Whose Story Is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters

Rebecca Solnit

Book cover

I love Solnit and will pretty much read anything she publishes, but when reading her collections I have the strong feeling that going cover-to-cover is the wrong approach. I usually see her LitHub essays when they come out (including some in this collection), and feel that that is a much preferable format to read her in–better to space them out over time and give yourself time to digest, because she packs many ideas into an essay and I think they reward rumination. However, I like her writing so much that I cannot stop myself from reading cover to cover when a new collection such as this one comes out. As a result, I think the essays are ultimately less clearly distinguished in my mind when I think back on them.

Probably my favorite essay here is “Nobody Knows,” which you can also read at Harper’s where it was originally published: https://harpers.org/archive/2018/03/n.... It’s a great mix of two main concepts–one describing the way that power permits itself ignorance (an idea I associate mostly with David Graeber), and the other describing the importance of the distinction between “a nobody” knowing an unbecoming fact and “a somebody” knowing the same fact–tied together with Solnit’s own personal experience moving back and forth between being perceived as “a nobody” and “a somebody.”

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars