Associate 2019-20

Alex Shakar


Shakar imageUnite the Tribes

It’s been remarked that music is a universal language. In these times of widening cultural chasms in America, might music still be our lingua franca? Or is this hope naïve: are our musics as divided as we are?

The idea that our music culture reflects our fracturing political, social, and economic lives, yet still perhaps offers some interconnection, makes possible Professor Shakar’s new novel, Unite the Tribes. In it, the story of a mysterious singer on a genre-crossing music tour makes possible a revealing take on American geographies, cultural pockets, ideological wormholes, and little-known crossroads. Readers who take the trip with the road novel’s characters will have a perspective that inspires reflection upon the scars on our landscape and the contradictions within our myths. America’s fraught history of cultural ascendancy, its commoditized media ecosystem, its “culture wars,” and its tensions between individualism and solidarity are themes explored along the way. Threaded through the narrative is a meditation on tribal-ness, belonging, and social, cultural, and physical displacement.