogyny, and racism--are ever-present. But there is a future that is not as grim as our past. In this profound work, Mychal helps us envision it, with care, honesty, and imagination.

Book cover for "Break it Up" by Richard Kreitner
Little Brown and Company / www.littlebrown.com

The United States has never lived up to its name—and never will. The disunionist impulse may have found its greatest expression in the Civil War, but as "Break It Up" by Richard Kreitner shows, the seduction of secession wasn’t limited to the South or the nineteenth century. It was there at our founding and has never gone away.

Kreitner is a contributing writer to The Nation. He is the author of "Booked: A Traveler’s Guide to Literary Locations Around the World."

Book cover for "American Rule"
Penguin/Random House / Penguin/Random House

In recent years, Americans have faced a deluge of horrifying developments in politics and culture: stolen elections, fascist rallies, families torn apart and locked away. A common refrain erupts at each new atrocity: This isn’t who we are.

In the new book, "American Rule," political analyst Jared Yates Sexton upends those convenient fictions by laying bare the foundational myths at the heart of our collective American imagination. From the very origins of this nation, Americans in power have abused and subjugated others; enabling that corruption are the many myths of American exceptionalism and steadfast values, which are fed to the public and repeated across generations.

Working through each era of American growth and change, Sexton weaves together the origins and perpetuation of these narratives still in the public memory, and the acts we have chosen to forget.

Stand-up comic and actor Judah Friedlander is bringing his “Future President” tour to MASS MoCA’s High Mud Comedy Festival in North Adams, Massachusetts. His recent material, including his Netflix comedy film “America Is the Greatest Country in the United States” presents a satirical take on American exceptionalism and his presidential platform should he be chosen-slash-forced  to become U.S. President.

Friedlander played Frank Rossitano on the NBC comedy series “30 Rock” and became well known for his dry delivery and trucker hats. He also had a memorable arc a "musician" named Gordy on the Netflix series “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” He is the author of “How to Beat Up Anybody: An Instructional and Inspirational Karate Book by the World Champion” and "If the Raindrops United: Drawings and Cartoons."