PanamaTimes

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

A Novel Imagines the Next Wave of Refugees: Americans

A Novel Imagines the Next Wave of Refugees: Americans

In Ken Kalfus’s deeply intriguing new novel, “2 A.M. in Little America,” the next American civil war has already taken place. The people of the United States have become the world’s newest and biggest cohort of refugees, following Syrians and Salvadorans and many others into the cross-border and transoceanic routes of mass migration and diaspora.

As the novel opens, the Americans living in exile in an unnamed country form an underclass of low-wage labor, exploited and vilified by the locals.

The refugees carry the stigma of their Americanness, and studiously avoid one another’s company. “We were humiliated by what had happened; we would have reminded each other only of our grief and our shame,” Kalfus writes. The uprooted Americans can see that the locals have the deepest contempt for “how far our country had fallen.”

Kalfus is the author of a half-dozen novels and story collections, and his fiction often makes use of the events of the day (9/11, Chernobyl, the Iraq war) to create mordant satires and allegories about modern life.

In “2 A.M. in Little America” he turns the conceit of his novel into a tense and often beautiful work of reflection on the American present. His protagonist, Ron Patterson, is an apolitical man exiled, as a young adult, from a city somewhere in the American heartland, the notorious site of some of the ugliest incidents of the civil war.

Patterson is a loner, and as with so many immigrants and refugees in the real United States, his legal status is precarious in his adopted country. He’s forced to watch and listen as anti-immigrant activists express their grievances. “A MILLION UNEMPLOYED IS A MILLION IMMIGRANTS TOO MANY,” reads an airplane banner ad.

The tables have turned on the American people, and Kalfus milks the irony in some ways that are predictable, and in others that are truly surprising.

At first, Patterson’s exile is a deeply existential one, focused on an obsession with a woman he thinks he sees everywhere in his adopted city. Then he’s forced to flee to yet another country, where he settles in an “enclave” of Americans. In this Little America, he’s thrust into a political drama.

Competing militias of American exiles are intent on continuing their internecine warfare on foreign ground, and we learn about the atrocities both sides committed back home. Anyone familiar with the violence inflicted by the United States and its proxies in various imperial adventures around the globe will recognize the inspiration for Kalfus’s imagined back story — most notably, the crimes at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Once again, the chickens have come home to roost.

What’s more interesting in “Little America” is an idea Kalfus repeats often: that the displaced Americans have a “look” and way of being that sets them apart from the locals. Nostalgic for the consumerism of home, they build crude replicas of big-box retailers, complete with their familiar color schemes.

They share a passion for walking dogs. “People wore their clothes in the American style,” Kalfus writes, “and their faces were recognizably American.” But if the country they came from was a global melting pot, what does an “American” face look like?

One wishes Kalfus had explored this idea further. Race and class conflicts are at the heart of the real-life disorder Americans are living, but Kalfus elides those differences in this work.

Still, “2 A.M. in Little America” is a highly readable, taut novel. It pulls the reader into its world, and suggests that many interesting human complications await us at the end of the story called the United States of America.


2 A.M. IN LITTLE AMERICA
By Ken Kalfus

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/59849183-2-a-m-in-little-america



Newsletter

Related Articles

PanamaTimes
0:00
0:00
Close
Apple warns against drying iPhones with rice
In a recent High Court hearing, the U.S. argued that Julian Assange endangered lives by releasing classified information.
Global Law Enforcement Dismantles Lockbit Ransomware Operation
Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has died at the Arctic prison colony
The President of Argentina Javier Mile does not fly private, he flies commercial, with the citizens he represents. And they LOVE him for it.
Bitcoin Reaches $50,000 for First Time in Over Two Years
Belo Horizonte: Brazil's Rising Carnival Hotspot for 2024
In El Salvador, the 'Trump of Latin America' stuns the world with a speech slamming woke policing after winning a landslide election
Tucker’s interview with Putin is over 50M views on X within the first 5 hours.
Finnish Airline, Finnair, is voluntarily weighing passengers to better estimate flight cargo weight
President Nayib Bukele has proudly announced El Salvador's remarkable achievement of becoming the safest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Former Chilean President Sebastian Piñera Dies in Helicopter Crash
This farmer seems to understand science a bit more than the event organizer, Klaus Schwab.
Facebook turns 20: From Mark Zuckerberg's dormitory to a $1trn company
The Coolest Dictator in the World" on the Path to Victory in El Salvador
Macron, France and fake news
Indian-Origin Man 'King' Arrested For Smuggling $16 Million Drugs Into US
Can someone teach Americans that not every person with slanted eyes is Chinese?
Europe's Farmers Feeding the People, Protesting Against Politicians Who Do Nothing for Their Country and Serve Only Themselves at Taxpayers' Expense
Paris Restaurant That Inspired 'Ratatouille' Loses $1.6 Million Worth Of Wine
Brazilian Police Investigate Bolsonaro's Son for Alleged Illegal Spying
Police in Brazil Raid Residence of Bolsonaro Associate Over Allegations of Illegal Spying
Border Dispute Escalates as Texas Governor Vows Increased Razor Wire
OpenAI Enhances ChatGPT-4 Model, Potentially Addressing AI "Laziness" Issue
The NSA finally acknowledges spying on Americans by acquiring sensitive data
Report Reveals Toxic Telegram Group Generating X-Rated AI-Generated Fake Images of Taylor Swift
US Border Patrol States 'No Plans' to Remove Razor Wire Installed in Texas
Bitcoin Experiences Approximately 20% Decline in Value
Klaus Schwab recently appointed himself as the Earth's "trustee of the future."
DeSantis Drops Out, Endorses Trump.
Nikki Haley said former President Trump is "just not at the same level" of mental fitness as he was while president in 2016.
Residents of a southern Mexican town set the government palace on fire in response to the police killing of a young man
Samsung Launches AI-Driven Galaxy S24, Ushering in New Smartphone Era
Judge Questions SEC's Regulatory Overreach in Coinbase Lawsuit
The Ecuador prosecutor who was investigating the television studio attack, has been assassinated.
Is artificial intelligence the solution to cyber security threats?
Vivek Ramaswamy suspends his US election campaign and endorses Trump.
Viral Satire: A Staged Satirical Clip Mistaken as Real Footage from the 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos
The AI Revolution in the Workforce: CEOs at Davos Predict Major Job Cuts in 2024
Ecuador Reports 178 Hostages in Prison Gang Standoff
The Startling Cuban Espionage Case That Has Rattled the US Government
Two Armed Men in Ecuador, Dressed as Batman and The Joker Storm the Streets.
Armed Gang Raids Ecuadorian TV Station Following State of Emergency Declaration
Anti-Democratic Canada: Journalist Arrested for Questioning Canadian Finance Minister on Support of Terrorist Group
Ecuador's 'Most-Wanted' Criminal Vanishes from Prison
Mexican Cartel Supplied Wi-Fi to Locals Under Threat of Fatal Consequences for Non-Compliance
Border Surge Leads to Over 11,000 Migrants Waiting in Northern Mexico
Outsider Candidates Triumph in Latin American Elections
As Argentina Goes to the Polls, Will the Proposal to Replace the Peso with the Dollar Secure Votes?
Fatal Shark Attack Claims Life of Boston Woman Paddleboarding Near Bahamas Resort, According to Police
×