When you get a book like this, Dear America, you carry it with you into war, onto the battlefield, into classrooms, because it’s not just a book in the traditional sense, it’s a tool to sharpen the dull mind, to see injustice where before you let it pass. It’s a weapon to raise when others raise their rifles. You shake this book in their faces and tell them, This is who we are, this is what we’ve made, this is us and what we fight for and represent and will protect for our children’s children. – Jimmy Santiago Baca
America is at a crossroads. Conflicting political and social perspectives reflect a need to collectively define our moral imperatives, clarify cultural values, and inspire meaningful change. In that patriotic spirit, nearly 200 writers, artists, scientists, and political and community leaders have come together since the 2016 presidential election to offer their impassioned letters to America. Dear America collects 80 of those (revised) letters plus 50 new, not-previously-published letters.
In the inaugural piece in our Letter to America series and the first letter in this book, Alison Hawthorne Deming writes, “Think of the great spirit of inventiveness the Earth calls forth after each major disturbance it suffers. Be artful, inventive, and just, my friends, but do not be silent.” In Dear America, the diverse voices from across the country are anything but silent.
These letters come from a deep, real love of this place, and they imagine willing, receptive readers on the other end. We need a series of miracles looking forward, and this is one.
– Bill McKibben
Dear America is divided into 11 sections:
Simmons Buntin, Introduction
Calls to Action Alison Hawthorne Deming, Letter to America Ana Maria Spagna, This Land Is (Still) Our Land Erin Coughlin Hollowell, From the End of the Road Seth Abramson, Americas Gregory McNamee, Of Truth, Post-Truth, Alternative Facts, and Lies Martha Silano, I don’t know how to write a letter to America, Ever Jones, An American Song Jennifer Case, November, Third Trimester Suzanne Frischkorn, It’s Time to Teach My Daughter How Fenton Johnson, My Mother’s Vote Robin Wall Kimmerer, The Windigo
Extractions, Extinctions, and Depletions Taylor Brorby, Notes to America Georgia Pearle, Refinery Amanda Hawkins, After the Election Brian Laidlaw, I Had Heard Deborah Thompson, Latte Capitalism Dana Sonnenschein, Let Sleeping Wolves Lie Barbara Hurd, Lamentations Catherine Staples, Swallows: Common Yet Declining Derek Sheffield, What Will Keep Us Todd Davis, In the Garden Sherwin Bitsui, A World Departs Andrea Cohen, Stone Age Todd Boss, She’s Going to Be Beautiful
Geographies of Exclusion Francisco Cantú, Assembly-Line Justice David Hernandez, History Kids Bob Ferguson, A President, a Travel Ban, and a Playdate Peggy Shumaker, Red Sky Linda Hogan, The Earth Was Once Water Juan J. Morales, 20,000 Pallets of Bottled Water Scott Warren, “Virtually Uninhabited” Christian Wiman, Club Naomi Shihab Nye, Invitation to the NSA Allison Hedge Coke, Song for Long America Karen An-hwei Lee, Dear America, Sanctuary of a Posthuman Exile Traci Brimhall, Aperture: A Photoless Photo Essay J. Drew Lanham, Still Birding While Black Ellen Bass, The Red-Bellied Woodpecker’s Tongue
Climate Change and Science Denial Debra Marquart, Come November Kurt Caswell, The River between Us Christopher Merrill, Please Do Not Spit Everywhere Diana Liverman, Our Climate Future Anita Desikan, Science under Fire Jacob Carter, Letter from a Concerned Scientist Sarah Inskeep, To Think Like a Mountain R. T. Smith, Whirling Disease
Memories (Imaginings) and Other Americas Lauret Savoy, An American Question Jericho Brown, Duplex Amanda Gailey, Left to Themselves They Tell Lies Anne P. Beatty, Look at the Ways We Work upon Them Diana Babineau, First Picture Day in America Lee Ann Roripaugh, Dear America / Dear Motherland: An Essay in Fractures Sandra Steingraber, Not a Good German Yelizaveta P. Renfro, As American as Turning Your Back on the Flag Lee Herrick, Each One a Bright Light Miriam Marty Clark, What You’d Want to Remember Allen Gee, The End of the Pier Elena Passarello, Receiver, Achiever, Reliever, Believer Jasmine Elizabeth Smith, Drowned and Reborn Chris Dombrowski, To the First of Getting Longer Days Rhina P. Espaillat, Crayons
Ambient Violences and Misogynies José Angel Araguz, American Studies Robert Wrigley, Somewhere I Have Never Traveled Debbie Weingarten, The Woods and the Weeds Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Something Like Tenderness Blas Falconer, Fatherland Erin Malone, No One Expects an Answer Lesley Wheeler, The South Colleen J. McElroy, To Occupant Victoria Chang, Obit Brenda Hillman, Titration Tod Marshall, Sentinel Heather Ryan, In Case of Active Shooter Alexandra Teague, “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” (arranged for Brazen Bull) Sholeh Wolpé, Reply All Sandra Meek, Abracadabra
The Power of Panic / The Power of Art Scott Minar, Mortar Shells, Lunch, and Poetry Jen Hirt, I Am the Witness: Accidents in a Time of Trump Rob Carney, Poetic Justice Jane Hirshfield, Spell to Be Said against Hatred Kathryn Miles, Hasten to Understand Elizabeth Dodd, That Corpse You Planted in Your Garden Rose McLarney, Reach Anne Haven McDonnell, In the Wake Kathleen Dean Moore, A Great Dawn Chorus Laura-Gray Street, Storm Season Michael P. Branch, Closing Time Nicole Walker, Shoes Joy Castro, The Little Painter
Images from the Front Dean Rader, In Which Twombly and Rader Consider the Letter Ellen Welti, The Lacunose Patri Hadad, You Are Not the Only America John Gallaher, Jeffersonian 2016 Sarah Skeen, To Tell the Past from the Future Pete Souza, Not of the Highest Character Pete Souza, Of the Highest Character
The Power of Satire Kim Stafford, Presidential Alert John T. Price, We Need to Talk Richard Kenney, #donaldcommanderintweet Andrew S. Yang, America: In Theory and Practice Vince Gotera, Fourteen Donalds Tarfia Faizullah, I Go In Dennis Held, Why I Am Not President: A Campaign Speech
Geographies of Inclusion and Renewal Gary Soto, After His Election, I Make a Zen Garden Sean Hill, The World Is Large and Other Things You Thought You Knew David Gessner, A Still Hopeful Geography Joe Wilkins, New Names Lawrence Lenhart, Dear Milo B. J. Hollars, Geography Lessons Sandra Alcosser, Begin Again Cherene Sherrard, Driftless Arthur Sze, Bridge Tim McNulty, The Elwha: A River and a Vision Restored Jeremy Voigt, Dear Dulce Elizabeth Bradfield, January 8, 2017, Antarctica Camille T. Dungy, Diversity: A Garden Allegory Pam Houston, Hell Bent On
Togethering Deborah Fries, November 2016, a View from the National Zoo John Lane, High-Dollar Papayas Aisha Sabatini Sloan, Unfold Your Love Amy P. Knight, Thoughts from an Empty Courtroom Following the Hung Jury of a Man Tried for Harboring Migrants Steven and Sophie Church, Letter to the Future President Scott Russell Sanders, Defying Hatred Elizabeth Rush, Dear Soon-to-Be-Sprout Kimiko Hahn, The Augury Catherine Venable Moore, July Fourth Katrina Goldsaito, Dear Katrina Rick Bass, Dinner with America
In alphabetical order, the renowned artists and thinkers in this collection are Seth Abramson, Sandra Alcosser, José Angel Araguz, Diana Babineau, Ellen Bass, Rick Bass, Anne P. Beatty, Sherwin Bitsui, Todd Boss, Elizabeth Bradfield, Michael P. Branch, Traci Brimhall, Taylor Brorby, Jericho Brown, Simmons Buntin, Francisco Cantú, Rob Carney, Jacob Carter, Jennifer Case, Joy Castro, Kurt Caswell, Victoria Chang, Sophie and Steven Church, Miriam Marty Clark, Andrea Cohen, Todd Davis, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Anita Desikan, Elizabeth Dodd, Chris Dombrowski, Camille T. Dungy, Rhina P. Espaillat, Tarfia Faizullah, Blas Falconer, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Deborah Fries, Suzanne Frischkorn, Amanda Gailey, John Gallaher, Allen Gee, David Gessner, Katrina Goldsaito, Vince Gotera, Kimiko Hahn, Patri Hadad, Amanda Hawkins, Allison Hedge Coke, Dennis Held, David Hernandez, Lee Herrick, Sean Hill, Brenda Hillman, Jane Hirshfield, Jen Hirt, Linda Hogan, B.J. Hollars, Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Pam Houston, Barbara Hurd, Sarah Inskeep, Fenton Johnson, Ever Jones, Richard Kenney, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Amy P. Knight, Brian Laidlaw, John Lane, J. Drew Lanham, Karen An-hwei Lee, Lawrence Lenhart, Diana Liverman, Erin Malone, Debra Marquart, Tod Marshall, Anne Haven McDonnell, Colleen McElroy, Rose McLarney, Gregory McNamee, Tim McNulty, Sandra Meek, Christopher Merrill, Kathryn Miles, Scott Minar, Catherine Venable Moore, Kathleen Dean Moore, Juan Morales, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Naomi Shihab Nye, Elena Passarello, Georgia Pearle, John T. Price, Dean Rader, Yelizaveta P. Renfro, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Elizabeth Rush, Heather Ryan, Scott Russell Sanders, Lauret Savoy, Derek Sheffield, Cherene Sherrard, Peggy Shumaker, Martha Silano, Sarah Skeen, Aisha Sabatini Sloan, Jasmine Elizabeth Smith, R.T. Smith, Dana Sonnenschein, Gary Soto, Pete Souza, Ana Maria Spagna, Kim Stafford, Catherine Staples, Sandra Steingraber, Laura-Gray Street, Arthur Sze, Alexandra Teague, Deborah Thompson, Jeremy Voigt, Nicole Walker, Scott Warren, Debbie Weingarten, Ellen Welti, Lesley Wheeler, Joe Wilkins, Christian Wiman, Sholeh Wolpé, Robert Wrigley, and Andrew S. Yang.