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The Mother of All Questions Paperback – March 7, 2017
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"These short, incisive essays that pack a powerful punch."
"A keen and timely commentary on gender and feminism. Solnit’s voice is calm, clear, and unapologetic; each essay balances a warm wit with confident, thoughtful analysis, resulting in a collection that is as enjoyable and accessible as it is incisive."
"A thought-provoking and important anthology."
"Trenchant and hopeful, the book reveals that the ongoing work of righting the wrongs of patriarchy is only part of a much larger project of social justice for all people. As always, Solnit is eloquent and sharply insightful."
About the Author
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 Disaster; A Field Guide to Getting Lost; Wanderlust: 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.
Top customer reviews
Now, I do not want to call this a flawless book. Remember, it is a collection of essays, and while they generally build upon each other, you might get to the end of the book and think, "What kind of ending was that?" I found the first half of the book especially exceptional, with the second half being still great, but not *as* great, especially with final chapter. But Solnit, as always, is a magician with her writing, and will take you on a meandering, but laser-focused, journey through modern-day feminism.
In this review, I mostly want to talk to men who are challenged by and resistant to her arguments. One of Solnit's main themes is the role that violence or the threat of violence plays in maintaining patriarchy. I would like to recount for you two quick stories:
Many years ago, I read a review of Susan Brownmiller's Men Women and Rape which stated that Brownmiller's thesis could be summarized as saying that all men want to rape all women. I found that summation absurd but it also made me wonder. So I performed a social experiment. For the next five years or so, I asked women (who I knew well enough) if they had ever been the victim of some sort of sexual assault. Out of the 20+ women who I had this conversation with, all of them said yes. The assaults ranged from men masturbating in front of them in some sort of public space to overly aggressive dates to actual rape one of which occurred at knife point. Some of these assaults were able to be laughed off and some changed the lives of the woman involved. All involved the possibility or actuality of violence.
My second story come from a recent bout of jury duty in Portland, OR. I was pooled along with 47 other people for a case involving resisting arrest. One of the questions that we all were asked was had we ever been the victim of a crime and, if so, what? Of the 24 or so women in our pool, 10 stated that they had been the victim of a sexual assault. None of the men had been the victim of a violent crime.
My suggestion is to read Solnit as though you are thirsty and her book is a glass of water. Then go out and talk to some of the women you know about what you read and ask them what they think. And then listen to them. And then read Susan Brison's Aftermath and then listen some more.
Maybe the best way for men and women to really have a real conversation about feminism, patriarchy and violence is for us men to be quiet for a while. Just saying.