Cultural Activities: Famous American Authors

The United States, being a country founded on immigrants, often had its own stories told by immigrants or the children of immigrants. Often, the ancestors of American authors had detailed histories which described their passage into the United States.

Here, we’ve collected some short descriptions of famous American authors for your perusal in the hopes that by reading them, you may find some additional cultural understanding of your new home.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s most famous work, The Scarlet Letter, details some of New England’s more dark beginnings as a colony of puritans. This classic of literature examines sin and social justice in a new land. This novel is often required reading for American high school students.

Herman Melville

Moby Dick is the quintessential adventure novel from the United States. From a peaceful teaching job, to the rough and tumble Nantucket, to the exiting travels across the ocean to the brink of madness, Ishmael follows Captain Ahab, a man obsessed with revenge against a whale who took his leg.

This was one of Melville’s only successful books, which he wrote shortly after a similar adventure he had. He died impoverished, working at a clerk’s desk, but his classic remains famous in the US and elsewhere.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman was a quiet and solitary man. This left him a great deal of time to contemplate the world and bind his thoughts into the lasting compendium that is Leaves of Grass. Mr. Whitman arguably belonged to the Transcendentalist school of thought in the 1800s and is closely related to another great American author, Henry David Thoreau.

Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly was a journalist in a peculiar time in American history. Not only was it unusual for a woman to be a professional at the time, but it was outright shocking for a woman to be doing such in-depth reporting.

In Ten Days in a Mad-House, Bly set to uncovering the corrupt system of insane asylums of the late 1800s and pave the way for investigative journalists for a century to come!