Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy is the Book for 2020

Oh, if only Simmons Buntin, Elizabeth Dodd, and Derek Sheffield, editors of the recent anthology Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy could possibly have had any idea what kind of year 2020 would turn into, perhaps they would have slightly re-titled their book. I’m thinking “Holy Sh*t, America,” but I guess that rather misses the point, considering this book is comprised of 130 letters penned by the likes of Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a frequent foe of Trump, official Obama White House photographer Pete Souza, Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Rush, and 127 other contributors ranging from artists to environmentalists to scientists and more.

Today, against the backdrop of the coronavirus, the Black Lives Matter protests, and of course with the primary original inspiration for the book, the social and political divisiveness that went from long simmer to hot boil with the campaign and subsequent election of building tycoon and former reality TV personality Donald J. Trump to the same office formerly held by the likes of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, Dear America seems less the flash of optimism its editors perhaps had in mind and instead an outright plea. In the letters collected herein, with names such as “This Land Is (Still) Our Land” by Anna Maria Spagna, “Assembly Line Justice” by Francisco Cantú, or “Each One a Bright Light” by Lee Herrick, you will read not invective or judgment, but rather a series of heartfelt appeals to the better nature both of our nation as a whole and to every resident (note I do not say citizen) who is a part thereof.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

What will perhaps strike a reader the most about this book is that, despite the fact that its motivation involved factors like the catastrophe that is our planet’s environment, the torrent of falsehoods spewed from newsrooms, blogs, and hands tapping out tweets or Facebook posts, and the outright hatred seething within so many Americans, is the genuinely hopeful tone either directly adopted or underpinning the message of most of the 130 inclusions, which take the form of prose, poetry, art, and photography (and occasionally a blending thereof).

I was particularly struck by a passage from author and poet Lee Herrick’s letterm “Each One a Bright Light,” that so mirrored our current moment. Writing about 1970, the year of his birth and shortly before he arrived in America as a 10-month-old orphan from South Korea, Herrick says:

“…upheaval and change was everywhere: the Vietnam War continued, the shootings at Kent State rocked Ohio and the world … both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died. It was two years after Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were killed. In many ways, it was a brutal time of major change. But beneath the headlines, tragic or sickening as they may be, America’s best self was always churning, always evolving.”

A brutal time of major change — what better words could we pick to describe out own times? But if Herrick and so many of the other contributors to this uplifting book are right, that change that must be coming will tend toward the better. If everyone took a moment to read just a few of the hopeful letters in Dear America, perhaps the divides would seem a bit narrower, the goals a bit more aligned, and the possibility for tolerance something more than Gatsby’s distant green light.

Editors' Recommendations

Steven John
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Steven John is a writer and journalist living just outside New York City, by way of 12 years in Los Angeles, by way of…
Ranked: The 11 best Tom Hanks movies ever
From a toy cowboy to Mr. Rogers, Tom Hanks has played it all. Here are our favorite performances
Tom Hanks in The Post

When it comes to beloved actors in Hollywood, there are several names that come to mind. Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are legends of dramatic film. Jim Carrey is a comedy icon like no other. Still, when you take into account both funny and serious work, Tom Hanks is probably America's most relatable actor. Appearing in nearly 100 films since the 1980s, Hanks has lent his talents to directors like Stephen Spielberg and Ron Howard, earning himself multiple Academy Awards along the way.

It's always a good time to appreciate the greatness of Tom Hanks. We'll go over the 10 best performances of his career, a list that is both diverse and focused. Any cinema fan is sure to find something they can enjoy when they take a look at a list of the best Tom Hanks movies, and they can look forward to more as he continues to pursue new and interesting projects today in his mid-60s.

Read more
A Bob Ross original from his first show heads to auction, bids start at $9.8 million
This may be the most expensive '80s hotel art we've ever seen
A close up of the first painting Bob Ross painted on his TV show.

If there are any '80s and '90s kids who grew up watching Bob Ross paint his way into your heart, the holy grail of items is up for sale. The only problem is you have to be a really rich Bob Ross fan to afford it. The iconic painter oozed charm and positivity, using his calming voice to make us feel safe and cozy no matter what was going on. Watching him churn out paintings of stunning landscapes made everyone fall in love with art, and if you have the bank account, you could fall in love with a unique Bob Ross painting.

The never-ending obsession with Bob Ross 
There was a show that raised us right, teaching us anyone could be an artist while bringing us unconditional happiness. The Joy of Painting was that gem, and Bob Ross led us on a journey in each episode, taking us from a blank canvas to a happy little creation with trees, clouds, mountains, and all kinds of beautiful scenery found in nature.

Read more
The Mandalorian, Ahsoka, Andor: All of your favorite Star Wars series, ranked
All our favorite Star Wars series, ranked - do you agree with the list?
Pedro Pascal in The Mandalorian.

Star Wars' vast universe has always begged for long-form storytelling. Even though The Galaxy Far, Far Away is a movie franchise at heart, the space opera possesses so many different characters, settings, and plot lines that a film or set of pictures could never encompass all of the material. Since acquiring Star Wars, one of the best decisions Disney has made is turning the saga into more of a TV franchise. Episodic formatting lets writers and directors hone in on specific people, places, and even backstories that fans have long craved for more information on. Other series were shoddy depictions of the galaxy and should have been kept in the rough drafts. Either way, we are so glad that since The Mandalorian, Star Wars is deep into the streaming world, with all of these series available to watch on Disney Plus. These are the 10 best Star Wars series, ranked.

10. Star Wars Resistance (2018)

Read more