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Whose Story Is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters

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New feminist essays for the #MeToo era from the international best-selling author of Men Explain Things to Me.

Who gets to shape the narrative of our times? The current moment is a battle royale over that foundational power, one in which women, people of color, non-straight people are telling other versions, and white people and men and particularly white men are trying to hang onto the old versions and their own centrality. In Whose Story Is This? Rebecca Solnit appraises what's emerging and why it matters and what the obstacles are.

182 pages, Paperback

First published September 3, 2019

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About the author

Rebecca Solnit

100 books6,524 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 283 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,402 reviews8,124 followers
September 26, 2020
Another strong essay collection from prolific feminist writer, Rebecca Solnit. In Whose Story Is This?, she tackles an array of topics including voter suppression, climate change, and the ways in which we valorize and mourn for white men while ignoring the women they have harmed and abused. The most central theme of this collection includes the idea of story and narrative, how power shapes who gets to tell their story and whose stories are listened to and respected. As always, I appreciate Solnit’s clear voice and intelligent writing style, as well as her ability to convey the severity of social injustices while sparking some hope that propels us to action. One insight I especially appreciated about mourning the creative lives of men includes:

Rebecca Traister and others have made the important point that we should not mourn the end of the creative lives of men being outed as predators; we should contemplate the creative contributions we never had, will never know, because their creators were crushed or shut out. When Trump was elected we were told not to normalize authoritarianism and lies, but the losses due to misogyny and racism have been normalized forever. The task has been to denormalize them and break the silence they impose. To make a society in which everyone’s story gets told.

While I enjoyed this essay collection, I did not find it as innovative or profound as Solnit’s previous work, especially her collection The Mother of All Questions .
Some essays felt a bit one-dimensional in their analyses, or that they lacked a certain energy or evolution that would have made me sit and revel in the ideas presented as opposed to flipping to the next essay in the set. While I find Solnit’s essays still solid, I would recommend also checking out essay collections Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong and Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall, 2020 releases by women of color jam packed with voice and fresh perspective.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,665 followers
December 23, 2019
If I could wave a magic wand over myself, I would create a sparkly ability to orate masterfully, with zinging wit, unshakeable confidence, and an at-my-fingertips command of facts.

As it is, my tongue gets wrapped around my emotions, my skin flushes with frustration, and my belly bottoms out, taking with it all the words and opinions I hold as my truth. Hours— or days —after a debate or dispute, I am finally able to put together all that I really meant to say.

If I could wriggle my nose to improve myself, I would sound like an Evelyn Waugh character, or a David Mamet play, or, most dreamily, a Rebecca Solnit essay.

I've been reading Solnit's books for several years, swooning over her lucid and luminous writing, but she seems to have come into her own since the 2016 election, writing regularly for Literary Hub and The Guardian, her essays shared and quoted widely on social media, giving voice to our outrage and our hope for this strange, surreal, sad and beautiful world we have created.

Haymarket Books is now compiling Solnit's essays in an annual collection and this most recent edition, Whose Story Is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters demonstrates what it means to be a feminist in a century that is already twenty years old — the lifting up and listening to voices of marginalized majorities that continue to be shouted down by the diminished but still powerful, frightened, and angry minority.
The watershed called #MeToo in October 2017 was not that people spoke; it’s that other people listened. Many had spoken up before—the victims of the gymnastics doctor, the victims of R. Kelly—some over and over, and their testimony was ignored or disregarded. So #MeToo was not the beginning of women speaking up, but of people listening, and even then—as we’ve seen in the case of Christine Blasey Ford, testifying against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh—continuing to be rendered inconsequential. One measure of how much power these voices and stories have is how frantically others try to stop them.
From "Cathedrals and Alarm Clocks"

Solnit articulates my outrage that I need to seek empathy and understanding for a Trump voter, as if their fear at losing their place in society to people of color, women, LGBTQ, and non-evangelical Christians excuses their racism, misogyny, homophobia, and religious bigotry.
In the aftermath of the 2016 election, we were told that we needed to be nicer to the white working class, which reaffirmed the message that whiteness and the working class were the same thing and made the vast non-white working class invisible or inconsequential. We were told that Trump voters were the salt of the earth and the authentic sufferers, even though poorer people tended to vote for the other candidate. We were told that we had to be understanding of their choice to vote for a man who threatened to harm almost everyone who was not a white Christian man, because their feelings preempt everyone else’s survival. “Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and deplorable folks,” Bernie Sanders reprimanded us, though studies showed that many were indeed often racists, sexists, and homophobes.
From "Whose Story (and Country) Is This?"

She points out over and over again how UNCOMFORTABLE men feel in the wake of #MeToo or white people in the face of #BlackLivesMatter, and I am reminded, bitterly, of my discomfort in examining my white privilege, and the gasping frustration I feel when I recognize how often I shift to make room for a man so he won't have to face his own stupid sexism. And frankly, the worst behavior I now experience comes from my own progressive cohort — men who think they are woke because they've checked all the liberal boxes and yet cannot check their impulse to condescend, mansplain, and pull power punches.

I turn to Rebecca Solnit's work for ways to name my outrage and despair. She rarely offers a course of action; hers is a consciousness-raising rather than a road map. She works with ideas, not listicles, a return to a more Socratic approach of reasoning through how we got to where we are and how we can shift to new path instead of leaping ahead to problem-solving. She blows apart mythologies and allows us room to see and hear all the pieces as they drift down to form new stories. Her words give me a way to my own voice, as shaky as it may be. Solnit also gives me hope.

We live in a world where uncountable numbers of women have had their creative and professional capacity undermined by trauma and threat, by devaluation and exclusion. A world in which women were equally free and encouraged to contribute, in which we lived without this pervasive fear, might be unimaginably different. In the same way, a United States in which people of color did not have their votes increasingly suppressed, in which they did not also face violence and exclusion and denigration, might not just have different outcomes in its recent elections but different candidates and issues. The whole fabric of society would be something else. It should be. Because that is what justice would look like, and peace, or at least the foundation on which they could be built.

Rebecca Traister and others have made the important point that we should not mourn the end of the creative lives of the men being outed as predators; we should contemplate the creative contributions we never had, will never know, because their creators were crushed or shut out. When Trump was elected we were told not to normalize authoritarianism and lies, but the losses due to misogyny and racism have been normalized forever. The task has been to de-normalize them and break the silence they impose. To make a society in which everyone’s story gets told.

This too is a war about stories.
From "Let This Flood of Women’s Stories Never Cease"
September 21, 2022

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Rebecca Solnit is one of my favorite essayists, and she has such a knack for simple but powerful language that often reading her works makes me want to curl up in envy and despair of ever being so poignantly articulate. WHOSE STORY IS THIS? is one of her strongest collections to date. It's a work about feminism in the #MeToo era, and how the biggest obstacle to equality exists in the silent architecture of our society, in all the implicit biases and coded norms that remain uncontested and unchecked.



Some of the topics in this essay: how men are allowed to selfishly devote themselves to their art and expect someone to take care of them for the greater good while women are still expected to be caretakers; the problem with glorifying the confederacy and other problematic figures of the past; the expectation that women and people of color are supposed to make things comfortable for white cisgendered men and not inconvenience society with the inconvenient truth of their inequalities; and the tie to sexism and capitalism, when women are coded as commodities that incels believe themselves entitled to possess.



It's a fascinating, well-done, and eye-opening collection, powerfully written and timely as always. As with other essays of this type, I suspect they're written more for the people who will already agree than the people who should read them but won't (because, I mean), but even if you already agree, she provides such a useful toolbox of ideas and phrases to pour your beliefs into the setting concrete of plain language, giving them a substance they might not have in your own head.



4 to 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Kazen.
1,267 reviews296 followers
September 11, 2019
4.5 stars

I love that Haymarket is publishing Solnit's essays each year, and this collection is a bumper crop. She's at her best when discussing gender and #MeToo is a big theme here, as well as how movements for change get started, and how the affect that change over time.

Many of these essays resonated with me personally. How the stories of the marginalized need to be not only heard, but believed. How women (and men who believe women) in media helped expose serial abusers. How the current US president is gaslighting the country, and how that gaslighting affects us as a culture as well as as individuals. How necessary change can seem daunting and impossible, but seemingly small movements can do much of the work, sometimes in unexpected ways.

While the experiences of LGBTQIA+ folx and people of color are gestured at I would have liked to see a bit more intersectionalism. I'm looking forward to reading reviews by folks of color in particular because I am sure there are racial dimensions both Solnit and I missed.

Whose Story Is This stretched my thinking, filled my notebook with notable passages, and gave me hope that we can work our way out of some big, scary problems we're facing as a country and a society. It's right up there with Men Explain Things to Me as my favorite Solnit collection.

Thanks to Haymarket Books for providing a review copy.
Profile Image for Tanya.
466 reviews261 followers
November 19, 2020
These were the perfect bite-sized pieces to occupy my time on my daily commute—I usually like to read light fare on the bus, but I found these essays to be perfectly suitable as well, something I couldn't say of other feminist works. Some cite it as one of Solnit's detractors, but she has a rather peculiar take on feminist discourse—an optimistic one. And by that I don't mean that it's the sort of white feminism that doesn't touch on intersectional issues, pretending they don't exist, but rather the fact that she chooses to focus on the progress already made, and how that will impact the challenges still ahead, rather than writing from a grim, confrontational place as so many others do. It's refreshing, and I think that's why she's so popular; it's a hopeful and palatable sort of feminism that doesn't offend because it doesn't directly call for action and doesn't offer clear-cut solutions, but rather appraises what's already happened, or is happening, and why it matters. She makes her points in such a simple, rational way that most people who are in any way left-leaning will wholeheartedly agree. As far as feminist writing goes, this is as light as it gets, which doesn't mean that it isn't worthwhile or good—just not groundbreaking. But there is something to be said about writing so agreeable that people who otherwise wouldn't think about certain issues will still read it, and perhaps think about it. With its simplicity and hopefulness, it has the potential to be a catalyst for change, thanks to its mass market appeal.

This collection felt much more cohesive than the other one I've read—as the title suggests, it concerns itself with who shapes the political, social, historical, etc. narratives; who wields the power to shape what reality we live in, whose side of the story is believed, and what sort of past is remembered. The most recurring themes in Whose Story Is This? are #MeToo, climate change, and the power of group movements to cause slow but steady shifts in perspective over long periods; small cultural changes that pave the way for watershed moments like the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same sex marriage in all US states. Those aren't the sort of dramatic and inspirational stories about individual "heroes" people generally like to hear about, and no one will ever make a blockbuster Hollywood movie about them, but these many unnamed and unsung heroes are the ones with the power to lay the groundwork for significant change, because any movement is more than the sum of its parts.

"If you think you're woke, it's because someone woke you up, so thank the human alarm clocks. It's easy now to assume that one's perspective on race, gender, orientation, and the rest are signs of inherent virtue, but a lot of ideas currently in circulation are gifts that arrived recently, through the labor of others."


—————

Note: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,171 reviews35 followers
October 8, 2019
4.5 rounded up

Rebecca Solnit's latest essay collection is perhaps best surmised by the author herself in the acknowledgements:

This book is, in a sense, transcripts of my side of some conversations with the society around me as it undergoes tumultuous changes, with the changemakers winning some remarkable battles against the forces trying to protect the most malevolent parts of the status quo as it crumbles away. It's a book that comes out of the seismic activity in feminism, racial injustice, climate action, and other human rights movements, out o the way it's changing the public landscape right down to street names and breaking old frameworks.

And, for me, this is Solnit at her best - these essays were concise, compelling and accessible. It's great that these collections are being published at an almost annual rate now, as it means they're super up to date and capture the zeitgeist of these strange times we're living through.
Profile Image for Whitney.
131 reviews48 followers
December 31, 2019
Meh. I really wanted and tried to like this... but I didn't.

Too one-sided and extreme for me. The examples given seem like she chose them specifically to support her opinions and very rarely ever showed another perspective. I agree with some of the points but felt myself pulling away even on topics I agreed with the author on simply due to how extreme she is.

I would have given this one star but the final essay at the very end is brilliant. Wish I only read that one (the last three pages) rather than the entire book. Overall, the book is well written and has potential I just wish she showed some other perspectives besides her own viewpoint as this would have strengthened the book immensely.
Profile Image for Shari.
579 reviews10 followers
October 18, 2019
I think Rebecca Solnit is one of the great and necessary voices in America, and I want everyone to read her. These essays fill me with both rage and hope, and I guess we need both to survive this country.
235 reviews4 followers
September 6, 2019
Another autumn, another collection of essays by Rebecca Solnit. I could get used to this rhythm!
Solnit's collection of essays in "Whose Story Is This" focuses on women, immigrants, and the earth (think climate change) -- stories that we usually discount or people that some may move off-stage.
I thought her essays were as compelling as ever, but the theme was not as clear in this collection. I'm not sure that she did a lot of revising or writing a preface that would more closely link the essays together. All in all, a brilliant collection. Anything Rebecca Solnit writes is worth reading.
Profile Image for Lucia.
64 reviews22 followers
July 22, 2020
I can honestly say that I'm a better person for reading this book. Read this book, gift this book, make the world a better place. Special thanks to the wonderful woman who lent it to me!
Profile Image for Jordan.
116 reviews53 followers
December 30, 2019
Full review at : http://readwithwine.com/2019/12/revie...


𝐖𝐡𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐒𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐈𝐬 𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐬? 𝐛𝐲 𝐑𝐞𝐛𝐞𝐜𝐜𝐚 𝐒𝐨𝐥𝐧𝐢𝐭

𝗥𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗺𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗿 ... if you care about equal rights (I would like to think is everyone, but, well...), non fiction lovers,

𝘕𝘦𝘸 𝘧𝘦𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘴𝘵 𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦 #𝘔𝘦𝘛𝘰𝘰 𝘦𝘳𝘢 - 𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘸𝘩𝘺 𝘪𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘣𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘤𝘭𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦. Who gets to shape the narrative of our times? The current moment is a battle royale over that foundational power, one in which women, people of color, non-straight people are telling other versions, and white people and men and particularly white men are trying to hang onto the old versions and their own centrality.

⭑⭑⭑⭑ ½
𝔽𝕦𝕝𝕝 𝕓𝕝𝕠𝕘 𝕣𝕖𝕧𝕚𝕖𝕨 ~ 𝕃𝕚𝕟𝕜 𝕀𝕟 𝔹𝕚𝕠
I picked this up earlier in the month to finally join in with #OurSharedShelf - I was starting their backlist but decided to jump in and be up to date with the discussions. I’m so glad I did, joining in with this club is another of my NY Resolutions.
It is not news to the majority of us that narratives are controlled, in favor of cis white males. Entire histories written and sold from one perspective, despite the mounting evidence otherwise. The refusal to acknowledge anything other than their version, their fantasy reality- is entirely personified in the current US President. So comical yet so utterly dangerous

Overall I rated this highly, given this is my first deliberate read of a feminist essay, that I am totally out of touch with historical changes on a global scale on the equal rights, there was therefore a lot of ‘new’ information to digest. While there were many sentiments that I was oh so familiar with, I am sure there are many who are not. I’m unsure who the intended audience is, at times I felt Solnit was preaching to the choir. However, these essays left me feeling furious and hopeful, it stretched and blew my mind, and in a few instances, a chuckle
Profile Image for Thomas.
Author 1 book27 followers
August 15, 2020
I got this book because I just read The Mother of All Questions and I wanted the author’s take on some of the more recent events. I surely got it here, though I suppose her thoughts on events since the pandemic started will come in a future book.

I’ve definitely enjoyed this one, and some of the previous ones, because she puts brilliantly into words things I’ve been thinking for a long time. I really love Solnit’s optimism. I’m an optimistic person myself, so that really resonated with me. I also love her take on the individualist “hero.” Ayn Rand would be turning over in her grave. Priceless.

Great stuff. I was entertained and informed.
Profile Image for chantel nouseforaname.
622 reviews293 followers
December 26, 2019
Rebecca Solnit is an inspiration to me. She takes everyday things like urban geography and exposes the shit for exactly what it is. You want to know what is up, turn to Rebecca Solnit.

One of my favourite moments in this book is the All the Rage segment under The shouters and the silenced, exposing how much of a human safety issue male rage is. Her points and references are crystal clear and there's really no disputing her. More men, and the "not all men" men should really read her work.

I loved this and it's a highly recommended read.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,631 reviews600 followers
December 17, 2019
Rebecca Solnit is a wonderful essayist and her collections are always beautifully presented as elegant objects. Although I found this one as insightful and beautifully expressed as ever, I think I'd previously read a number of them online. So each piece was quite short and not all new, with a fairly specific (albeit vitally important) set of themes: MeToo, America's resurgent white nationalism, and all their many intersections. I particularly liked 'Unconscious Bias is Running for President' and 'A Hero is a Disaster', both of which expounded their titular idea with particular skill. I love Solnit's writing, but have to admit I was hoping for longer essays in this book than she publishes online. Each is around ten pages long and conveys its point very well, but my preference is for longer writing where possible.
Profile Image for Caroline.
581 reviews807 followers
September 5, 2020
Cool so I'm a big fan Rebecca Solnit now. This was a really outstanding book of essays that addressed some recent issues such as the #MeToo movement and Trump's America. It was fascinating and, although very America-centric, I found many resonated with me massively. There were a few that seemed too short to really nail the point but on the whole, great book.
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,364 reviews1 follower
September 27, 2019
Solnit is a balm for my world-weary soul. I read her Letter to the March 15, 2019 Climate Strikers on September 27, 2019, a climate strike Friday, which is a lot about Greta Thunberg.

"Today you are what's happening. Today, your power will be felt. Today, your action matters. Today, in your individual action, you may stand with a few people or with hundreds, but you stand with billions around the world. Today, you are standing up for people not yet born, and those ghostly billions are with you too. Today, you are the force of possibility that runs through the present like a river through the desert."
Profile Image for Niklas Pivic.
Author 4 books63 followers
August 1, 2019
I see this as a 150-page long analytical monograph about sexism before, during, and after metoo. During my reading I took notes. I'd made exactly 150 notes when I finished, which says something about how this book engaged, horrified, and enthralled me.

Solnit's writing style is quite closely connected to those of Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, and Howard Zinn; the subject matter may seem scary and dire, but they manage to wring optimism and point out critical things that make you think twice, even a third time around.

Solnit writes tersely and yet conversationally; one can easily inject most of the sentences that she ends paragraphs with into any conversation and come out sounding like Oscar Wilde.

One measure of how much power these voices and stories have is how frantically others try to stop them.


Comfort is often a code word for the right to be unaware, the right to have no twinges of one’s conscience, no reminders of suffering, the right to be a “we” whose benefits are not limited by the needs and rights of any “them.”


Perhaps the actual problem is that white, Christian, suburban, small-town, and rural America includes too many people who want to live in a bubble and think they’re entitled to, and that all of us who are not like them are considered menaces and intruders who need to be cleared out of the way.


One of Solnit's key benefits is how she calls out people for what they have done. In this sense, one could call her a historian that won't allow history to be written by the hamfisted majority.

Newspapers and magazines have often been the attack base against women and other assailed parties, and she won't let them rest. Just see these two examples on the Atlantic and the New York Times, respectively:

One way we know whose story it is has been demonstrated by who gets excused for hatred and attacks, literal or physical. Early in 2018, the Atlantic tried out hiring a writer, Kevin Williamson, who said women who have abortions should be hanged, and then unhired him under public pressure from people who don’t like the idea that a quarter of American women should be executed for exercising jurisdiction over their own bodies. The New York Times has hired a few conservatives akin to Williamson, including climate waffler Bret Stephens. Stephens devoted a column to sympathy on Williamson’s behalf and indignation that anyone might oppose him.


This misdistribution of sympathy is epidemic. The New York Times called the man with a domestic-violence history who, in 2015, shot up the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, killing three parents of young children, “a gentle loner.” And then when the serial bomber who had been terrorizing Austin, Texas, was finally caught in March 2018, too many journalists interviewed his family and friends and let their positive descriptions of the man stand, as though they were more valid than what we already knew: he was an extremist and a terrorist who set out to kill and terrorize Black people in a particularly vicious and cowardly way. He was a “quiet, ‘nerdy’ young man who came from ‘a tight-knit, godly family,” the Times let us know in a tweet, while the Washington Post’s headline noted that he was “frustrated with his life,” which is true of millions of young people around the world who don’t get a pity party and also don’t become terrorists.

The Daily Beast got it right with a subhead about a recent right-wing terrorist, the one who blew himself up in his home full of bomb-making materials: “Friends and family say Ben Morrow was a Bible-toting lab worker. Investigators say he was a bomb-building white supremacist.”


Like other exceptional writers, for example, Chavisa Woods and Susan Faludi, Solnit displays shining talent and craft for providing sobering text:

And then there are the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. We’ve heard from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women about assaults, threats, harassment, humiliation, coercion, of campaigns that ended careers, pushed them to the brink of suicide. Many men’s response to this is to express sympathy for men. The film director Terry Gilliam was the voice of the old ways when he said, “I feel sorry for someone like Matt Damon, who is a decent human being. He came out and said all men are not rapists, and he got beaten to death. Come on, this is crazy!” Matt Damon has not actually been beaten to death. He is one of the most highly paid actors on earth, which is a significantly different experience than being beaten to death. The actor Chris Evans did much better with this shift in perspective, saying, “The hardest thing to reconcile is that just because you have good intentions doesn’t mean it’s your time to have a voice.”


But the follow-up story to the #MeToo upheaval has too often been: How do the consequences of men hideously mistreating women affect men’s comfort? Are men okay with what’s happening? There have been too many stories about men feeling less comfortable, too few about how women might be feeling more secure in offices where harassing coworkers may have been removed or are at least a bit less sure about their right to grope and harass. Men are insisting on their comfort as a right. Dr. Larry Nassar, the Michigan State University doctor who molested more than a hundred young gymnasts, objected, on the grounds that it interfered with his comfort, to having to hear his victims give statements during his criminal trial, describing what he did and how it impacted them. These girls and young women had not been silent; they had spoken up over and over, but no one with power—sometimes not even their own parents—would listen and take action, until the Indianapolis Star reported, in 2016, on the assaults by Nassar and many other adult men in gymnastics. It was not the women’s story until then. It seldom is. Or was.


Solnit also digs deep into journalism and how it's locked into the American politics of late:

Imagine that we were, decades ago, a society that listened to women, and that the careers of Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Bill Cosby, Les Moonves, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Louis C. K., and so many others had been stopped in their tracks. Hundreds of lives would be better, but also the very news and entertainment world we live in might be different, and better. Jill Filipovic noted, in 2017, “Many of the male journalists who stand accused of sexual harassment were on the forefront of covering the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.” She notes that “these particular men hold deep biases against women who seek power instead of sticking to acquiescent sex-object status” and speculates on how it influenced the election.


Feminism and capitalism are at odds, if under the one women are people and under the other they are property. Despite half a century of feminist reform and revolution, sex is still often understood through the models capitalism provides. Sex is a transaction; men’s status is enhanced by racking up transactions, as though they were poker chips. Basketball star Wilt Chamberlain boasted that he’d had sex with 20,000 women in his 1991 memoir (prompting some to do the math: that would be about 1.4 women per day for 40 years). Talk about primitive accumulation!

The president of the United States is someone who has regularly attempted to enhance his status by association with commodified women, and his denigration of other women for not fitting the Playmate/Miss Universe template is also well known. This is not marginal; it’s central to our culture, and now it’s espoused by the president of our country.


All in all, this is a very needed book. Solnit provides the old, the current, and ways to see soberly into the future with all the might and positivity that we can, to topple misogyny and arm ourselves intellectually.

One sentence I come back to again and again is James Baldwin’s: “It is the innocence that constitutes the crime.” He’s talking about white people in the early 1960s ignoring the violence and destructiveness of racism, their opting out of seeing it.
Profile Image for Aoife.
102 reviews19 followers
September 24, 2020
This book really can be summed up by the fact that, when just one chapter in, I went and bought the rest of Solnits books.

Focusing primarily on gender, this examination of whose voices are amplified and whose silenced is informed, compelling, and invited me to deeply consider these issues in ways I hadn’t previously.

To look the threats and setback to gender equality so squarely in the face and still produce a collection overflowing with hope for the future is an incredible achievement and a salve I needed in these trying times.
Profile Image for Stefanie.
434 reviews15 followers
November 28, 2019
Most of these essays have appeared in other places. I have read some of them in those places. But it is really great to have them all collected together. Solnit is such a keen observer and thinker. The essays talk to each other and together create a bigger picture than they do on their own. Important reading and analysis on current issues from immigration and the climate emergency to #MeToo, white supremacy, far right politics, and capitalism.
Profile Image for Leah Rachel von Essen.
1,165 reviews159 followers
August 28, 2019
As always, Rebecca Solnit’s writing is rich, genius, and gorgeous. Whose Story is This?: Old Conflicts, New Chapters is an incredibly cohesive essay collection about who gets to be part of certain narratives: How do power and privilege impact knowledge and the politics of silence? Who gets to be credible—who is listened to and actually believed? How are creativity and motherhood linked or not linked?

Solnit writes about this and much more—non-white non-male anger, how metaphor is transgressive, how we should move away from the individualized hero narrative into a more collective framework—and unpacks how our world privileges some voices and stifles others.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This brilliant book comes out September 3 from Haymarket Books.
Profile Image for Siobhán.
945 reviews14 followers
November 28, 2019
I am giving up, Rebecca Solnit just isn't for me - not because of the content but because of how it is presented. The essays have overall topics but are mostly just a weakly argued connection of facts, anecdotes and stories. Yes, many things are right and true, but it's just not enough for me. The conversational tone are disrupted by exaggerated statements that are meant to shock readers and make them act on issues such as feminism, climate change, etc. But it's not working for me, I find it highly annoying and - despite the blurb - too focussed on America, too white, too crass.

3 Stars at max...
Profile Image for Pam.
253 reviews363 followers
December 14, 2019
3.5/3.75

Much of what Solnit comments on are items that are pretty well-known and discussed. This may be because I'm reading a lot of feminist literature and stories as they progress in this current day and age.

But nothing here was really controversial nor did I think were really chewed on the subject material. These essays for the most part are not personal, and therefore come off more educational then revolutionary or nuanced with details or insights previously unexplored. It felt like she was preaching to the choir instead of trying to expand the choirs membership.
Profile Image for ash | spaceyreads.
341 reviews204 followers
November 30, 2020
Rebecca Solnit's latest offering in her series of feminist essay collections, Whose Story Is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters, is a satisfying evolution to watch from her first and widely-known essay collection Men Explain Things To Me .

The essays are short and discusses a range of issues including climate change, #MeToo, capitalism, voter suppression and more, through the lens of feminism and intersectionality.

I found a paragraph from the abortion essay, Lies Become Laws, particularly compelling. It explains that reproductive rights activists would love to see "pro-life" supporters also advocating for prenatal health, childcare resources, maternal health, and other things important to the, well, life of the baby. However, it is more often than not that anti-choice and anti-gun control legislation are advocated by the same people, and juxtaposing it with the fact that the leading cause of mortality during pregnancy and the first postpartum year is homicide, Solnit makes a pretty convincing statement as to how pro-life rhetoric is founded on half-truths and a weak foundation.

For someone who has moved on to a deeper understanding of the subject, Solnit's collection feels like a rehash of articles I have read on the internet - and this is coming from someone who enjoys reading about feminism. It takes me about 5-10 minutes to finish an essay, and it has little depth of breadth. A word that comes to mind is navel gazing, and this is again, coming from someone who enjoys what may typically look like navel gazing. The book leaves me with the knowledge that Solnit is good with essays, but unfortunately little else.

Solnit, however, has a way with her pen, and leaves us with very thoughtful quotes:

“One of the rights that the powerful often assume is the power to dictate reality.”

"But ignorance is one form of tolerance, whether it's pretending we're in a colorblind society or one in which misogyny is some quaint old thing we've gotten over. It's not doing the work to know how the people around you live, or die, and why."

A cliché one, but still hits me everytime: "What is it like to spend a lot of your life in shoes in which you're less steady and swift than the people around you?"
Profile Image for Lauren Anna.
249 reviews7 followers
March 24, 2020
In comparison to “Men Explain Things To Me”, this collection is an extreme improvement. I love how Solnit seems to have seriously reflected on some of the problematic elements of that work and wrote a killer of a feminist powerhouse with this one!
Profile Image for Nathan Shuherk.
234 reviews1,388 followers
October 15, 2020
Easily my favorite collection of essays I’ve read from Solnit so far. It’ll be on my top of the year list for sure
Profile Image for Sara the dreamer.
264 reviews116 followers
December 21, 2021
Man, Rebecca Solnit never disappoints. I really liked this collection of essays. Like many of its genres, some parts of it were great and some parts just okay, but you know, that's the deal you get with books like this one. The essays that I loved in this one, however, I LOVED. Solnit really has a way of talking about very complicated topics that turn them into crystal clear pictures in your brain and I love that about her writing. Everything is summarized perfectly, but in a way that doesn't make it feel like she's facts feeding you or diminishing the issues at hand. I also really appreciated the way that she checked her privilege this entire time because we all know that white feminist writers sometimes forget to do that - or avoid to do so - and it can be pretty frustrating. I went into this book thinking it was going to be more about fiction but it ended up being way more about politics - and pretty american centric politics at that, which makes sense, considering that Solnit is californian. Still, I loved how she explored the topics of male privilege, voters suppression, the environment and political movements, and many more. I would definitely recommend this if you're looking for a quick non fiction read and want to read more by modern feminist thinkers! I'll be reading more of her books in the future for sure.
Profile Image for Bella.
10 reviews
October 2, 2020

This book really highlights the transformative time that is today. Rebecca addresses timely topics like sexual harassment and discrimination of women including voter suppression and the #MeToo movement, Native American rights, the anti-gun movement, white nationalism, Black Lives Matter, and climate change. We are reminded of whose voices have always been heard and validated and whose voices are silenced. We are reminded of how far we have come when it comes to positive social change but also how far we have to go. Excellent read!


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