This is a collection of Rebecca Solnit’s essays on the narratives behind social justice, whose story we get to hear and the societal influences affecting those voices. They are old conflicts with new chapters, which have been published on a number of platforms.
She has carefully edited and reworked some so they are as up-to-date as possible (though I know this from reading around the work, as this was the first time I’d engaged with her writing). I have every intention of writing a fuller blog post in which I discuss each essay – they almost deserve a post per piece, they are that meaty.
For now, though, I’ll tell you this: I have never read such simultaneously accosting and encouraging lamentations of the world as we know it (or, the world as we are manipulated to know it). Yet, for all its ugly realities, the climate of gender and racial discrimination as well as the environmental climate crisis, I never felt overwhelmed or like Solnit was offering problems without solutions. Nor did I feel like she was inherently negative. Though tales of domestic abuse affecting voter demographics in the US or of the capitalism of sex affected me, they left me feeling inspired rather than hopeless.
That Solnit achieves an overall hopeful message without sparing the harrowing details is remarkable. I think it’s really important to not be academically exclusionary with topics like these – a combination of not preaching to the choir, and the fact that at the core of these arguments needs to be an inherent belief that people have the capacity to change. Otherwise what are we fighting for? It is easy to digest and not just affirmation for the already-converted; it’s unpretentious and available for anyone willing to listen.