Best U.S. Contemporary Fiction in 2022

Genres in U.S. Contemporary Fiction

American writers from the second half of the twentieth century created a variety of genres. Topics include the Civil War, Postmodernism, Naturealism, and Postmodernism. In addition, many of the writers reflected their time, including Upton Sinclair and Jack London. In this article, you will learn about some of these writers and their influences. Also, you will discover the most influential works in this genre.

American writers of the second half of the 20th century

A major genre of American literature developed in the second half of the 20th century. The American literary landscape was blooming with the work of diverse writers expressing the dreadful conditions of the twentieth century. Authors like Arthur Miller, Sam Shepard, and Edward Albee developed a dramatic form. Many black writers tapped into the racial injustice and violence that pervade the US society. Other writers like Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou focused on the experience of black women in the twentieth century. Others like Saul Bellow explored the experience of Jews in America.

The first phase of this phase of the 20th century witnessed the emergence of a new generation of American writers. With the rise of immigration, American authors started rejecting traditional elements of literature and became fascinated with the psychological depths of their characters. Many of these writers explored the changing culture of the American South, including its relationship to the traditional southern code. The second phase of the 20th century was marked by a shift in attitude toward American literature, which was largely influenced by the influence of modernism.

The second stage of this period saw the emergence of several writers who were influenced by the Great Depression and World War II. Some of these writers became famous during this time, despite the gloomy outlook on life in America. John Steinbeck was another American writer who became famous during this time, best known for his novels about social problems. The story was also adapted into a successful film by John Ford.

Influences of the Civil War

The Civil War has had a major impact on American culture, but literature about the war has remained relatively untapped. The war and its aftermath inspired the creation of several genres of fiction, including realism, romanticism, and fantasy. Moreover, female spies who experienced war-related horrors such as Belle Boyd's Bell Boyd in Camp and Prison, honed their skills as writers and enjoyed lucrative lecture tours after the war.

The Civil War influenced the lives of many writers, including E.L. Doctorow, who gave us the novel The March: A Novel. Geraldine Brooks' March (2005) is also fantastic. J. Matthew Gallman, a professor of history at the University of Florida, also wrote a book about the war's influence on U.S. contemporary fiction, The Lost Cause.

The Civil War's impact on American literature extends beyond the history of the conflict. In many ways, this war has influenced the way we talk and think about race, gender, ethnicity, class, and the justification of war. Literature about the war has played a pivotal role in shaping the American cultural zeitgeist and has influenced contemporary fiction. It has also shaped the way we think about history and fiction.

The conflict exacerbated the rift between the North and the South. The South had a significant shortage of personnel, paper, and ink. And because of the lack of resources, it was forced to use the war as an excuse for its failure to win. As a result, writers from the North began to use the Civil War as a catalyst for social change. The Civil War also provided inspiration for a number of famous characters in contemporary fiction.


As defined by Emile Zola, naturealism in contemporary fiction is a mode of writing that applies scientific principles to all aspects of life. For writers to make life seem real, they must be deterministic. In this style, characters are determined by causes, such as genetics, heredity, or the environment. Those whose characters have no free will are portrayed as victims of the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

This literary movement aims to explore this particular way of thinking. In France, it was a distinct and relatively short-lived movement, while in America, it became a general term referring to a range of works written over several decades. As a result, the term "naturalism" has become a significant influence on twentieth-century American literature. This article will explore the complexities of this term and how it relates to U.S. contemporary fiction.

Zola's novel, "Le Disciple and the Insurgency," was widely read, despite its harsh criticism and opposition. Zola's work was condemned by government censors and critics as "putrid literature." This popularity grew as cheap pulp editions with racy covers flooded the market. Zola's unflinching analysis is the substance of naturalism.

Another American novelist, Frank Norris, made use of naturalistic techniques. He believed that a novel should be more like a scientific experiment, and a character should be treated as such. This technique is also known as "naturealism." In Norris's novel, the character's language is reproduced in vulgar dialect, which was a departure from earlier novels about immigrants. Its use in contemporary fiction has become a vital part of the American literary canon.


Hoffmann's study is densely written and covers only a limited amount of new territory. Postmodernism in U.S. contemporary fiction has emerged as a critical movement within U.S. literature and is defined as "high postmodernism" produced by white male experimental writers in the 1960s and 1970s. Hoffmann's study includes a large number of prominent writers, but also some lesser-known figures.

Various works by Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut explore the themes of postmodernism. "Gravity's Rainbow" by Pynchon is considered a poster child of postmodern literature, and its complex plot and recurrent themes are explored through the lens of global capitalism and the decline of American manufacturing. In contrast, "White Noise" by DeLillo reframes postmodernism as a critique of consumerism, presenting characters with endless cynicism and meaninglessness. Kurt Vonnegut's novel "The French Lieutenant's Woman" emphasizes the metafictional nature of war, and the use of a narrator.

Despite these concerns, however, many prominent American writers argue that postmodernism in American fiction has shifted away from the postmodern tendencies of its predecessors. The defining qualities of contemporary American fiction are less clear, but the book identifies four main trends in the contemporary scene: the recovery of the real, rethinking of historical engagement, preoccupation with materiality, and planetary turn. Readings by leading figures and their readers confirm this revitalization of American literature.

Disintegration and textual uncertainty are key postmodern concerns. These concepts affect our lives. A person's sense of self and others is impacted by the way he or she perceives the world and the characters in it. For some people, this is a profoundly disturbing concept. The underlying messages of postmodern fiction are often deceptively simple and straightforward. Nonetheless, they are a powerful tool of postmodernism.

African American writers

Whether you're a fan of historical novels or YA rom-coms, African American writers have made an impact on American literature in the last two centuries. From classic works like The Color Purple to new favorites like Beloved, the literature of African Americans has contributed to the history of American literature in ways that are both profound and relevant to the present. Read on to discover the best contemporary Black authors and their works.

The works of Alice Walker, for example, have influenced generations of readers. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author wrote about the struggles and trials of African American women. She was also an activist and coined the term "womanist."

The works of these writers are diverse and often set in Harlem or the Deep South. They often trace the course of institutionalized racism in their settings. Zora Hurston's novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), and Jean Toomer's Cane (1923), which is a hybrid work of poetry and fiction, examine the horrors of slavery. A classic in the genre, Beloved also highlights the beauty of black women's culture and strength.

Toni Morrison is another well-known African American writer. Born in Ohio in 1931, Morrison studied at Howard University and received her master's degree from Cornell. Her most famous book, Annie Allen, is set in Chicago, where she grows up in poverty. Its success has been widely acclaimed and her work is considered faithful to the Black experience. She was also a mentor to many writers, including Octavia Butler.

Richard Wright's Native Son was published just before the Second World War. It tackled issues of racial prejudice and segregation, suggesting that legal violence against individual rights can lead to murder. The story of Black chauffeur Bigger Thomas brings about a national discussion of police shootings, and the author shows how a Black person can be a hero when the circumstances around him are difficult. A new dimension is introduced in this novel by Thomas, which won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction.

Becky Watson

Commissioning Editor in Walker’s “6+” team. I work on books across the different children’s genres, including non-fiction, fiction, picture books, gift books and novelty titles. Happy to answer questions about children's publishing – as best I can – for those hoping to enter the industry!

📧Email | 📘LinkedIn