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The Mother of All Questions

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In a timely and incisive follow-up to her national bestseller Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit offers sharp commentary on women who refuse to be silenced, misogynistic violence, the fragile masculinity of the literary canon, the gender binary, the recent history of rape jokes, and much more.

In characteristic style, Solnit mixes humor, keen analysis, and sharp insight in these eleven essays.

Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of sixteen books about environment, landscape, community, art, politics, hope, and memory, including the national bestseller Men Explain Things to Me, Hope in the Dark, The Faraway Nearby, A Paradise Built in Hell, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, and River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (for which she received a Guggenheim, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism and the Lannan Literary Award). A product of the California public education system from kindergarten to graduate school, she is a contributing editor to Harper's.

180 pages, ebook

First published March 14, 2017

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About the author

Rebecca Solnit

103 books6,753 followers
Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty books on feminism, western and indigenous history, popular power, social change and insurrection, wandering  and walking, hope and disaster, including Call Them By Their True Names (Winner of the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction), Cinderella LiberatorMen Explain Things to Me, The Mother of All Questions, and Hope in the Dark, and co-creator of the City of Women map, all published by Haymarket Books; a trilogy of atlases of American cities, The Faraway NearbyA Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in DisasterA Field Guide to Getting LostWanderlust: A History of Walking, and River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (for which she received a Guggenheim, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism, and the Lannan Literary Award). Her forthcoming memoir, Recollections of My Nonexistence, is scheduled to release in March, 2020. A product of the California public education system from kindergarten to graduate school, she is a columnist at the Guardian and a regular contributor to Literary Hub.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 874 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,462 reviews8,566 followers
October 14, 2017
One of the most intelligent feminist essay collections I have ever read, The Mother of All Questions brought tears to my eyes because of its beautiful language and brilliant ideas. If you want a book to rile up your inner feminist and give you profound insights to smash the patriarchy, look no further. Rebecca Solnit addresses a wide range of important topics with her trademark incisive, fiery prose, including misogynistic violence, how we silence women's pain and men's expression of emotions other than anger, the ways we glorify white men in the literary canon at the expense of underrepresented voices, the recent history of rape jokes, and much more. Every single essay felt like a treat, and every paragraph raced forward with trains of thought that propelled the feminist movement onward, as opposed to only articulating what other writers have already said. For example, a longer passage about love and empathy and how masculinity can detract from these qualities and turn into sexual violence:

"Love is a constant negotiation, a constant conversation; to love someone is to lay yourself open to rejection and abandonment; love is something you can earn but not extort. It is an arena in which you are not in control, because someone else also has rights and decisions; it is a collaborative process; making love is at its best a process in which these negotiations become joy and play. So much sexual violence is a refusal of that vulnerability; so many of the instructions about masculinity inculcate a lack of skills and willingness to negotiate in good faith. Inability and entitlement deteriorate into a rage to control, to turn a conversation into a monologue of commands, to turn the collaboration of making love into the imposition of assault and the assertion of control. Rape is hate and fury taking love's place between bodies. It's a vision of the male body as a weapon and the female body (in heterosexual rape) as the enemy. What is it like to weaponize your body?"

I read this book on a flight back from Las Vegas, where America's most recent most lethal mass shooting occurred. My trip had made me feel sad and frustrated for many reasons, including seeing the aftermath of the shooting just a few days after it took place. And yet, The Mother of All Questions filled me with so much hope and determination. Solnit does not sugarcoat any of the issues she discusses. Rather, she delves deep into the historical, interpersonal, and cultural factors that cause so much sexism in contemporary America. She imbues each essay with a journalistic eye for detail and an endless amount of heart. And she elevates her writing by incorporating the horizon - ideas that force us to take our feminism to new heights, to envision a world where men nurture instead of harm and women have freedom from violence, even if that world feels like a fool's fantasy right now. Her prose blew me away with its forwardness, its eloquent twist and turns, and its humor. Another paragraph I loved, about how our culture normalizes movies where men get the majority of screen time:

"But such films are not described as boys' or men's films, but as films for all of us, while films with a similarly unequal amount of time allocated to female characters would inevitably be regarded as girls' or women's films. Men are not expected to engage in the empathic extension of identifying with a different gender, just as white people are not asked, the way people of color are, to identify with other races. Being dominant means seeing yourself and not seeing others; privilege often limits or obstructs imagination."

Overall, a phenomenal essay collection I would recommend to literally everyone. It may feel hard to hope in Trump's America, yet Solnit's masterful essay collection reminds us of why we must continue the feminist fight - we have done so much and we have so much work to do. Again, The Mother of All Questions serves as a genius and compassionate call to action that reminds us of our shared humanity and what we must do to defend it against the forces of sexism, racism, and more. I will end this review with one final quote, about reconceptualizing what it means to love, outside of having kids:

"One of the reasons people lock onto motherhood as a key to feminine identity is the belief that children are the way to fulfill your capacity to love. But there are so many things to love beside one's own offspring, so many things that need love, so much other work love has to do in the world. While many people question the motives of the childless, who are taken to be selfish for refusing the sacrifices that come with parenthood, they often neglect to note that those who love their children intensely may have less love left for the rest of the world."
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,049 followers
February 6, 2017
I saved finishing this one until January 21, the day of all the women's marches and rallies worldwide. Reading about progress and current status of women's rights is simultaneously terrifying and encouraging.

The book of essays doesn't get five stars from me because there is a fair amount of repetition of ideas between essays. I'm not sure all of them needed to be included because of that, but I definitely think Solnit is an important writer on this subject.

I started marking passages in the introduction, where she talks about interviewers being dismissive, completely in disbelief that she has a fulfilling life without children.

"A Short History of Silence" should be required reading for everyone. It examines the idea of voice, how a voice is silenced, and why it is so important for women to have their own.
"If our voices are essential aspects of our humanity, to be rendered voiceless is to be dehumanized or excluded from one's humanity."
The idea of who isn't at the table, of whose voice isn't represented, is just as important.
"If libraries hold all the stories that have been told, there are ghost libraries of all the stories that have not."
And she examines what happens when power consumes others voices, controlling the news, controlling the narrative.
"It's as though the voices of these prominent public men devoured the voices of others into nothingness, a narrative cannibalism."
And this essay was written before our very young presidency, which has done nothing but sign presidential orders to silence more voices. It cuts deep in these days. Solnit also takes a look at male silence, and the expectation particularly for straight men to stay true to the narrative of power. Then she spins it around and examines how this perpetuates violence against women.
"Love is a constant negotiation... to love someone is to lay yourself open to rejection and abandonment; love is something you can earn but not extort... so much sexual violence is a refusal of that vulnerability."
"Men Explain Lolita to Me" is a bit of a continuation of the well-known essay, "Men Explain Things to Me," (read online at LitHub about the white male reaction to her various statements on literature. She wrote a reaction to the GQ Magazine's article called "80 Books All Men Should Read" with, shall we say, a rather different response. The entire essay is worth a read, but a quote near the end stuck with me: "You read enough books in which people like you are disposable, or are dirt, or are silent, absent, or worthless, and it makes an impact on you. Because art makes the world, because it matters, because it makes us. Or breaks us."

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest opinion.
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,398 followers
August 18, 2017
This was good—I especially appreciated "Men Explain Lolita to Me" and the essay about the pressures women feel to have children—but it felt like a bit of a retread of Men Explain Things to Me. Haymarket Books has definitely cashed in on collecting well-known authors' sundry essays from around the internet and publishing them in these little books, but this practice means the contents can be rather uneven. I like Rebecca Solnit, but I thought this one was pretty forgettable.
Profile Image for Hannah.
111 reviews24 followers
March 20, 2017
Well, I liked this better than Men Explain Things to Me, but as you can see, that's not saying much, lol. Both books made me feel like I wasn't really getting anything out of them, and I think that's partly due to the lack of intersectionality. I don't know how committed Solnit is to certain views that are antagonistic toward trans people and sex workers, so I can't say whether she simply hasn't thought about it enough or if she's actively rejecting what people tell her about their lives. Examples: Under the guise of seeking a nuanced view of sex work , she regurgitates the myth that sex workers ("prostitutes") who advocate for their rights are just privileged and in denial about their job's risks. Her point is that "both sides" of the argument are wrong, yet she doesn't take the time to criticize the side that opposes sex work. She likens "rape videos and misogynist porn" to lynching. Tired statements like rape being "a vision of the male body as a weapon" feel like red flags for viewing patriarchy as centered on anatomy (a trans-exclusionary view and one that has never resonated with me anyway).
Profile Image for Ellie.
1,475 reviews372 followers
December 9, 2017
This book is part of a trilogy that includes the very powerful book, reviewed by me, Men Explain Things to Me, although it is a stand alone volume of essays. Solnit continues to eloquently to describe the current status of women today, both celebrating our victories and calling out for further progress.

Solnit details the violence against women that continues to be a major cause of injury and death of women, especially at the hands of their significant others. She shares the quote that "Men are afraid of women laughing at them; women are afraid of men killing them." She argues that the current power structure leaves men stripped of their emotional lives and women left often powerless and voiceless.

The present outpouring of women speaking up about sexual harassment and abuse is the result of years of women (and the men who are our allies) fighting for the voice of women to be heard. 20 years ago, even 10 years ago women were afraid to speak out because they saw those who did, like Anita Hill, disbelieved, mocked and sometimes even imprisoned for doing so. Today, these women are being heard. This may welcome in a time when women have a voice in their lives and in public discourse.

Solnit has a long and moving section about the silence of certain groups, women and other groups--such as people of color and gays. It makes for powerful reading. I think of myself as a feminist but Solnit continually reveals areas of which I am unaware and often limited in my own thinking as well as creating an increased awareness of those issues that I consider myself knowledgeable in. She is an extremely intelligent, awake woman and a powerful writer. Her arguments are well-thought out and strongly presented.

She also discusses marriage equality and how the increasing acceptance of gay marriage also changes our perception of heterosexual relationships and the power balance within those relationships and the entire structure of our society.

Reading Solnit provides strength and information for those who believe in the cause of changing the power structure of today's world and a balance of male/female relationships. And, if people who disagree with her read this, they may find themselves with at least new food for thought.
Profile Image for Introverticheart.
207 reviews187 followers
April 14, 2022
Trudnym zadaniem jest ocenienie tej książki, gdyż tematyka przez nią podejmowana jest niezwykle ważna, ale jednak na poziomie stylu mam kilka uwag.

Matka wszystkich pytań to całkiem interesujący zbiór esejów, Solnit raczy nas całkiem trafnymi spostrzeżeniami, celnymi diagnozami, zwraca uwagę na interesujące aspekty milczenia czy procesu uciszania kobiet.

Zupełnie nie trafia do mnie styl, w jakim napisane są eseje – dość chaotyczny, można odnieść wrażenie, że czytamy instagramowe posty.
Instastyl, instant przekaz.

Podchodziłem trzy razy do Matki i mimo wszystko wydaje mi się, że warto poświęcić czas i wypróbować cierpliwość chociażby na Krótką historię milczenia, jednak jest to zadanie dla naprawdę zawziętych czytelników.
December 16, 2021

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I had mixed feelings about this author's most famous essay collection, MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME. I thought the titular essay was quite good but that the overall essay collection felt mixed in theme and tone, and walked away feeling a little befuddled. Not so with THE MOTHER OF ALL QUESTIONS, which is like if Solnit's first book was a Charmander with Confusion who was fed a berry and then evolved into a fire-breathing, socially aware Charizard. It packed a mean punch and was nearly perfect. The emotion and the organization was SO MUCH BETTER.

This is a collection of feminist-themed essays, mostly revolving around the work that still needs to be done. Some of the topics in this book: how a woman's decision to have children is irrelevant to her professional career or the way she defines herself as a woman; the way silence is used and weaponized to preserve the status quo; the way most great and "universal" works of literature tend to be from the white male perspective; the way people miss the point with the book, Lolita; and so much more.

Even though this is a pretty short book, it took me a while to read because 1) the writing is pretty dense at parts and 2) I really wanted to take everything in. I'm honestly so impressed at how Solnit has evolved as a writer. The fire in the writing smoked off the pages. This book reminded me of a much more serious version of Lindy West's THE WITCHES ARE COMING. It has that same call to action feel, while also being a scathing analysis of pop culture, culture at large, and the work we have left to do. Really, really well done.

4 to 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Bree Hill.
792 reviews572 followers
March 13, 2017
Wow. This book was just what I needed at this time in my life. This is my first essay collection by Rebecca Solnit. I own two others but decided I would read this one first after it was very kindly sent to me by the publisher.

This collection starts off with a BANG and ends with a BANG. It is told in two parts, Silence is Broken and Breaking the Story. Solnit's essays are unapologetically themselves and really have that "COME AT ME BRO" vibe radiating off of them. I was nervous at first that I'd be intimidated but her writing style is so immensely easy to get into yet she writes with such power and passion behind what she's stating. She is a woman who knows what she's talking about and I LOVE how at times she comes off a little snarky, just added a bit of sass to such important topics.

There's no way you can read this collection of essays and NOT get fired up or start feeling antsy about how you can speak up and help make change. I seriously want to start gifting this to everyone I know who is about to graduate high school and go out and experience the world on their own for the first time as a forewarning of the fact that there are assholes out there and history has shown that this is how certain situations get/don't get handled so be careful. Be careful! Ha! Solnit mentions in the book how ridiculous that women have to go through their day to day so cautious but yes I want everyone to read this. Everyone should Have to.
Profile Image for kate.
665 reviews
June 9, 2017
Don't read this book from cover to cover in one sitting.

Do reread essays regularly.

Do buy a copy for a friend.

Do make sure everyone you know reads: "A Short History of Silence" and "Men Explain Lolita To Me"

Do follow Rebecca Solnit on the social medias for some refreshing insight in this clusterfuck of a world.
Profile Image for Cally Mac.
237 reviews68 followers
September 4, 2017
What a legend. Favourite essays were "The Mother of All Questions" and "A Short History of Silence". I want to read everything Solnit has ever written but she's too damn prolific.
Profile Image for Sadie.
750 reviews168 followers
January 8, 2019
This is a very powerful, highly intelligent book that impressed me deeply. Solnit presents a collection of various somewhat recent (2014/2015) essays on feminism, patriarchy and everything that comes with it. It's roughly divided into two parts: The first half deals with deeper, more general, profound problems of society, whereas the second half is more specific towards certain aspects of (recent) (pop) culture.

The book starts with a bang, the first essay - the titular mother of all questions - is quite an eye (or better: brain) opener. It was what made me curious about the book in the first place - and it doesn't disappoint. It's about women and their choices on how to live, with the one big question being the center of the argument: Why don't you have kids? Needless to say, I hate this question and cringe everytime I hear it (I'm talking about more or less random strangers asking such an intimate question). Solnit discusses the question, her answers, (possible) reactions and the reasons why women get asked such a thing at all. Her writing is clear, precise and made me nod all along, for she raises some good and interesting points.

What follows next is a huge essay on silence, which was very cleverly constructed, looking at who is silenced and why (women and men), what kind of silences there are, why some people use silencing others as power tool and what might be the consequences.

The later chapters are somewhat easier to read - mainly because they're shorter and focus on "smaller" issues (not less important ones, but more enclosed). Overall, I find little flaw in this book - here and there, Solnit's language might be conceived as a tad too lecturing, sometimes even bordering condescending - but well, she's on a mission and it's very important, not just to her.

I'll get back to some chapter at a later point (especially The Mother of All Questions, A Short History of Silence and Escape from the Five-Million-Year-Old Suburb).
Profile Image for Kacper.
15 reviews23 followers
March 5, 2021
Książka ostatecznie rozczarowuje - jest w niej całkiem ciekawy tekst na temat milczenia ("Krótka historia milczenia"), ale poza tym jest to spora porcja patosu, instagramowych bon-motów i ślizgania się po tematach, zamiast dokładniejszej analizy. Szkoda, bo Solnit celnie wyłapuje bolączki patriarchalnego świata i aż się prosi, żeby na podstawie tych obserwacji sformułować jakąś konkretną propozycję odmiany tego stanu rzeczy.
Profile Image for prozaczytana.
568 reviews185 followers
January 12, 2022
Bardzo ważny tytuł uświadamiający masę kwestii, na które niekiedy nie zwracamy uwagi bądź staramy się tego nie robić, żeby nie dołować się jeszcze bardziej, bo i tak nie mamy lekko.
319 reviews4 followers
April 10, 2018
I wanna preface this by saying I adore Solnit. I follow her on facebook for her well informed, measured insights into various sociopolitical issues, and I've read a couple of her other works. My first note on this book was, "I'm probably not going to bother reviewing this because I know it will be thoughtful, observant, well researched, and powerful." And it is. Or at least, it starts out that way. I highlighted a lot of delightful phrases from the first third of the book. It wasn't particularly challenging stuff, a lot of data collection, reflection, and a exploring ideas already popular in modern feminism. If you've been an active feminist with any social media in the past 10 years, this book will not be full of revalations for you. Sometimes Solnit explores things from a new and interesting angle, but mostly I found my views being affirmed, not expanded upon.
Until the second third of the book. Solnit goes out of her way to explain the yesallwomen hashtag, but then starts tripping over herself to explain that #notallmen, often using comedians as an example of good male feminists. She continues this throughout the collection. It's as though she was SO tired of people calling her a man hater after Men Explain Things to Me that she was determined to prove that yes, some men are ok, and no not all men are evil. Which is fine, but I felt that she didn't delve that deeply into why we tend to criticise men as a single homogenous unit to represent their status in society, and the social construct of maleness.
Most confusingly, she talks about Louis C K a LOT. I almost gave up at that point. C K, who famously believes that rape jokes are funny, that any offensive joke is a good joke, that anything is fair game - especially killing Jews. She mentions that he used to be a bit naughty when he defended Daniel Tosh's rape jokes, but has since developed into a feminist comedian. She cites his joke about how men are the primary threat to women to support the idea of this change. One joke does not a feminist make! There's a lot to unpack about this whole situation, so I'll leave it at that. But it was troubling.
She also spoke about Fey & Poehler, and Schumer as feminist comedians. At the end of the essay, she noted that since she'd written it Schumer has spiralled into racial insensitivity and rape jokes of her own. However, she did not acknowledge and therefore did not criticise the transphobia and racism that Fey & Poehler have gleefully used in their routines for years. You don't need me to tell you about these instances. For brevity, you can google it. But I will mention that at least one of them (Fey) is overly fond of blackface. Aziz Ansari was mentioned too. I've never seen master of none but I've heard it's been criticised for being anti-black.
This all really undermined Solnit's attempts at intersectionality from the first third of the book for me.
She brought me back around with an essay on how we came to perceive the nuclear family unit as being ingrained in our species from the beginning, and how that research has been debunked. She also spoke about how female scientists are often dismissed and discredited. I loved reading about how our understanding of science, history, and social sciences can be influenced by our pre-existing cultural lens. I dont think we talk about that enough.
I felt the mentions of gender as a construct with "leaks," referring to people who are outside the binary, to be a little dismissive, and it left me kind of wishing that she would have broken out of her extremely male/female-division-centric arguments and explored how trans people fit into feminism more. There were also some tired arguments about anatomy-specific rape and some narrow minded and shallow (ie. not thoroughly explored) jabs at sex work. It was like she didn't have an overarching theme to tie the essays together (beyond feminism), so some areas that needed to be investigated more thoroughly got left behind. In the context of a single essay, that's understandable. They can't go on forever, endlessly citing and exploring. But with this much room to learn and explain, I wonder if it would have been better if she had just kept her nose out of trans issues and sex work, which obviously aren't her wheelhouse.
Then came an essay or two I had already read because she'd previously published them online and some more #notallmen. It smacked of a feminist who once was quite radical and now is just happy that people are getting involved. Maybe it speaks more to who I am that I found her criticism of problematic pop culture lacking, and her ability to look to that same pop culture for small moments that are just ok kind of frustrating. To me, that gave the tone of the book a kind of middling feeling.
Overall, I think this book is a good introduction for people who don't really know anything about why so many people are still invested in feminism. It backs up a lot of things that most of us are at least peripherally aware of with specific incidents, and ties them together so you can see how they all relate and create a culture. It's a good, accessible read with a lot of strong ideas. And it's definitely a valuable feminist work. However, I didn't find any of those ideas groundbreaking. If you love Solnit's writing, definitely give this a go. But I would suggest reading each essay individually and spaced out isntead of taking this book as a cohesive whole.

OH! ALSO! STRONG RAPE CONTENT WARNING! It's not a graphic depiction but if you're sensitive to the exploration of rape culture, rape apologists, victim blaming, etc. maybe don't try to read this if you're already feeling fragile.

UPDATE 10/04/18: like i don't wanna be a dick or anything but can I just say I told you so about her examples of male feminism (LOUIS)?
Profile Image for romy.
79 reviews19 followers
January 24, 2023
i will now be reading every single one of rebecca solnit's books
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews127k followers
June 20, 2017
This was my first experience reading Rebecca Solnit. I was deeply impressed with the lyricism of her writing and the depth of her thinking. The Mother of All Questions is a collection of twelve feminist essays covering topics as diverse as motherhood, anthropology, literature, film, and sexual assault. While there is some overlap between essays, I generally found this collection to be insightful and thought-provoking.

— Kate Scott

from The Best Books We Read In March 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/04/04/riot-r...
Profile Image for Natalia.
57 reviews21 followers
February 28, 2021
Nie umiem jej ocenić. Są tutaj bardzo dobre fragmenty, bo Solnit pisze o rzeczach niezwykle ważnych, ale sposób w jaki to robi (powtarzanie tego samego w każdym tekście, dziwna językowa metaforyka, wtrącenia, które nijak mają się do treści eseju) sprawia, że jest to zbiór tekstów o wszystkim i o niczym. Bardziej spodziewałabym, że przeczytam coś w takiej formie w Wysokich Obcasach, a nie w tym zbiorze esejów. Bardzo się zawiodłam.
Profile Image for Klaudia_p.
495 reviews81 followers
April 26, 2021
To jest absolutnie czytelniczy must read dla każdego, a dla mnie to moja osobista książka roku. To nie tylko książka dla kobiet i o kobietach, ale też dla każdego, kto choć raz poczuł się nieakceptowany, niezrozumiany, czy po prostu gorszy. Niezależnie od powodu. W tej książce jest jedno bardzo mocne zdanie, wypowiedziane przez jedną z ofiar, które utkwiło mi głęboko w pamięci. Niby zwyczajne, a jednak uderza bardzo mocno. "Tak łatwo poczuć, że się nie nie znaczy". Prawda?
Profile Image for Cátia Vieira.
Author 1 book778 followers
June 6, 2019
Let me start this way: The Mother Of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit is a brilliant collection of essays on feminism. I will certainly read everything Solnit has published so far!

These essays explore and develop notions like misogynistic violence, the fragile masculinity of the literary canon, the gender binary, the recent history of rape jokes, and much more. Solnit also gives answers to some common remarks people make to dismiss feminism.

I found Solnit’s ideas about motherhood really interesting. According to Solnit, there isn’t just one way to be a woman. Womanhood doesn’t necessarily implicate motherhood and it shouldn’t be anyone’s business whether a woman becomes a mother or not. In her words, women and mothers are judged constantly.

Solnit also has an essay that revolves around the idea of happiness. In her opinion, our society is obsessed with the question “how can I be happy?”, but that fixation with happiness is just a way of not asking other important questions.

There’s also a brilliant essay about silence (seriously, it’s one the best essays I’ve ever read in my life). In this essay, Solnit explores violence against women, how toxic masculinity affects sex, relationships and love, and explains why people dismiss women’s reports and stories.

Another great book on feminism! I highly recommend it!

For more reviews, follow me on Instagram: @booksturnyouon
Profile Image for Sheila .
1,922 reviews
March 5, 2017
An exceptional follow up to Men Explain Things to Me, I have to say this is my favorite of the three books in this series, and I have highlighted multiple lines and passages in this book.

This book is a collection of stand alone essays on feminist topics of a wide range of issues, such as on motherhood (or the choice not to be a mother), on being silenced, on rape jokes, on violence against women, and on books, including a lovely essay called "Men explain Lolita to me".

Thank you for Rebecca for being the voice of women, all women, across the spectrum. Please never stop speaking out and writing.
Profile Image for Nurbahar Usta.
111 reviews70 followers
May 24, 2022
solnit'i seviyorum ve bu kitabı görünce çok heyecanlanmıştım ama açıkçası memnun kalmadım okuduklarımdan. 2015-2016 yıllarında çeşitli yerlerdeki yazıları derlenmiş. öncelikle tüm yazılar inanılmaz grafik, hepsinde tecavüz vakaları, mass shooting'ler, şiddet eylemleri öyle sereserpe yazılı. bir süre sonra rahatsız etmeye başladı beni. diğer bir konu ise bu yazılarda yeni bir argüman sunmaması solnit'in. internet okur yazarlığı olan herhangi birinin de yapabileceği değerlendirmelerden derine inmiyor konuştuğu şeyler. sadece hiçbir kadının okumaması gereken 80 kitap bölümünde çok eğlendim, keşke gerçekten 80 kitap olsaymış.

muhtemelen yayınlandığı gibi çevrilse ve biz de 2022'de değil 2016'da okusak daha anlamlı olurdu ve belki de severdim. 2022 bu yazılar için çok geç artık.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
May 23, 2018
I love Solnit's writing and her insistence on dissecting and inspecting the language we use to re-create masculinity and sexism. These essays are all readable, interesting, and insightful.
Profile Image for Siria.
1,796 reviews1,308 followers
January 2, 2021
Rebecca Solnit's Mother of All Questions explores a number of issues—should we be trying to live happy lives? how does language shape us? how does art create us?—from a contemporary feminist perspective.

Some of the essays haven't aged well in certain respects, though not in ways that Solnit could necessarily have predicted: here she hails Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari as feminist men, plus... well I presume you've lived through the last few years, too. Given the backlash against feminism and women and you know... sanity... that's taken place since 2017, I find it real difficult anymore to reach the level of optimism that Solnit expresses at certain points here.

Some of the essays are much stronger than the others, but all are worth reading and Solnit's voice is smart and warm. I especially enjoyed both the opening essay on motherhood, and “80 Books No Woman Should Read" is funny and contains a succinct and beautiful take-down of Hemingway:

The gun-penis-death thing is so sad as well as ugly. The terse, repressed prose style is, in his hands, mannered and pretentious and sentimental. Manly sentimental is the worst kind of sentimental, because it’s deluded about itself in a way that, say, honestly emotional Dickens never was.
Profile Image for Sarah.
122 reviews29 followers
February 21, 2018
A collection of feminist essays by Rebecca Solnit. The standout is “A Short History of Silence”, about the ways in which women have been silenced, particularly to prevent them from speaking out about abuse.

“Being unable to tell your story is a living death and sometimes a literal one. If no one listens when you say your ex-husband is trying to kill you, if no one believes you when you say you are in pain, if no one hears you when when you say 'help', if you don't dare say 'help', if you have been trained not to bother people by saying 'help’.”

Victim-blaming silences women, shame, the socialisation to put others needs before our own, threats of violence and retribution for speaking out.

“Not uncommonly, when a woman says something that impugns a man, particularly one at the heart of the status quo, especially if it has to do with sex, the response will question not just the facts of her assertion but her capacity to speak and her right to do so. Generations of women have been told they are delusional, confused, manipulative, malicious, conspiratorial, congenitally dishonest, often all at once.“

A lot of the essays are on similar topics, so the book can get repetitive if you read it all at once.
Profile Image for J.
442 reviews6 followers
August 6, 2020
Okay, I figured I should probably add a little more to this review because I couldn't stop thinking about what it was that frustrated me, and I was able to pinpoint it to two things.

It's a smart and reflective collection of essays, but it wouldn't be the first text I'd recommend on feminism. There's a particular neglect to address intersectionality, which is an issue among many cis white women from my experience. You can't possibly talk about silencing women without considering BIWOC, especially Black women. But I was also frustrated with the very binary approach to gender or, rather, Solnit's exclusion of trans women. Bringing BIWOC back into the picture, you can't talk about silencing women without thinking about Black trans women.

Nevertheless, I will say that I still liked the way she framed silence by drawing from various feminist thinkers (though, ironically, bell hooks is one of them).
Profile Image for Adriana Scarpin.
1,384 reviews
November 15, 2017
Gosto muito da Solnit, é o segundo livro que leio dela e me apetece o modo que usa a linguagem de maneira mordaz para falar de coisas muito sérias.
O primeiro ensaio (e mais longo do livro) é um pequeno tratado sobre o silenciamento feminino dentro da sociedade patriarcal, Solnit destrincha todas as formas de silenciamento, desde o simples interromper frases numa conversa banal até deliberações da ordem da escuta masculina ao não levar em consideração até uma mulher dizendo não durante o estupro.
Os demais ensaios (bem menores) tratam de literatura, cinema, feminicidio, antropologia, entre outras coisas, todos embasados a partir de uma leitura misógina da mulher na sociedade e bem desconstruídos com a verve da Solnit. Livrão.
Profile Image for Yaprak.
185 reviews49 followers
September 21, 2022
Tüm Soruların Anası, Rebecca Solnit'in yazılarından oluşan bir derleme. 2016 yılında yayımlanan kitap bir yönüyle Feminizm 101 gibi. Daha önce feminizm ve toplumsal cinsiyete dair okumalar yapan bir okura çok da yeni bir şey söylemiyor esasında. Fakat ne yazık ki kitapta yer alan konulara dair son altı yılda dünya çapında pek de bir ilerleme katedilememiş olması acı gerçek olarak okurun yüzüne vuruyor. İran'da Mahsa Amani'nin başına gelenler, Türkiye'de koruma talep eden kadınların eşleri / partnerleri tarafından öldürülmesi, eve geç dönen her kadının can güvenliğinden endişe etmesi kadınların hâlâ patriyarka ile mücadele ettiğinin kanıtı. Solnit, yakından bildiklerimizi Amerika'daki örneklerle pekiştirmemizi sağlıyor. Yeniden yüzleşmeye hazırım diyen okurlar buyursun.
Profile Image for Laura Noggle.
677 reviews388 followers
July 28, 2019
"Silence and shame are contagious; so are courage and speech. Even now, when women begin to speak of their experience, others step forward to bolster the earlier speaker and to share their own experience. A brick is knocked loose, another one; a dam breaks, the waters rush forth."

Powerful essay collection by Rebecca Solnit. Felt very in line/on par with her other collection, Men Explain Things to Me.

I think the key to fully appreciating this kind of book is preparing your expectations. As a cobbled together unit, they can be somewhat repetitive and disjointed.

There are also some real gems, inspired prose, and compelling truths—I remain a big fan of Solnit.

"These books are, if they are instructions at all, instructions in extending our identities out into the world, human and nonhuman, in imagination as a great act of empathy that lifts you out of yourself, not locks you down into your gender."

80 Books No Woman Should Read, Rebecca Solnit (One of my favorite essays of the bunch.)

"Works of art that can accompany you through the decades are mirrors in which you can see yourself, wells in which you can keep dipping. They remind you that what you bring to the work of art is as important as what it brings to you. They can become registers of how you’ve changed."

Giantess, Rebecca Solnit

For an excellent review on this book with amazing highlights, check out Brain Pickings' "Rebecca Solnit on Breaking Silence as Our Mightiest Weapon Against Oppression."

Defining silence as “what is imposed” and quietude as “what is sought,” Solnit contrasts the two:

Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard. It surrounds the scattered islands made up of those allowed to speak and of what can be said and who listens. Silence occurs in many ways for many reasons; each of us has his or her own sea of unspoken words.


The tranquility of a quiet place, of quieting one’s own mind, of a retreat from words and bustle, is acoustically the same as the silence of intimidation or repression but psychically and politically something entirely different. What is unsaid because serenity and introspection are sought is as different from what is not said because the threats are high or the barriers are great as swimming is from drowning. Quiet is to noise as silence is to communication. The quiet of the listener makes room for the speech of others, like the quiet of the reader taking in words on the page, like the white of the paper taking ink.


We are our stories, stories that can be both prison and the crowbar to break open the door of that prison; we make stories to save ourselves or to trap ourselves or others, stories that lift us up or smash us against the stone wall of our own limits and fears. Liberation is always in part a storytelling process: breaking stories, breaking silences, making new stories. A free person tells her own story. A valued person lives in a society in which her story has a place.

"Every day each of us invents the world and the self who meets that world, opens up or closes down space for others within that. Silence is forever being broken, and then like waves lapping over the footprints, the sandcastles and washed-up shells and seaweed, silence rises again."

Rebecca Solnit on Silence, Pornography, and Feminist Literature
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