what is it to be american?

I’ve got a story I started when still pregnant with N (well over 4 years ago) about a fetus cognizant of being inside the belly, the birth etc. the story describes the mother’s crisp american accent. At the time I was not in the UA, and still at tentative point in thinking about America–in other words, I didn’t think at all about it.

T has asked me, at different times in our marriage, what it means to be American [rhetorically, since he chose to become an American]. And he’s asked what it means to me to be an American. For the first 8 years I didn’t have an answer.

It was in the process of getting another passport, getting my [first] son his two passports, his American social security number, and [especially] in coming back to America that country and identity began to crowd in on me.

In my mfa samples, I made clumsy attempts. Not, specifically, to try and define America/n, but just to set up even two different worlds, that of being American, that of not being American. The state of being American outside of America.

My mfa samples were awful and I didn’t get in. And I’ve been able to be honest with my self, realize that I am not a writer of “literary” fiction, but speculative. If I’m not going to write speculative, then I would write an essay.

But the question of America is creeping now into my speculative fiction. It’s awkward. I realized in chatting with my brother and getting a rejection letter that I’m not hitting the right notes. In the story that I just set out and got a rejection for, it took me all weekend to realize that what I was getting at was not America vs. Not America but America vs. Other America.

“Other America” more properly gets at my own experience, of being American and feeling locked out of America.

But. This is not what I sat down to think about. T just texted me that America will break us. [‘America can break you in so many ways, public schools, insurance, social security’] He does not say violence, but I know that that is there as well. He worries about his sons.

What I wanted to brainstorm was America for the story of a boy born to an American mother that is now dying of disease only American’s catch.

My fiction is really depressing. Not depressing as in, the fiction is dark. But depressing as in obvious, cramped, sad. You can only really believe you will be a good writer until you actually start writing. Then the distance is apparent, and embarrassing.

My hour for the day is running out, and I want to get some words on the page for other stories. But I think I will not include this blog in the author’s bio anymore.


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