“It’s not my fault,” begins Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child (a novel that she dedicates simply “For You”). Her opening picks up a long-running debate about who Americans are, where they come from, what they have experienced, and what it cost. Two major authors, Toni Morrison and Herman Melville, have much to say and are also deeply concerned with the saying: with the voices and issues; who gets into the discussion and who is kept out; how to make words act and when to let them be. As we meet during a national election hinging on questions of immigration, race, and borders, we will find these topics and others addressed by authors who consider them meaningfully and within a generous context (“For You”). In this class, we will pair their works at critical junctures, thinking about outsiders (Sula in Morrison’s Sula, Tommo in Melville’s Typee); imagined communities (the whaling ship in Moby-Dick, the neighborhood of Beloved); justice in Paradise and Billy Budd; fluid and fixed identities in Benito Cereno and A Mercy. In an encounter as celebratory as it is critical, students will find a wide array of opportunities to join in a remarkable conversation.