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480 pages; Graywolf Press
In Bunk, acclaimed poet Kevin Young raises what is, in the age of fake news and "reality" TV stars in high places, an urgent question: "Is there something especially American about the hoax?" This fascinating, dense, and hyper-referential look into the strange forms and contours of our indigenous cultural b.s. posits that it all began in 1835, when P.T. Barnum put a black woman named Joice Heth on display and billed her as George Washington's former nursemaid. The book contends that the wellspring of our communal deceptions, indeed of our desire to be deceived, is the construct—the lie—of race. And the frauds move through time, from the caricatured aliens of early science fiction, to the efforts of Rachel Dolezal to pass herself off as black, to the violent delusions of Dylann Roof.

In Young's sweeping view of our homegrown hokum, the racialized scams of circus freak shows yield to the racialized scam of Trump's presidential circus. He concludes with a portentous throwdown, less a warning about decline than a historical shudder: "What if truth is not an absolute or relative, but a skill...that collectively we have neglected so much that we have grown measurably weaker at using it?"
— Dotun Akintoye