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Rotten English

A Literary Anthology


Dohra Ahmad (Editor)

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A global anthology of fiction and poetry in vernacular English.

Rotten English spans the globe to offer an overview of the best non-standard English writing of the past two centuries, with a focus on the most recent decades. What would once have been derogatorily termed "dialect literature" has come into its own in a language known variously as slang, creole, patois, pidgin, or, in the words of Nigerian novelist Ken Saro-Wiwa, "rotten English."

The first anthology of its kind, Rotten English celebrates vernacular literature from around the English-speaking world, from Robert Burns, Mark Twain, and Zora Neale Hurston to Roddy Doyle, Jonathan Safran Foer, and M. NourbeSe Philip. With concise introductions that explain the context and aesthetics of the vernacular tradition, this anthology pays tribute to the changes English has undergone as it has become a global language.


“Smart, beautiful, passionate, necessary: Rotten English is as canny as it is exhaustive; an extraordinary X-ray of English, as she is spoken, broken, and loved.” — Junot Díaz, author of This is How You Lose Her

Rotten English is a remarkable collection of vernacular poetry, prose, essays and novellas that has real and academic importance, and I applaud Ahmad for bringing this debate to a larger public. This book makes us aware of the incredible flexibility of English and charts its journey to become a truly global language....” — Chris Abani, Los Angeles Times

“Roughly a billion people speak English today and, as this anthology demonstrates, they do so in infinite and rich variety.” — Washington Post

“For anybody who has ever been tutted at… come and have a bath in the wonderful Englishes in this book.” — Ian McMillan, London Times