In America begins with an epigraph from Langston Hughes: “America will be!” It is a fitting start to the story of a group of Poles who travel to Anaheim, California in 1876 to establish a utopian community. Their leader is Maryna Zaleska, Poland’s greatest actress, who has forsaken her career in order to establish a farming commune. She is aware of the likelihood of failure, but the romance of starting anew, the challenge of succeeding where communities such as Brook Farm failed, is too enticing not to pursue. She takes with her a devoted husband, Bogdan; a young son, Piotr; and a young writer, Ryszard, who aspires to win her love.

In a note on the copyright page, Sontag explains that her novel was inspired by the career of Helena Modrzejewska, Poland’s renowned actress, who did indeed emigrate to America in 1876 and settle in Anaheim with her husband Count Karol Chapowski; Rudolf, their...

 
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