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American Estrangement: Stories (Hardcover)
One of Literary Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2021
Stories that capture our times by “a young author who has already established himself as a unique American voice” (Elle).
Said Sayrafiezadeh has been hailed by Philip Gourevitch as "a masterful storyteller working from deep in the American grain." His new collection of stories—some of which have appeared in The New Yorker, the Paris Review, and the Best American Short Stories—is set in a contemporary America full of the kind of emotionally bruised characters familiar to readers of Denis Johnson and George Saunders. These are people contending with internal struggles—a son’s fractured relationship with his father, the death of a mother, the loss of a job, drug addiction—even as they are battered by larger, often invisible, economic, political, and racial forces of American society.
Searing, intimate, often slyly funny, and always marked by a deep imaginative sympathy, American Estrangement is a testament to our addled times. It will cement Sayrafiezadeh’s reputation as one of the essential twenty-first-century American writers.
About the Author
Said Sayrafiezadeh was born in Brooklyn and raised in Pittsburgh. He is the author of a memoir, When Skateboards Will Be Free, and a story collection, Brief Encounters with the Enemy. He is the recipient of a Whiting Award and a Cullman Center Fellowship. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, the Paris Review, Granta, the New York Times Magazine, and McSweeney’s. He teaches at New York University and Hunter College and lives in New York City.
[An] excellent new collection…[Sayrafiezadeh] writes with a veteran’s swagger and discipline…[T]he collection joins a list that includes Leonard Michaels’s “I Would Have Saved Them if I Could,” Lorrie Moore’s “Like Life” and Charles D’Ambrosio’s “The Dead Fish Museum” as a second book of stories that exceeds and expands upon the promise of the first, confirming the writer as a major, committed practitioner of a difficult form.
— Andrew Martin, New York Times Book Review
A dark and exhilarating collection.
— David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times
Skillful and controlled…[The stories in American Estrangement] speak, at times quite powerfully, to an overriding feeling of cultural and personal loneliness.
— Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
Arresting…consolidates his reputation as a skilled writer with a talent for creating flawed and beleaguered characters and plumbing their emotional depths.
— Malcolm Forbes, Minneapolis Star Tribune
[A] stellar new collection…Sayrafiezadeh is a master…His prose has a rhythm that is startlingly original and an intense quirkiness that catches you unaware.
— Elaine Margolin, Los Angeles Review of Books
Sayrafiezadeh captures one of the most essential feelings of the modern-day United States, apathy, and holds us to that feeling. The result is…[a] depiction of deterioration and uncertainty in a changing nation.
— Malavika Praseed, Chicago Review of Books
Sayrafiezadeh crafts this world with subtle hands…The collection uncovers the illusion of progress in America, like the celebrity we never quite see make it down the mountain but swear we do.
— Michael Adam Carrol, Ploughshares
[Sayrafiezadeh] writes in sparse, thoughtful sentences constructed from the narrators’ physical and emotional surroundings…[T]he stories collected in American Estrangement are told with a subtle sense of anticipation from lives suspended between hope and resignation.
— David Luhrssen, Shepherd Express
Lyrical, funny, smart, and heartbreaking.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred)
A haunting book, and filled with longing.
— Hilton Als, author of White Girls
Sayrafiezadeh, entertaining and political without being heavy-handed, is a force to be reckoned with.
These stories combine the intensity of theater, the humor of your smartest friend, and the emotional insight of the imaginary and gentle god you might wish for and fear as a witness. Saïd Sayrafiezadeh is an extraordinary talent, and these stories merit reading and rereading and rereading.
— Rivka Galchen, author of Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch
Said Sayrafiezadeh is a first-rate short story writer. Every sentence is a delight, and his work has a captivating, immersive quality that leaves the reader shaken and moved. American Estrangement is a superb book with a strange and subtle power sure to haunt readers long after they’ve closed the cover.
— Phil Klay, author of Missionaries
Sad, mordant, and utterly beguiling, this pitch-perfect volume of stories broke my heart. American Estrangement’s characters are endlessly unsettled: stalked by unresolved pasts, trapped in the unbridgeable gulfs of the present moment. Said Sayrafiezadeh works like a miniaturist, impeccably tracing invisible negotiations between human beings—and these stories accumulate with a disquieting, invisible power.
— David Adjmi, author of Lot Six
The stories in this moving and powerful collection are honest, unaffected, yet full of imagination. Whether set in the recent past or a speculative near future, they explore moments where personal and societal dysfunction converge, in prose that punches through the page. This book’s tough poetry tells us who we are and where we are headed, with equal parts sadness, humor, and hope.
— Rajesh Parameswaran, author of I Am an Executioner