Naturalistic Elements in Wounded by Percival Everett

As a scholar and fan of metafiction, I am often drawn to the dynamic and prolific work of author Percival Everett. His most famous metafictional novel is his 2001 erasure. The novel is about a writer named Thelonious “Monk” Ellison who finds his philosophical work outshone by what in many ways is its opposite–an in-your-face “urban” novel about a potentially caricatured form of Black life. (erasure is arguably his most famous novel of all, though his new ones get a lot of attention every time one comes out. And of course, his 2020 Telephone was a Finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.)

I wrote about erasure and another metafictional novel, his 2013 Percival Everett by Virgil Russell, for the journal, African American Review.The article, entitled “Intimate Realities and Necessary Fiction in Percival Everett by Virgil Russell,” appeared in 2019. It would later form part of the basis for my book, Novel Subjects: Authorship as Radical Self-Care in Multiethnic American Narratives. In the fourth chapter, I read Everett’s work against that of Filipino American writer, Miguel Syjuco, and his 2008 novel, Ilustrado.

On to the new article!

My latest research on Percival Everett’s work is also my first foray into open-access publishing, which made it doubly exciting. You can find this article published in Humanities, an international peer-reviewed journal. The article is part of a special issue entitled “The Continuing Challenges of Percival Everett.” I believe you can download all of the articles in the issue here.

My contribution focuses on one of Everett’s many westerns, a 2005 novel entitled Wounded. The novel is deceptively simple on the surface, but the more I dug into it, the more I realized its interesting depths. My exploration began when I came across an interview where Everett was still working on the book and summarized it this way:

“The working title is Wounded. It’s a really naturalistic novel. My interest is in the form of a realistic novel. You have to love the form you’re working in, but I’m seeing what I can do.”

Percival Everett, in an interview with Joe Weixlmann (link)

You can find the full text of my article, entitled “Naturalistic Elements in Percival Everett’s Woundedat this link!

Novel Subjects book talk!

My book, Novel Subjects: Authorship as Radical Self-Care in Multiethnic American Narratives, turned a year old this past June, and a lot has happened since its publication!

Just before it was published, I was able to give a talk on it for one of my favorite organizations, The Circle of Asian American Literary Studies (or CAALS); I do a brief recap of that talk at this link.

A bit later on January 2022, I got some still-amazing-to-me news: Novel Subjects won the Midwest Modern Language Association Book Award.

Novel Subjects: Authorship as Radical Self-Care in Multiethnic American Narratives - MMLA 2021 Book Award winner - blurb: “Milne offers a bold intervention in the field of contemporary American literature: a defense of multiculturalism at a time when it seems to have been largely abandoned except in corporate circles. When so much of American political discourse seems to be beholden to a resurgent anti-immigrant ethnonationalism, such a defense is welcome.”—Min Hyoung Song, author, The Children of 1965: On Writing, and Not Writing, as an Asian American

Most recently, I gave a #USSOBookHour talk about Novel Subjects to US Studies Online, an organization that bills itself as “the Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher webspace of the British Association for American Studies (BAAS).”

My first experience with this organization was way back in 2015, when I was still a graduate student UNCG. My advisor and mentor, the great Dr. María Carla Sánchez, was (and remains) very actively involved in the Society for the Study of American Women Writers (SSAWW). She encouraged me to write a short article for this thing they were doing–a series of articles they were doing in collaboration with US Studies Online. From that resulted one of my first online articles, “(In)Visibility, Race, and Ethnicity in American Women’s Writing throughout the Twentieth Century.” (I remain proud of the fact that it sports a picture of Mindy Kaling and a book by Gina Apostol.)

A few months later, US Studies Online invited me to lead a USSO Book Hour. Back then, these events were public, moderated book-group-style discussions. I definitely dealt with imposter syndrome while leading an online discussion about Toni Morrison’s novel God Help the Child along with Justine Baillie, Michelle Green, and Susan N. Mayberry, but it was a lot of fun.

I ended up talking about Morrison’s novel again in my talk last week. In the current format of USSOBookHour, a scholar gives a talk about their book, and then takes questions from attendees. Organizer Aija Oksman from The University of Edinburgh informed me that a number of the early career and graduate student attendees wanted to know about how Novel Subjects went from dissertation-to-book, so I included that in my talk as well. You can find more about the event at the below link, and a recording below

My book, Novel Subjects, is here!

It’s been a busy few weeks so I haven’t had the chance to post about the fact that my book, Novel Subjects Authorship as Radical Self-Care in Multiethnic American Narratives, is officially a real thing out in the world!

Milne - Novel Subjects
The book cover of Novel Subjects! (Keep reading for a discount code.)

In my defense, part of why I’ve been so busy has been because I was preparing a presentation on the book, which I gave as part of the 2021 Circle for Asian American Literary Studies (CAALS) Virtual Conference.

2021 Circle for Asian American Literary Studies (CAALS) Virtual Conference
You can find the full conference schedule at

My presentation was part of a larger book conversation panel with Dr. Swati Rana, whose book is entitled Race Characters Ethnic Literature and the Figure of the American Dream (2020, UNC Press). Even though she covers the 20th century from 1960 and before while my book talks about a bunch of books published more than a couple of decades later, it turned out that there were numerous overlaps in our concerns and questions. Our conversation was moderated by the great Dr. Betsy Huang.

For my part, I outlined two of the basic questions underpinning Novel Subjects, namely:

  • How does contemporary literature contend with the power and responsibility of authorship, particularly in narratives of marginalized groups?
  • How has multiethnic literature challenged the notion that writing and authorship are neutral or universal?

I provided an example from Ruth Ozeki’s 2013 novel, A Tale for the Time Being. Ozeki’s novel depicts two author-protagonists—one named and modeled after Ozeki herself, who happens upon a journal written by a second author, the fictive teenaged writer named Nao. Especially because they are separated by time and space, we might assume that this reader-writer relationship goes in only one direction.

A diagram of writers/readers/protagonists in A Tale for the Time Being.

However, in Ozeki’s novel, it’s circular—both writers have the power to influence the other in very personal and intimate ways that also shape their self-assessments and perspectives. In fact, at one point, (spoiler alert!) the character Ruth actually crosses into the fictional storyworld of Nao and Nao’s grandmother, deliberately altering the trajectory of the plot itself.

In this way, my book focuses on author-characters who Sara Ahmed might call willful and intrusive—they both intrude upon and interrupt the metafictional tales that they tell, while at the same time willfully insisting upon telling these tales in the first place, often through a reliance on unconventional, unaccepted, or even  seemingly inauthentic methods and approaches.

If you want to know what texts I discuss in Novel Subjects, you can find a Bookshop list here.

My publisher has kindly offered a 40% discount code on Novel Subjects for those who are interested. You can order from their website using the code NOVEL40.