“Hope in the Dark” by Rebecca Solnit

book cover

Subtitle: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities

Recommended to me by: reading Rebecca Solnit’s essay “Men Explain Things to Me”, and also Haymarket Books was giving away free copies of the ebook on the occasion of the November 2016 election results

I rarely read ebooks. I prefer to hold the book in my hands and have a physical context for what I’m reading and how much is left. Ebooks feel disorientingly abstract. I put this one on my phone and have been reading it in little bits when I wait for an appointment or ride a bus. The book is a series of short chapters and essays, linked together.

Oddly (for a professional publisher) Haymarket Books used an irritating variable font so that letter size and style varies within words, and they also tagged the book repeatedly with my name and email address. I guess they wanted to make really sure I didn’t share the book with anyone, but what they did is distract me while I was reading and repeatedly remind me not to buy any ebooks from Haymarket Books.

Format issues aside, “Hope in the Dark” is an affirming, well-researched, engagingly written anodyne for the current political situation. It was written on the occasion of Bush’s contested election in 2004, and the problems and dynamics then sound remarkably like the current disasters (except Bush wasn’t, as far as we know, in league with a foreign government).

Solnit talks about how powerful entities in the limelight look immovable, but ideas and movements at the edges, on the margins, in the shadows engender change. We forget our victories because they look like they’ve always been that way, and also because those in power want us to forget and despair. Victories build slowly, happen partially, arise suddenly from years of background work.

Activist movements that practice what they want to see in the world (consensus, equity, respect for all) are already winning even if the current battle is lost. Living the way we want to live *is* activism. Distributed movements that share strategies globally but meet and act locally are finding more and more success.

I found support here for living the way I want to live. I also found urging to reach out, connect with local groups, act! The last essay is about climate change and its urgency. Hope is the determination to keep working toward the world we want to live in, non-violently, non-idealogically, peacefully, cooperatively, joyously.

Highly recommended for anyone distressed by current politics.

Available at Powell’s Books.

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