This nine-chapter book narrates a writing-centred approach to the teaching of literature and literary research. As the title suggests, the book also embraces a thematic approach to reading and writing about twentieth-century American literature, focusing on the grounds for hope in an age of despair. The first five chapters explore in detail the teaching of the twentieth-century American literature course at the University of Pristina in Kosovo, where the author served as Fulbright Professor of American Literature in the spring semester of 2012. Throughout, these chapters narrate students' in-class interactions to illustrate writing-to-learn strategies for teaching the literature. Chapter six then follows the same cohort of 22 students as they learned to ground their literary research in their own questions about American and Balkans narratives of oppression and liberty, of despair and hope. The last three chapters document the responses of students and their professors to this American theme of liberty and hope as seen through the Balkans lenses of ethnic violence and emerging republican government. Specifically, chapter seven focuses on students' participation in a blog featuring Balkans literature that explores the same issues of liberty and justice examined in the American literature they have read. Chapter eight then celebrates student writing, the fruit of the writing-to-learn strategies narrated in earlier chapters. Finally, chapter nine narrates professors' and students' responses, gathered through surveys and interviewing, to questions about their country's violent past and the value of literary study in preparing citizens to shape a new republic.