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American Masculine

Shann Ray
The American West has long been a place where myth and legend have flourished. Where men stood tall and lived rough. But that West is no more. In its place Shann Ray finds washedup basketball players, businessmen hiding addictions, and women fighting the inexplicable violence that wells up in these men. A son struggles to accept his father’s apologies after surviving a childhood of beatings. Two men seek empty basketball hoops on a snowy night, hoping to relive past glory. A bull rider skips town and rides herd on an unruly mob of passengers as he searches for a thief on a train threading through Montana’s Rocky Mountains.

In these stories, Ray grapples with the terrible hurt we inflict on those we love, and finds that reconciliation, if far off, is at least possible. The debut of a writer who is out to redefine the contours of the American West, American Masculine is a deeply felt and fiercely written ode to the country we left behind.

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Winner of the 2010 Bakeless Prize for Fiction, a muscular debut that reconfigures the American West

About the Author

Shann  Ray
Credit: Vanessa Kay
Shann Ray is the author of American Masculine, and holds a PhD in psychology from the University of Alberta. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Narrative Magazine, Story Quarterly, and other publications. He lives with his wife and three daughters in Spokane, Washington, where he teaches leadership and forgiveness studies at Gonzaga University.
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  • “The men and women in [Ray’s] stories seem to [be] the bastard children of Jim Harrison and Raymond Carver, fierce but plain-spoken and adrift, fighting to hold addictions, violence and sadness at bay. It’s a book which redefines the myth of the West—Manifest Destiny is a thing of the past, the West now is a trap.”—Salon
  • “Ray’s collection has an unsettling power as his roughened characters incrementally come to terms with their humanity, fallibility, and their realized capacity for atonement. This is a highly accomplished and intensely lyrical debut.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • “The need for some sort of forgiveness—the messy, complicated aspect of all relationships, whether with others or with ourselves—lingers in the background of almost every character’s lfe in the collection. Ultimately, the men and women that make up American Masculine are brave souls, shouting against the wind, choosing to change, choosing hope.”—Foreword Reviews, “In the Spotlight”
  • “Ray’s deftness and ability to convey deep feeling make him a writer this reviewer will follow with interest.”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis)


This book is made possible, in part, through the Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize, awarded by the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference of Middlebury College in support of emerging writers, and by the generosity of Graywolf Press donors like you.
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