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Recollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  5,528 ratings  ·  835 reviews
An electric portrait of the artist as a young woman that asks how a writer finds her voice in a society that prefers women to be silent

In Recollections of My Nonexistence, Rebecca Solnit describes her formation as a writer and as a feminist in 1980s San Francisco, in an atmosphere of gender violence on the street and throughout society and the exclusion of women from cultu
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 10th 2020 by Viking
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, recs
Contemplative and mesmerizing, Recollections of My Nonexistence thoughtfully charts the famous essayist’s coming of age as a thinker, activist, and writer. In lucid prose Solnit recounts how, in her late teens, she left her suburban Californian home lonely and silenced for the promise of a vibrant life as a woman artist in San Francisco, embarking upon a decades-long quest to write books, join intentional communities, and inspire political change. Across eight chapters, each moving at a delibera ...more
Diane S ☔
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nfr-2020
Solnit is an author I have meant to read for quite a while. I have another book of hers somewhere around here, that I received in one of my book boxes. I, now regret waited so long as she is a fabulous writer, essayist.

She writes about the apartment in San Fransisco that she lived in for a decade. A beautiful apartment in San Francisco in an all black neighborhood, a neighborhood that was full of life. As in all the essays in this book, she than turns way from herself and talks about all the peo
Roman Clodia
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the iconic stories in Ovid's Metamorphoses is the terrible tale of Philomela, raped by her brother-in-law and then silenced by him hacking out her tongue so that she can't accuse him or speak out about her ordeal. It's this classic intertwining of violence against women and the muting of female voices which drives Solnit's memoir.

Don't come to this expecting anything like a conventional autobiography: Solnit retains a sense of privacy with regard to her personal life. Instead this is a k
Megan Bell
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Readers like me who, over Rebecca Solnit’s thirty years of writing, have fallen in love with her seismic, world-shifting essays will not be disappointed in this memoir, her first longform writing in seven years. True to her form, this is a memoir not necessarily of the events of Solnit’s coming of age, but rather the greater influences in her development as a feminist, an activist, and a writer in 1980s San Francisco. In these pages, Solnit describes the formation of her own powerful voice while ...more
Mar 29, 2022 rated it really liked it
Yes, Rebecca Solnit is a radical feminist, this book, 'a memoir', confirms that once again. At first I found it strange that someone of barely 60 years old writes a kind of memoir. Apparently, she felt compelled to outline the background to her controversial essay Men Explain Things to Me, with which she suddenly became known worldwide in 2013, and which would help lay the foundation of the #MeToo-movement.

Solnit describes in detail how, from her adolescence, she became sensitive to the harassme
Mar 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
One does not review Solnit, one imbibes her wisdom and words and feels grateful.
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book was...fine. I enjoy reading Solnit's essays, so I was looking forward to reading her memoir, thinking that I would actually learn a bit more about her. This was very much focused on Solnit finding her voice and learning how to use it through her writing. The problem is that she neglects to tell the reader anything personal about herself. I felt so disconnected from the author. She almost completely skips over her childhood and starts the memoir with her as a young adult living on her o ...more
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 rounded down

When I heard Rebecca Solnit was publishing a memoir this year it quickly became one of my most anticipated releases of 2020 - having enjoyed a number of her previous collections (including Whose Story Is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, The Faraway Nearby and Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises to name but a few) Solnit is one of my favourite living essayists.

And this is a very "Solnit" memoir. Rather than being a straight retelling of
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
My, my, my .... that was an exquisite, though-provoking, sublime, powerful book.

Sure, it's a memoir, but it's much more. Solnit recollects a writer's life, and the history, the journey, the articulation of the craft, the circuitous route to productivity and readership, was as inspirational as it was engaging, interesting, and inspiring.

But, ultimately, Solnit's voice is a woman's voice, and not merely a powerful voice, but a clear and compelling and lyrical voice ... speaking about the evolution
Laura Noggle
Absolutely gorgeous, love Solnit! Will definitely revisit this one again.
“It was a lovely fortune to be handed by a stranger, and I took it, and with it the sense that who I was meant to be was a breaker of some stories and a maker of others, a tracer of the cracks and sometimes a repair-woman, and sometimes a porter or even a vessel for the most precious cargo you can carry, the stories waiting to be told, and the stories that set us free.”

“What is armor after all but a cage that moves with yo
Julie Ehlers
This was similar to the other Rebecca Solnit books I've read: Mostly her musings around issues of social injustice (primarily sexism), with some personal aspects used to illustrate some of her points. That's fine, but since this one was specifically billed as a memoir, I was expecting a lot more of the personal. She did paint a good picture of the Bay Area in the 1980s and the personal aspects I did get were very interesting, but overall I was a wee bit disappointed. 3.5, rounded up because I st ...more
Rakhi Dalal
Jan 23, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, essay, memoir
As I was reading this book, there was a heated debate on social media in India on the PIL challenging the existing law on marital rape in the Indian Penal Code.

I saw men coming out claiming their rights, while speaking against the suggested amendment because as of now our system doesn't hold marital rape under the purview of punishable crime except if the girl is a minor.

Wow, I thought. Do these men have any idea what it is like to live as a woman in a male centric world where all we do all th
Kasa Cotugno
In a series of beautifully written essays, Rebecca Solnit shares her life and what inspired her in her quest for individuality and respect as a person who writes and thinks, to not be fetishized. She presents a well rounded description of what it has meant living in San Francisco, a city that itself has been fetishized and has changed before her eyes, neighborhoods transforming from zones of danger to whitewashed havens of coffee shops but where it is less perilous for women in particular to wal ...more
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: advance-copy
This memoir was my first foray into Solnit's long-form writing after having become a fan of her feminist essays, through which she gained popularity. If you liked those, this more personal piece will likely resonate with you too—her essays have a very distinct voice that blends the political and the anecdotal (the political is personal, after all) while remaining inclusive, and this memoir is written in the same vein. I love the title, and it's really the aptest one she could've gone with, since ...more
May 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, 2020
Holy shit. Rebecca Solnit’s writing is absolutely gorgeous. Her memoir focuses on feminism, how her identity as a woman has impacted her life as a writer, and larger movements outside of her own experience. She writes about street harassment, violence against women, and how keeping women silent and discrediting their voices leads to real harm.

I can’t adequately express how amazing this book was. So many passages and lines gave me chills. Especially during the sections focused on violence agains
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was attacked when I was 18 and walking to work by a gang of teenagers I frowned at (they were throwing rocks at parked cars from a bridge). Though I got punched a few times, I was quickly rescued by a couple of passersby who yelled at the kids so that I could slink away, ashamed and terrified. From that moment on, I was frightened--for years--about walking alone. I was so angry at those macho shitheads, and could never tell whether or not the next stranger was a threat.

But I am male, and white
Jan Priddy
May 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Yes, that is Rebecca Solnit on the cover, trying to both reveal herself and merge into the wall. She is very young in the photo, still a teenager and she will travel a long way to get to where she is today.

Solnit's memoir begins with the black manager of a building in San Francisco helping her rent her first apartment at seventeen, how she came to know members of the local community, where she walked and why. She lived there for twenty-five years and watched the neighborhood change, watched AID
Jun 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read a few of Rebecca Solnit's collections, I'm used to her meandering mind or circular style of narrative, so while this might have a #memoir tag that indicates a book recounts a slice of the author's life, Solnit's essays are less 'slice of life' and more 'thought bubbles' as she starts out recalling her early adult life, eight years in a neighbourhood of San Franscisco, the people she came into contact with, the situations she avoided as a woman and then pauses now from years afar and ...more
Aug 06, 2020 rated it liked it
I've had Solnit's memoir collecting dust on my bookshelf for a couple of months now. We formed a bit of routine you see; I pick it up slant my head contemplate if that particular day will be the chosen day that I decide to finally get to immerse myself in the the life of the essayist and the self proclaimed feminist that is Rebecca Solnit..Then I'm like naah put the book back and go back to watching Good Girls on Netflix.
But finally the day came when I got my head out of my a$% ... (I finished
Rebecca Solnit's writing has greatly informed my role in, and identification with, feminism (especially as a cis-gendered, straight, white man) and the stories in this book contain some of the best lessons I've learned from her to-date.

For men who are doing the work of learning from women—working to understand their experience, working to question their own role in the challenges that women face, worldwide—this is a critically important book to read.
Aug 12, 2020 added it
I am not sure how to rate a book like this. It is important, it is intense, it is beautifully written. There is a strong focus on the violence that women are forced to endure on a daily basis. The book made me want to squeeze my eyes shut and cry. I had to put it aside.
I know I should write a detailed review with reasons and everything.

But . . .

Rebecca Solnit gives me hope for humanity.
May 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir-biography
I am grateful and awed by Solnit's powerful advocacy, by her courage and skill at putting words to experiences many of us have trouble facing and articulating. She also writes joyfully and memorably about people and art and her first home. And she writes her own enchanting account of what makes reading so wondrous even as she is pointing out the limitations of living only in books, "I swam through oceans and rivers of worlds and their incantatory power. In fairy tales naming something gives you ...more
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is, oddly enough, my first Rebecca Solnit book. It's an interesting read, but what surprises me the most is that she did a dissertation on my father Wallace Berman. I didn't know that. ...more
Alex Sarll
A memoir of sorts, but as always with Solnit, it conforms to a genre only in so far as she feels like that's useful. "I am not a proper memoir writer in that I cannot reconstruct a convincing version of any of our conversations", she says at one point, and what reference is made to anything before she left home is pretty oblique, though the implications are clear enough all the same – "I'm uninterested in the brutalities of childhood in part because that species has been so dwelt upon while some ...more
Abigail Bok
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recollections of My Nonexistence is one of Rebecca Solnit’s more personal books, but that doesn’t mean she has sacrificed one whit of her sharp observation and critical detachment. It opens with her youthful move to a small apartment in a lower-middle-class neighborhood of San Francisco, escaping a childhood home that was dominated by a violent father. Her mother and brothers she largely left behind as well, though her younger brother crops up periodically in the memoir as a loved figure.

In the
Morgan Schulman
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reader-s-copy
I received an advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest review

Because I am humanly self-centered, this book made me think about my youth in Aughties Brooklyn and how I thought I knew everything but really didn't know everything. What i really did not know was how much of my life was trying to survive my experience as a young woman, and that this state of being was temporary, and how quickly this time would end, and I would become another thing, a no-longer young woman, a mother, a career
Chantale Onesi-Gonzalez
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
The focus that it takes to write a compelling memoir is fascinating and Rebecca Solnit has not disappointed with her, "Recollections of My Nonexistence". Beginning with snippets from her childhood in the Bay Area and returning to that time throughout the work, Solnit paints a picture of San Francisco through the eyes of a female author, struggling for recognition during the slow gentrification of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.

A large part of the work deals with the fear that women face simply walking
I found Solnit’s memoir incredibly sad and also statistically exceptional. Let me explain. Solnit describes the threatening environment and poverty she faced as a young adult trying to find her independence. The fact that Solnit became so successful and was able to pull herself from her miserable surroundings and make a life with enough economic substance from her writing is a testament to her hard work and genius, but also statistically rare.

Solnit documents the commonality of violent acts towa
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
“To be a young woman is to face your own annihilation in innumerable ways or to flee it or the knowledge of it, or all these things at once.”
Rebecca Solnit is one of the most brilliant authors of feminist literature and women’s nonfiction in general. I absolutely love her penmanship, her eloquence, the way she uses the language so elegantly and uniquely to express herself on such ideas as freedom of movement for women, violence, misogyny and gender equality. This is my second book of the author
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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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