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Hope in the Dark
Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities
Bestselling author Rebecca Solnit reminds us that activism has changed the world in remarkable ways.

"No writer has better understood the mix of fear and possibility, peril and exuberance that's marked this new millennium."
—Bill McKibben

"An elegant reminder that activist victories are easily forgotten, and that they often come in extremely unexpected, roundabout ways."
—The New Yorker

A book as powerful and influential as Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me, her Hope in the Dark was written to counter the despair of radicals at a moment when they were focused on their losses and had turned their back to the victories behind them—and the unimaginable changes soon to come. In it, she makes a radical case for hope as a commitment to act in a world whose future remains uncertain and unknowable. Drawing on her decades of activism and a wide reading of environmental, cultural, and political history, Solnit argued that radicals have a long, neglected history of transformative victories, that the positive consequences of our acts are not always immediately seen, directly knowable, or even measurable, and that pessimism and despair rest on an unwarranted confidence about what is going to happen next. Now, with a moving new introduction explaining how the book came about and a new afterword that helps teach us how to hope and act in our unnerving world, she brings a new illumination to the darkness of 2016 in an unforgettable new edition of this classic book.

Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of eighteen or so books on feminism, western and indigenous history, popular power, social change and insurrection, wandering and walking, hope and disaster, including the books Men Explain Things to Me and Hope in the Dark, both also with Haymarket; a trilogy of atlases of American cities; The Faraway Nearby; A 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). A product of the California public education system from kindergarten to graduate school, she is a columnist at Harper's and a regular contributor to the Guardian.

Reviews
  • "An elegant reminder that activist victories are easily forgotten, and that they often come in extremely unexpected, roundabout ways."
    —The New Yorker

    "No writer has better understood the mix of fear and possibility, peril and exuberance that's marked this new millennium. Rebecca Solnit writes as independently as Orwell; she's a great muralist, a Diego Rivera of words. Literary and progressive America is in a Solnit moment, which given her endless talent should last a very long time."
    —Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and author of Deep Economy

    “Hope In the Dark changed my life. During a period of pervasive cynicism and political despair, the first edition of this book provided me with a model for activist engagement that I have held dear ever since. Today, as movements for climate, racial, and economic justice sweep the globe, its message is more relevant than ever. In her inimitable and inspiring way, Solnit reminds us that social change follows an unpredictable path. Despite all the obstacles, we must not lose sight of the fact that profound transformation is possible. This book’s compact size belies its true power. It provides succor and sustenance, fuel and fire, for those fighting for a more just world.”
    —Astra Taylor, author, The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age

    “Rebecca Solnit is a national literary treasure: a passionate, close-to-the-ground reporter with the soul and voice of a philosopher-poet. And, unlike so many who write about the great injustices of this world, she is an optimist, whose faith is deeply grounded in a knowledge of history. This is a book to give you not just hope but zest for the battles ahead.”
    —Adam Hochschild, author, King Leopold’s Ghost

    “Time and again she comes running towards you with a bunch of hopes she has found and picked in the undergrowth of the times we are living. And you remember that hope is not a guarantee for tomorrow, but a detonator of energy for action today.”
    —John Berger, author, Ways of Seeing

    "A slim, potent book penned in the wake of the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq; a book that has grown only more relevant and poignant in the decade since."
    —Maria Popova, Brain Pickings


    Praise for earlier editions:

    “Seemingly lost in the woods of deceit and banality, bereft of hope, we are confronted by Rebecca Solnit and her astonishing flashlight. In a jewel of a book that is poetic in substance as well as style, she reveals where we were, where we are and the step-by-step advances that have been made in human rights, as we stubbornly stumble out of the darkness.”
    —Studs Terkel

    “In this inspired meditation on the very nature of action and the reasons one thing leads to another, Rebecca Solnit, with her customary intellectual penetration, freshness of expression, and high elegance, finds new springs of hope in dark times.”
    —Jonathan Schell

    “In this extraordinary book, Rebecca Solnit’s prose grows poetic wings that enable her to soar to a visionary height. The good news that she brings back is that our struggles—with persistence and courage—are indeed the seeds of kindness.”
    —Mike Davis

    “Move over Joan Didion...Solnit is who Susan Sontag might have become if Sontag had never forsaken California for Manhattan.”
    —San Francisco Chronicle

    “Can you imagine a cross between Joan Rivers and Simone de Beauvoir? I didn’t think so, but no likelier hybrid comes to mind.... Solnit is the real activist deal: the type who gets arrested at nuclear test sites and mans the barricades at the World Trade Organization demonstrations in Seattle. She’s also the real freelance intellectual deal: the much rarer type who earns her living generating reams of thoughtful, wide-ranging nonfiction.”
    —Newsday

    "This is the ultimate 'feel-good' book for exhausted campaigners and activists . . . an intensely personal account, a meditation on activism and hope."
    —The Guardian

    “An inspired observer and passionate historian, [Solnit] is one of the most creative, penetrating, and eloquent cultural critics writing today. In her most personal critique to date, she reflects on the crucial, often underrated accomplishments of grassroots activists. Solnit contemplates such well-studied revolutions as the American civil rights movement and the fall of the Berlin Wall, but more significantly she reflects on such recent events as successful protests against nuclear testing in Nevada, the Zapatista uprising, the anti-corporate globalization movement, the “unprecedented global wave of protest” against the war in Iraq, and such hopeful ecological successes as the return of wolves to Yellowstone and the restoration of the Los Angeles River. Solnit’s rousing celebration of people who work tirelessly behind the scenes and courageously on the streets for justice and environmental health harmonizes beautifully with Studs Terkel’s Hope Dies Last, and helps readers understand more clearly where we stand as individuals, as Americans, and as citizens of the world.”
    —Donna Seaman, Booklist

    “This slim volume, to quote the author’s own reflections on the quincentennial of Columbus’s discovery of America, is “a zigzag trail of encounters, reactions, and realizations.” Solnit, recent winner of an NBCC award for criticism for River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, rambles from place to place and topic to topic in a discursive examination of the current state of leftist protest and activism. Unwilling to accept the bleak, almost apocalyptic worldview of many of her progressive counterparts, Solnit celebrates the hope and optimism that recent episodes reveal. She points to the resurrection of indigenous causes represented by Zapatismo, the WTO protests in Seattle and Cancun and the worldwide protests against the U.S.-led war in Iraq, and other smaller, more marginal protests. Solnit argues persuasively that engaged, thoughtful dissent is far healthier today than many believe. Activists, who operate by nature on the fringes of hierarchies of economy and power, often fail to recognize the power of activity that seems inconsequential. Her goal, in essence, is “to throw out the crippling assumptions with which many activists proceed.” While Solnit’s goal is admirable and her prose graceful, this book suffers from the same confusion and disorganization she recognizes as necessarily inherent to activism itself. Her examples are diverse yet disjointed; she is overly reliant on the words of others; and she often wanders into spiritual mumbo-jumbo and platitudes. While these tendencies hamper the clarity of her argument, fans of Solnit and progressives may find much to admire here.”
    —Publishers Weekly

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  • Men Explain Things To Me

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  • Men Explain Things To Me Updated Edition

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