“[A] call to arms that takes on a range of social and political problems in America—from racism and misogyny to climate change and Donald Trump” (Poets & Writers).
National Book Award Longlist
Winner of the Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction
Winner of the Foreword INDIE Editor’s Choice Prize for Nonfiction
Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty books, including the international bestseller Men Explain Things to Me. Called “the voice of the resistance” by the New York Times, she has emerged as an essential guide to our times, through incisive commentary on feminism, violence, ecology, hope, and everything in between.
In this powerful and wide-ranging collection of essays, Solnit turns her attention to the war at home. This is a war, she says, “with so many casualties that we should call it by its true name, this war with so many dead by police, by violent ex-husbands and partners and lovers, by people pursuing power and profit at the point of a gun or just shooting first and figuring out who they hit later.” To get to the root of these American crises, she contends that “to acknowledge this state of war is to admit the need for peace,” countering the despair of our age with a dose of solidarity, creativity, and hope.
“Solnit’s exquisite essays move between the political and the personal, the intellectual and the earthy.” —Elle
“Solnit is careful with her words (she always is) but never so much that she mutes the infuriated spirit that drives these essays.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Solnit [is] a powerful cultural critic: as always, she opts for measured assessment and pragmatism over hype and hysteria.” —Publishers Weekly
“Essential reading for anyone living in America today.” —The Brooklyn Rail
In this thought-provoking series of political essays, Solnit (The Mother of All Questions) attempts to diagnose the present maladies of American culture. These afflictions include a preference for outrage instead of dialogue, police brutality and the mass incarceration of African-American men, and gentrification and economic inequality. The most trenchantly addressed problem is that of American isolationism, a slippery slope, as Solnit explains: "If you begin by denying social and ecological systems, then you end by denying the reality of facts, which are... part of a network of systematic relationships among language, physical reality, and the record." Solnit argues throughout that truthful language is vital, and that "one of the crises of the moment is linguistic," thanks in large part to misleading speech by President Trump. He is described as suffering from a malady himself, one contracted when one is constantly surrounded by sycophants and deprived of normal human interaction and "the most rudimentary training in dealing with setbacks." (Solnit does not offer these as excuses, merely explanations.) The collection ends with essays outlining the most successful practices of journalists and activists fighting against injustice, inequality, and ignorance. These in particular indicate what makes Solnit such a powerful cultural critic: as always, she opts for measured assessment and pragmatism over hype and hysteria.