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Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities unknown Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1560258285
ISBN-10: 1560258284
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

An inspired observer and passionate historian, Solnit, whose River of Shadows (2003) won a National Book Critics Circle Award, 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 [BKL S 1 03], and helps readers understand more clearly where we stand as individuals, as Americans, and as citizens of the world. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; unknown edition (December 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560258284
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560258285
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is the perfect book for anyone working for social change who ever doubts whether their work is making a difference. Solnit's reflections provide a beautiful history of the unexpected victories that we win as we walk the road to a more just and sustainable world.
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Rebecca Solnit brilliantly recasts the history of the last fifteen years as one of important progress and breakthroughs for the left (or those wishing for some sort of better world--at one point she dismisses the term 'left') by highlighting liberatory moments--the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Zapatista revolt, Seattle, the World Says No to War, even the period of reflection immediately after 9-11. She also does excellent work thinking through the impact of social movements, which, as she says, is often sideways and culturally transformative rather than the direct achievement of a goal. I love her idea that nonviolent civil disobedience is the great invention of the twentieth century, even as the atom bomb is the worst. In later chapters, she falls back on fashionable positions of US activists-the local over the global, concrete alternatives in the present rather than grand schemes for the future, etc.--rather than transcending these dichotomies, which is the spirit much of the book moves in. But I found the history portion revelatory enough that I still give it five stars.
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This book came to my attention via a Sonoma State colleague who uses it for her ecopsychology class. It is not intended to lay out a particular activist approach or set of practices, but to recommend an attitude change from despair or nausea to hope. Elegantly written, it questions the extremes of optimistic denial and existential nausea by offering a collection of behind-the-scenes stories about how people who refused to give up brought a better future into being one brave action at a time. Great book for teachers wanting to encourage activism or social awareness in a time of unprecedented political and environmental crisis.
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Format: Paperback
John Berger's latest indignation,'Hold Everything Dear' alerted me to Solnit's volume. The books compliment eachother. Given the magnitude of negative world news promulgated by popular media, Solnit's short polemical tract about the inroads made to erode culpable global capitalism is , itself a grain of sand. Indeed, introduced to Solnit via,'River of Shadows' her excellent recap of pioneer photographer, Edweard Muyerbridge, I was less surprised to discover that she embodied environmental concerns than that she was a prominent activist in West Coast political undertakings. Smatterings of her achievements count amongst the movements she puts on record. I suspect the book is unlikely to capture the neo-libs, fundamentalists and subscribers to well-mannered mindlessness whose passivity she rails against. Her rally call is for renewed hope over despair, action to outflank the American Paradise, that suburban 'gulag' ennui that has been lulled by cable TV, two car garages and cul de-sacs of despair. A book for the converted.
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I bought this book for a discussion group at my church. It really has a lot of good ideas in it and maybe gives me a little hope for the future.
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Format: Paperback
Solnit reflects on a life of great hopes for the world, in an age of tragedies for humanity. She contemplates the experience of hope as it ranges from self-deception to simple honesty. Her stories expose small openings to unexpected possibilities, like making friends in a Eureka, Nevada bar with supporters of WRANGLERS (Western Ranchers Against No Good Leftist Environmentalist Radical S---heads), who share her hope for restoring the land. Her hope in final answers, correct ideologies or great leaders fades, but other possibilites arise moment by moment. She grows whimsically alert, noticing oddball blessings:

"It turns out, for example, the Viagra is good for endangered species. Animal parts that traditional Chinese medicine prescribed as aphrodisiacs and for treating impotence -- including green turtles, seahorses, geckos, hooded and harp seals, and the velvet from the half-grown antlers of caribou -- are, thanks to the new drug, no longer in such demand. What more comic form of the mysterious unfolding of the world is there than this, which suggests that Viagra's ultimate purpose may be the survival of animals at the edges of the planet?" (p.77-78)

Occasionally her activist life, her community, and all of world history come together in panoramas of bard-like awareness:

"Take a third Pacific species, though -- the brown pelican, which also nearly disappeared then came back -- and imagine one pelican's trajectory from Ocean Beach, the western edge of my city and my own continent.
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This is a book about activism by someone who has both done it and thought about it. Nothing could be more timely. Solnit challenges apathy but also challenges thoughtlessness. Passion is simply not enough. Strategies attendant upon real trends and trajectories of power are needed. Perhaps less now strategies of reacting than strategies of pro-acting. Any young citizen wondering how to be effective will find Hope invaluable toward thinking this through.. It is not a prescription but a particular contribution to an important conversation.
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