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The Reckonings

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  557 ratings  ·  103 reviews
This extraordinary, timely new collection of essays by the award-winning writer of The Other Side—rooted in her own experience with sexual assault—pursues questions of justice, sexual violence, and retribution.

In 2014, Lacy Johnson was giving a reading from The Other Side, her “instant classic” (Kirkus Reviews) memoir of kidnapping and rape, when a woman asked her what she
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 9th 2018 by Scribner
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Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A solid essay collection that addresses pressing topics ranging from sexual assault to the BP Oil Spill to the power of art in an oppressive society. Lacy Johnson has a confident and inquisitive approach to examining these large-scale issues, as well as how they affect her on an individual level. She arrives at some unexpected, provocative insights in these essays, such as how she does not want to harm the man who kidnapped and raped her, rather, she wants him held accountable for his actions an ...more
Britta Böhler
Fantastic collection, a blend of memoir and essay.

"More than anything else, what I want is a reckoning. Not only for myself, not only for him. I want it for everyone who asks the question: the woman with the crepe paper hands, the man in the ten-gallon hat, the boy who burned and his mother who must have barely lived. I want a reckoning for the woman shot in the back of the head and the man killed while running away -- for the children who survive him. I want a reckoning for the person who believes he deserves to take life, and for the person w ...more
Traci at The Stacks
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So so so good. Johnson’s writing balances between poetic prose and direct unflowered words. She is genius in her use of language and shared vocabulary. Not to mention each essay tackles major ideas. From rape culture to toxic waste from mercy to joy. This book, like Johnson, is a total force and not to be missed.
Addie  H.
Dec 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
DNF @ 50%

It's a hearty, resounding no from me. Before I go into all the ways this book fails, I will say: Johnson is at her strongest when discussing sexual assault and gender discrimination. This would have been a stronger collection if she had focused on that. Instead, we have a collection that makes little sense in its structure (how do they all fit together?), and makes attempts to be "woke" that end up fairly problematic in their execution.

Onwards and upwards.

General writing annoyances:

I absolutely loved this essay collection. The topics range from sexual assault to environmental recklessness, from the injustice of the prison system to the responsibility of art, from white privilege to cultural prejudice after 9/11. The way the reader can take part in her working through personal situations that are reflective of broader and global issues of justice is truly fascinating and so smart and considerate. I can definitely see myself picking up this collection again and again. Highly ...more
Emma Eisenberg
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There's quite simply no one writing like Lacy M. Johnson--a prose stylist and critic looking at the events of the past three years with her cocktail of rigor, empathy, and rage; I ate through these pages like someone was going to rip them from my hands. The focus on justice without revenge, reckoning with mercy, was exactly what I needed <3 Thank you ...more
Lara Blackman
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thought the premise of this book was brilliant and really enjoyed the essays, particularly "The Fallout," which is about toxic waste from nuclear weapons and the idea of environmental racism/classism. Perfect next read for fans of Leslie Jamison and Zadie Smith ...more
Kelly Secovnie
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When I began to read The Reckonings, I was already familiar with Lacy M. Johnson from her books Trespasses: A Memoir and The Other Side: A Memoir, so I was eager to delve into it. The introduction, in which Johnson sets up the project she's undertaking here--an ambitious one--caught me immediately and intrigued me, as she wrestled with the idea of justice. How can we understand this concept, and what do we do with it once we do? Johnson fuses her personal experiences with her vast store of refer ...more
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
Lacy Johnson dives deep into the concept of justice and violence and holds nothing back. She poses so many difficult questions but no easy answers. Her essay "Against Whiteness" in particular is one I can see myself returning to for years to come. ...more
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 rating (and yes I'm gonna keep pushing for a half-star rating system)

"The Reckonings," "On Mercy," "Speak Truth to Power," "Art in the Age of Apocalypses," "The Flood," and "The Fallout" are some of the most standout essays, to me, of this collection but as a whole it really does hold it's own in interrogation and exploration post-trauma, in the moment and now of a world we live in and aim to make better. The differentiation between hope and optimism within "Art in the Age" pretty much sign
Kate Savage
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Powerful essays on misogyny, racism, climate change, elections, and the role of art in seeking for justice. I appreciate how this book deals with the Big Issues without ever leaving behind small and nuanced personal experiences.

Especially recommended for those who are grappling with the thorny question of justice for rapists and predators. Johnson, herself a survivor of rape and attempted murder, is searching out ways to seek justice without buying into the retributive criminal justice system.
Natalie Zak
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
heartbreaking, breathtaking, all-the-taking, yet it gives so much back too
Rachel León
Feb 09, 2021 added it
Shelves: essays, 2018
so good
“speak truth to power”, “the reckonings”, and “girlhood in a semibarbarous age” are all based around her experiences and are all very good.
when she focuses on other people’s realities though, she forms a lot of very tenuous links - “on mercy” being a good example of this imo. the essays on race are also just not good or necessary tbh.
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
A strong collection of essays revolving around the idea of justice. Definitely interested in reading more from Johnson.
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Histories of dreams upside down, histories of terrible crimes, children dying, towns flooded, the evil that men in particular do, and with the darkness there is writing of joy, love, hope and courage.
Necessary truth work with the myriad of complexities with justices and injustices, the fears, hopes, love and hate, laid out on the page with a great selection of writing.

A writer finding herself free upon the page, discovered her potent voice and with that a meditation on things past and within the
Oct 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
Lacy Johnson is a thoughtful, intelligent writer. She takes on subjects that she feels are important to address; however this essay collection fell a little short for me.
It becomes difficult to review the thoughts and personal experiences of another. There was a certain disjointed quality to this collection that I'd hoped more organized thoughts Would remedy. Maybe it was overly ambitious in scope. It failed to resonate with me as other essay collections of the same subject matters have.
I am i
Janelle Janson
Many thanks to Scribner Books for my free copy of THE RECKONINGS.

This is an extraordinary collection of essays and one of my favorites to date. I have never read Johnson’s THE OTHER SIDE but when I finished this book, I immediately purchased a copy. Her use of language and poetic prose is a magnificent, powerful force.

Each essay is thoughtful, introspective, and timely - they can each stand on their own but especially shine as a collection. Johnson covers a range of topics such as criminal just
I began reading The Reckonings the weekend Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court—this book could not have arrived in my hands at a more appropriate moment. In The Reckonings, Lacy M. Johnson confronts justice and mercy, the silencing of survivors of sexual assault, whiteness’s refusal to examine white privilege, the function of art in a fucked up world. Johnson has an exceptional skill for intricately woven essays, pulling pieces of history, art, myth, and personal narrative togethe ...more
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own

This is a really good essay collection! It's not my favorite ever but it had a ton of good information and it reads like a conversation (which is my favorite in nonfiction). I do wish the footnotes at the end had actually been noted throughout the book. It didn't make as much sense to read them after, especially since I had no easy way of checking the main text for context. However, I would still recommend it. The author has lead a really interesting life and she backs up her own anecdotes
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Collection of essays about anchored in personal experience and research. Each essay examines violence (sexual, environmental, racist, and more). I especially liked the definition of injustice and justice the author provides in the final essay. “Injustice is anything that gets between a person and their joy”

File under: not uplifting, thought provoking

Learned about: sexual violence, violence, Deepwater Horizon oil spill, justice, illness, racism, whiteness, Missouri, environmental toxins, superf
Lacy M. Johnson is a masterful essayist, and this collection makes me want to buy and read her others, as well. Many of the essays concern sexual assault from a justice perspective, specifically her own kidnapping and assault. But Johnson then branches out into politics, race, and environmentalism. There's also a beautiful, personal piece about her experience during Hurricane Harvey (she's a Houstonian, woo!), during which she examines her privilege. I admire the way these essays manage to be co ...more
Feb 22, 2020 added it
Shelves: dnf
This collection is really not resonating with me. I’m moving it to the DNF shelf part way through the essay titled Mercy. It’s a braided essay (like the others before) and the connections are tenuous at best, problematic at worst. Maybe a case of it’s not you, it’s me. Dunno. Onward and upward.
June Saraceno
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ferocious, brilliant examination of justice—how we envision it, what it encompasses. These essays leave me with so much to think about that I’ll be mulling them over for many years.
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I only wish I’d read the fascinating notes st the end upon finishing each separate chapter. They alone are worth the read. Deeply moving, smart, far-ranging essays on everything that matters. Strongly recommended.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Brutal and difficult. Just what I aspire to.
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
These essays are timely, big-hearted reckonings with racism, environmental disaster, and justice. Recommended.
Jan 16, 2019 rated it did not like it
This was the first read in my book club and unfortunately it fell flat for me. It brought up pressing topics but with little substance and I felt like there was more ‘feeling’ than facts, she could’ve provided a little more substance/background. The book was all over the place jumping from one topic to another, I wish she would’ve stuck with one and ran with it. It was magazine-esque, lets cover all the bases to make everyone happy. Surprise us, make us mad, make us cry, make us feel uncomfortab ...more
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
“I like the idea that justice is anything that makes way for joy, that makes the condition of joy a possibility again.”
The Reckonings is my read of 2019 and it did not disappoint at all
Lacy mixed personal with political issues in a powerful way. She wrote about environmental issues, race, white supremacy, silence, art, sexual assault, the aftermath — she advances important questions at you in such a compelling way. She writes this collection with great empathy, yet with great boldness. She’s a
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Lacy M. Johnson is the author of The Reckonings and the memoir The Other Side, which was named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, an Edgar Award in Best Fact Crime, and the CLMP Firecracker Award in Nonfiction. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Tin House, Guernica, and elsewhere. She lives in ...more

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