All posts by Henrike Kattoll

More than Just a Novel: Nic Stone’s Dear Martin

By Sabrina Völz

It’s been nearly 52 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Without a doubt, he continues to inspire new generations and serve as a role model for non-violent protest and change. In honor of Black History Month in February, I’d like to review a young adult novel that brings the conversation on racism and growing up Black in the United States to a new level. It investigates whether King’s teachings are still relevant today and whether they can help Jystice, a 17-year-old, promising high school student. His life is turned upside down when he tries to help his intoxicated ex-girlfriend get home safely one night. In a confrontation with two police officers, Jystice ends up on the ground in handcuffs – an all-too-familiar sight. The problem: She’s White and he’s Black. As a result of the assault, Jystice will never be the person he once was.

Nic Stone’s debut novel, Dear Martin (2017), interweaves the topics of racial profiling, police brutality, blackface, colorblind racism, micro-aggressions, and acting ‘White’ with questions of identity, friendship, and interracial relationships. With that list, you might just ask yourself how the author still manages to tell a good story without getting too distracted and preachy. Well, she does. But before exploring the topic further, I’ll let Nic Stone introduce the book in her own words.

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Mundo Overloadus

By Michael Lederer

I am writing this on the first day of a new year that arrived not a nanosecond too soon. We needed a new year as sorely as we ever have.

2020 will take its infamous place in history, a time Queen Elizabeth II once charmingly – if woefully – dubbed an annus horribilis. We have to be careful not to misspell that, though given as hard as these last twelve months have been, it’s tempting.

Segueing from the Queen’s real Latin to my own faux Latin, exactly ten years earlier, in 2010, my play Mundo Overloadus premiered in New York’s East Village. The title was my stab at describing what seemed already a world overloaded. That play is my absurdist take on a sugary sweet American cultural landmark, the silly and now forever-rerun TV comedy from the 60s, Gilligan’s Island – my version set in an insane asylum. In my play, I was asking the audience if the unapologetic innocence of that show still had currency in this new, already cynical century. From 9/11 in 2001 to the corona virus lurking about roughly 20 years later, it feels that – for sanity’s sake – we desperately need a gentler, kinder point of view, even if it’s the cotton candy of a sitcom.

Bob Denver as Gilligan

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Storytelling: Of Geniuses and Maps

By Kai-Arne Zimny

What makes a piece of fiction successful, apart from a good portion of luck? Well, some writers deem the craft of ‘plotting’ essential for creating fiction that goes somewhere, while others prefer to write from the seat of their pants and are likely to dread the prospect of their art being anything less than inspiration, talent, and vision.

Let me introduce you to two writing guides that might offer some perspective on the initial question. First, let’s visit someone who claims that both ‘pantsers’ and plotters are on the wrong track because …

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ISSN for the American Studies Blog

Dear Readers and Contributors, 

Before the new year rolls around, the editors of the American Studies Blog are happy to announce that the ASB now has an ISSN! The National ISSN Center of Germany (part of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek in Frankfurt/Main) has awarded us the ISSN 2702-7767. 

This might be especially important for our many contributors who can now list their blog posts as (academic) publications.  


Together with the entire ASB team, we wish you a wonderful and healthy New Year!  

Sabrina and Maria 


A Holiday Survival Guide

By Henrike Kattoll

The holiday season is a unique time. We go through the full spectrum of emotions within a span of two weeks only. We constantly have to deal with family members and guests; we eat way too much while telling ourselves we’ll be going on a diet next year; and we tend to get overly emotional, especially on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Since it’s such a wonderfully stressful time, I chose three topics to help you through the last few weeks of the year.


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