Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Great American Novel

by Dina Sleiman

Whether or not you consider yourself a writer, if you love to read, chances are you have secretly dreamed of writing "The Great American Novel." I know I certainly have. But what precisely is meant by that term. According to the guru's of pop research, Wikipedia, The Great American Novel can be described this way.

The "Great American Novel" is the concept of a novel that is distinguished in both craft and theme as being the most accurate representation of the spirit of the age in the United States at the time of its writing or in the time it is set. It is presumed to be written by an American author who is knowledgeable about the state, culture, and perspective of the common American citizen. The author uses the literary work to identify and exhibit the language used by the American people of the time and to capture the unique American experience, especially as it is perceived for the time.

And what are some examples of this Great American novel? Moby DickThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, just to name a few.

So why did I set my first novel in the medieval period in England? My next published novel was set in 1820's Virginia. A little closer to home. But my sweet little romance didn't quite capture the "spirit of an age." Certainly not the spirit of my age.

However in between those two, I tried my hand at contemporary. In American. Might this one capture the spirit of an age? A Christian ballerina wounded by church, a veiled Muslim woman, and a bi-racial hippie chick who meet as returning college students over a group project on diversity. Ding! Ding! Ding! I think we have a winner folks.

Dance from Deep Within does indeed capture the quest for meaning and authenticity which is so much a part of our current age. It examines the postmodern mindset of our generation and the all important element of diversity in American culture.

Okay, admittedly, it might be better described as "The Great American Christian Novel," but I think it goes beyond that as well through its exploration of various characters as they all search for truth, authenticity, healing of old wounds, and a desire to learn to live from deep within their hearts. The cast of characters is rounded off by a group of young men including a conservative Christian, a new convert from Islam to Christianity, and a die-hard atheist. The characters are dancers, business people, engineers, pastors, writers, and future doctors.

And they are all facing another phenomena, the new quarter-life crisis of seeking to define oneself that is unique to this generation.

So now let me put the ball in your court. Do you dream of writing The Great American Novel? If you were going to write The Great American Novel, what would it be like? Which novels of today do you think will someday make the list?

And don't forget. My Great American Novel will be releasing in just a few days. Check it out here!

Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an honorable mention in the 2012 Selah Awards. Her latest novel, Love in Three-Quarter Time, was the launch title for the Zondervan First imprint. Look for her newest release, Dance from Deep Within, in November. Dina is also a part-time acquistions editor for WhiteFire Publishing, and she is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at


  1. Ah, who doesn't dream of writing the Great American Novel? Mine would be a coming-of-age story set in a small town--definitely not what I'm writing now, LOL. But it's always in the back of my head.

    The multi-racial characters and themes of your story definitely fit the bill for a G.A.N. Wishing you the best with this book!

  2. Sounds nice, Susie, maybe someday. And thanks!

  3. I just use that expression every time I have to excuse myself to go and write 'the next great American novel'.

    With my limited reading (I'm still trying to catch up on the old classics, keep up with some of my favorite mystery authors, and read as many of my friends' books as I can) I have no idea what I'd suggest as the next big thing. It would be a great conversation starter at a local library or book store.
    I'm really looking forward to hearing about some of those great stories that will come out of this release and how it has touched people, Dina!

  4. Yeah, Deb, I know a lot more about Christian fiction than secular these days, but I'm guessing the Oprah book lists could give us some hints.

    In Christian fiction, I think Lisa Samson's books have that great American novel sort of feel. Zora and Nicky really captured racism in our country as well as some of the extreme Christian denominations of our era


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