Holy American Burnout!
by Sean Enfield
publication date: December 5, 2023
Sean Enfield delves into the great American condition: burnout.
Threading his experiences both as a Texan student and later as a first-year teacher of predominately Muslim students at a Texas middle school, Holy American Burnout! weaves personal essay and cultural critique into the historical fabric of Black and bi-racial identity.
Enfield intersects examinations of which voices are granted legitimacy by virtue of school curriculum, the complex relationship between basketball and education for Black and brown students, his students’ burgeoning political consciousness during the 2016 presidential campaign, and cultural figures ranging from Kendrick Lamar to Hamlet.
These classroom narratives weave around Enfield’s own formative experiences contending with a conflicted bi-racial family lineage, reenacting the Middle Passage as the only Black student in his 7th grade history class, and moshing in both Christian and secular hardcore pits.
As Enfield wrestles with the physical, mental, and emotional burdens that American society places on educators, students, and all relatively conscious minorities in this country, he reaches for an education that better navigates our burnt-out empire.
Praise for Holy American Burnout!:
"A tour-de-force collection of essays on issues surrounding race, education, and American history."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"In Holy American Burnout!, his urgent and insightful debut essay collection, Sean Enfield shares tales as varied as finding connections in churches and moshpits as well as teaching at a Muslim middle school. Enfield shows us what white supremacy looks like from the liminal vantage of a biracial kid coming of age in the aughts in Texas. He tells us facts we should know and reminds us of truths we shouldn’t forget. These formally engaging essays are at turns vulnerable, poignant, and funny, and Enfield always shows wise care for those in his essays, his readers, and himself. Holy American Burnout! introduces a new necessary voice, and I’m immensely grateful for that.”
—Sean Hill, author of Dangerous Goods and Blood Ties & Brown Liquor
"Driven by an empathic imagination and formal invention, Holy American Burnout! is a book of marked complexity and honesty. 'What do we do with a history we’d rather forget?' Enfield asks, and then guides us on a sweeping journey across the many landscapes of America—from classroom to mosh pit to open highway—from which we emerge with a more expansive conception of its many historical and ongoing traumas, and how we might heal the wounds without erasing their scars."
—Sara Eliza Johnson, author of Vapor and Bone Map
"In a richly woven collection, the personal essays in Holy American Burnout! give profound insights into the current reality of America, taking on race, inequality, violence, and education. Centered around his time teaching an all-boys class at a Muslim school in Texas, Enfield delves into this period’s most significant social and political questions. In the spirit of Baldwin and Abdurraqib, the essays herein are vulnerable and honest, stunning in their reach for clarity. An impressive debut from an exciting new voice!"
—Daryl Farmer, author of Where We Land: Stories and Bicycling Beyond the Divide
Sean Enfield is an essayist, poet, gardener, bassist, and educator from Dallas, TX. His writing attempts to find connection through music and words as reclamation of labor as community care and as resistance to the many forces of white supremacy working against marginalized bodies. You can find his work at seanenfield.com.