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Call Them by Their True Names

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  2,995 ratings  ·  389 reviews
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 ess

Paperback, 188 pages
Published September 20th 2018 by Haymarket Books (first published September 4th 2018)
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Oct 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
Hope is a belief that what we do might matter, an understanding that the future is not yet written.

A common theme flowing through her 2018 collection Call Them By Their True Names is the way we are diverted from addressing the real problems that plague us. Through intentional misdirection through rhetoric and victim blaming, those in power assert their control by removing the avenues to speak out against them in order to keep people divided. Solnit argues, as the title implies, that we must ca
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Uneven in quality, Rebecca Solnit's latest work examines a broad array of American crises through the lens of a single theme: the power of calling injustices by their true names. Call Them by Their True Names addresses a wider range of subjects than Solnit's previous two Haymarket-released collections. Whereas the essays of Men Explain Things to Me and The Mother of All Questions focused mostly on the many forms of gendered violence, these essays consider everything from the threats posed by cli ...more
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another great essay collection from a leading feminist writer. In Call Them by Their True Names, Rebecca Solnit takes aim at the Trump administration and its racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc. She addresses an impressive array of topics, including gentrification, environmental justice, speaking truth to power, and more. When I read her work, I can tell she has dedicated her life to these progressive causes and to writing about them. The depth of her travel and reporting communicates a courageous d ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read, usa
(Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises - now available in German)
It's certainly not like everything in Europe is just sunshine and butterflies, but what is happening in the US right now has reached a level of insanity that is pretty hard to comprehend from over here. So when I started Solnit's book, I was afraid that she would proceed to state the obvious failings of the orange menace, and frankly, there is quite a lot in this essay collection that re-iterates issues that every self-res
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
National Book Award Nonfiction Longlist 2018. Solnit is a feminist, a progressive, and a stellar writer. Her essays are intended to elicit a reaction—to think about the words we use.

“To name something truly is to lay bare what may be brutal or corrupt—or important or possible. A key to the work of changing the world is changing the story, the names.” She prefers to use new descriptors when describing societal issues—“prison-industrial complex”, “affirmative consent”, or “unburnable carbon”. I pa
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This new essay collection by Solnit is both a scathing indictment of the current US administration and the president himself. Solnit also looks at continued racial disparities and gentrification. She ends, however, on a note of encouragement - peaceful protest has a history of accomplishment and will be able to bring the US through this strange period in our history.
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-reads
In the past I haven't always connected with Rebecca Solnit's writing, although I've never figured out quite why (because I'm completely in line with her politically). But this collection of essays really spoke to me.* I guess I'm finally catching up.

* All except the essay on anger ("Facing the Furies"), in which Solnit warns of anger's corrupting effects - taking a position a little different from Rebecca Traister's. I'm still feeling the positive influence of Traister's new book on why women sh
A. H. Reaume
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I would read ANYTHING Solnit writes, but this essay collection has helped me see the present political situation and potential activist interventions with more nuance and depth.
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
I generally don't like to be "political" in reviews of books, but I find it unavoidable in this case. I'm giving this book a 2.5, because I nearly put it down after reading the second essay, "Milestones in Misogyny," which I found so insulting to those of us women who had the audacity not to blindly support Hillary Clinton purely because she was a woman. In this essay Solnit was clueless as to why many people, particularly millennials, were so enthusiastic about Bernie Sanders but not as much ab ...more
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first half was excellent and the second was not as excellent. Solnit is at her best when she's contemplating misogyny (and here she has an excellent opening essay on Trump's coupling of misogyny and greed), but she sounds pretty cliche (to me) when she discusses systemic racism. Or she sounds more like an activist and reporter whereas the earlier essays, she sounds like a gifted writer, which she is. ...more
Kaleb Rogers
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The most pervasive theme throughout Call Them By Their True Names is the unpredictability of the future, and how good acts today need not have direct, measurable benefits tomorrow. History is woven by innumerable factors, and fighting for what is right will undoubtedly make up some of them. There is injustice in the world, but it can be combatted with hope and perseverance.
Leah Rachel von Essen
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays) by Rebecca Solnit is the newest collection of essays by the iconic writer. While the collection is more scattered than some of her others, Solnit is trying to get at the ways story-telling matters, and the way telling a story in one way or another way can have a big impact on what the facts appear to be, or on how successful a protest was.

Solnit’s essay collections are always expertly written, and the essays in this are no exception. I
This is pretty standard Solnit fare, so if you enjoy her writing, you'll dig this short collection on a wide range of topics that honestly doesn't feel so wide - police violence, incarceration, homelessness, immigration, climate change. She writes about these issues through the lens of the language we use around them vs. the language we perhaps should use. Language used intentionally to subvert the truth, whether overtly or not (I think often of how many news outlets used "Brock Turner, the star ...more
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
One of her best essay collections for sure. The "American Crises" of the title refer to a wide range of topics - Trump, domestic abuse, Occupy Wall Street and gentrification among others. Incisive writing as always with Solnit, and a pleasant surprise after the disappoint that was The Mother of All Questions. ...more
Like any collection of essays/short stories/poems, there are strengths and weaknesses throughout the book. This collection address a wide variety of current issues, particularly through the lenses of the power of naming and language and storytelling. Solnit also expands on ideas about change and progress and the value of activism that can also be found in Hope in the Dark (and possibly all of her work--I've only read these two!). In particular, I thought Preaching to the Choir, Death by Gentrifi ...more
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sunshine
I have such trouble with any discussions of current events, because current events usually mean Trump, and reading about Trump makes me depressed and horrified. But this brilliant book starts with Trump and misogyny, and just when you want to burn this motherfucker to the ground, it reaches for hope, and positivity, and patience, and small victories, and making the world better. Not all of the essays are perfect, but the book as a whole reminds me strongly and inspiringly that this motherfucker ...more
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Spot on.
Jiny S
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the perfect book for those young people who think “voting is not for me, and I’m too busy anyways.” I’m ashamed to admit, sometimes in the past, I was one of those people.

Solnit’s essays give power to words. As a master of the discourse on persuasion, she shows her readers how political titans and people of influence in our society manipulate words to create illusions that suit their own narrative. Solent tells us that knowing problems for what they are is the first step in finding a sol
Apr 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
Solnit, perhaps best known for Men Explain Things to Me, is back with another essay collection. While her past two books centered on feminism this one is about social justice of all sorts, touching on climate change, police brutality, gentrification, wrongful imprisonment, and more.

The essays were largely written between 2016 and 2018. The most powerful theme is the idea that names and language truly matter. If you cannot name a problem you cannot begin to solve it. A couple of the essays take a
Amanda Misiti
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I learned a lot from Solnit’s thoughtful essays, as always.

My favorite essay was “Preaching to the Choir”—which analyzed the importance of connecting with people who share similar ideas.

This quote in particular stuck with me:
“. . . Much of the time we spend together (or in solitude) has been replaced by the time we spend online, in arenas not conducive to subtlety or complexity”

And this—
“A friendship could be imagined as an ongoing conversation, and a conversation as a collaboration of minds,
Rachel C.
Rebecca Solnit is PISSED and clearly loathes Trump. Her eloquent anger is magnificent.

And yet, she ends this essay collection with hope.

"I find great hope and encouragement in the anxiety, fury, and grief of my fellow residents of the United States."

"The only power adequate to stop tyranny and destruction is civil society, which is the great majority of us when we remember our power and come together. The job begins with opposition to specific instances of destruction, but it is not ended until
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, non-fiction
I often see reviews that rave about a book before saying, “except that…” or “even if…” The readers offer disclaimers to distance themselves from books in which the author holds a different view on some issue, as though the rest of us will judge them for reading a book? Having an open mind? I don’t know.

I thought of that when considering how to review this book. The author and I come from two totally different world views, but I don’t want to write a disclaimer; instead, I want to give the book
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book of essays touches on so many issues currently plaguing our country and the culture we’ve cultivated in recent years of booming tech companies “disrupting” local communities and welfare, disregarding inexplicable offenses conducted by the leader of our free nation, gun violence, voter suppression, and so much more with a layer of naive cynicism that coats the country like an oily blanket that weighs on every social justice action. The author holds the culprit of each essay accountable, ...more
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
In Call Them by Their True Names, Rebecca Solnit tells contemplative stories behind the news that is churned out at break neck speed. The four sections of the book explore Electoral Catastrophes, American Emotions, American Edges (gentrification, climatechange, homelessness, etc.), and Possibilities. In these essays, she encourages one to think about the impact the events of the last few years have had on the private self as well as the community. She encourages healthy anger, but also slowing d ...more
Nick Klagge
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love Rebecca Solnit and would happily read anything she writes. I try to keep up regularly with what she writes on LitHub, with the result that I had already read a couple of the essays in this new collection ("The Loneliness of Donald Trump" and "Eight Million Ways to Belong"), although oddly I didn't see anywhere where previous publication was noted for specific essays. But happily, nearly all of the content was still new to me.

All of the classic Solnit elements are here--the combination of
Georgia (thefictionfolio)
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
"What is the whole truth? How do we reach it? In the monument wars, as we excavate our history like an archaeological site — or a crime scene — we have a chance to arrive at new conclusions, nominate new heroes, rethink the past, and reorient ourselves to the future."

With too many pieces to even pick out, this collection is truly a direct response to Trump's America. It's emotive but logical, personal but well researched. Solnit definitely has an engaging voice and prose style, and I can't
Kate Mcphail
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.75 I just love her
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a fantastic collection--probably my favorite by her yet (though Hope in the Dark is also fantastic). She has a way of calling out the problems our society has, while still encouraging action. You learn from her but you don't get so mired in the failings of everything that you end up hopeless. I found in this collection she was able to weave topics like feminism, racism, climate change, wealth inequity seamlessly together. ...more
Kerry Pickens
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2020
The book was published in 2018, so the information is a little dated but reflects back on political events and how they have affected the community involved. The events covered include shootings of minorities, the Dakota Pipeline and its impact on the indigenous people, and Hillary Clinton's run for president. I admire the writer's ability to weave all these events together and come up with a lucid conclusion. We need to stand up as women for ourselves and any oppressed people. ...more
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love Rebecca Solnit. She writes about complex subjects with a radical vision but an accessible style. I have read several of her books and I haven't been disappointed yet. In this one she discusses the environment, racism, Trump's attacks on immigrants, feminism and other important topics we should all be discussing. ...more
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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 ...more

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