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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for Dreaming Up America
Book cover for Dreaming Up AmericaBook cover for Dreaming Up America

With America ever under global scrutiny, Russell Banks contemplates the questions of our origins, values, heroes, conflicts, and contradictions. He writes with conversational ease and emotional insight, drawing on contemporary politics, literature, film, and his knowledge of American history. In Dreaming Up America, Banks shows how the differing motives of the first colonists, the influence of slavery and African-American culture, and the intermingling of destructive and creative forces have changed us.

Book cover for Dreaming Up America
Book cover for Dreaming Up AmericaBook cover for Dreaming Up America

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“Russell Banks is not only one of our great novelists but also a courageous and visionary citizen who understands the centrality of race and the magnanimity of democracy. His first nonfiction book is a gem!”

“Russell Banks as a novelist has always dared to illuminate the larger issues of human interaction in a society that too often dishonors human rights. Here he gives us a thoughtful and provocative meditation on our history, with a chilling look at what happened to the American dream.”

“Russell Banks understands the narratives we invent as Americans to explain ourselves to ourselves. He plummets to the depths of the American soul, holds it up for view and offers in his insights the possibility for atonement.”

blog — January 09

Remembering Russell Banks (March 28, 1940 - January 7, 2023)

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of our friend, the writer Russell Banks. We only published one book with him, the oral history project Dreaming Up America, but he was one of the nine actors who showed up at the Steppenwolf Theatre to be filmed performing in Nelson Algren Live, to celebrate Nelson Algren's centennial, playing Algren's father, among other roles. We could always count on Russell. When we introduced him to the International Parliament of Writers, he eventually became president of their Cities of Refuge program. 

Russell made the literary life look beautiful because his literary life was beautiful. No one was more gregarious or more fun-loving. He could take on the heaviest projects with the lightest of hearts, or make it seem so, and so many of his books, Cloudsplitter and Rule of the Bone to name just two, were enduring, great works of American literature. He rarely repeated himself. God rest his soul.

—Dan Simon

Read the New York Times obituary for Russell Banks here

Russell Banks

Born in in 1940 in Newton, MA, Russell Banks grew up mostly in New Hampshire. He attended Colgate University on a full scholarship, before dropping out with the intent to join Fidel Castro’s revolutionary army in Cuba. Banks got as far as Miami, before settling in Lakeland, FL. In 1975 he published the first of eighteen and counting works of fiction, which depict with a cold eye both the seismic events in U.S. history and the tiniest details of individual desperation. Banks is the author of Dreaming Up America, and his books have been translated into twenty languages and have received numerous international prizes. Two of his novels—The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction—have been made into award-winning films. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, founding president of Cities of Refuge North America, and former New York State Author, Banks lives in Upstate New York.