The mother of all questions / Rebecca Solnit ; images by Paz de le Calzada.
Booklist Reviews 2017 February #1
In 2010, the term mansplaining was one of the New York Times' words of the year; it was coined during the conversation surrounding an essay Solnit wrote in 2008 about gendered communication styles, which eventually became the title essay in Men Explain Things to Me (2014). Solnit's newest book of essays serves as a companion and follow-up to that collection, moving beyond the mansplain into a keen and timely commentary on gender and feminism. Though the topics vary wildly—Solnit touches on everything from the language of public-health guidelines to the unexpected feminism of an early Elizabeth Taylor film—each essay echoes the ways it can feel impossible simply to be a woman or, indeed, the ways traditional views of gender fail us all. Solnit writes, "There is no good answer to how to be a woman; the art may instead lie in how we refuse the question." 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. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2017 February #1
Solnit (Men Explain Things to Me) has compiled a new collection of essays exploring the current U.S. feminist movement. An overarching theme of this intersectional essay collection is silence, specifically its role in suppressing women's stories and experiences. Solnit argues that silence has taken opportunities away from women and has enabled rape and domestic violence. She discusses prominent legal cases, such as those relating to Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby, and the Isla Vista shootings. Additionally, silence (and its counterpart shame) lessens women's freedom and value by taking away their ability to tell their stories. A large portion of this book is devoted to men, specifically how their experiences inform and hinder feminism. The author demonstrates how repression of one's emotions in exchange for power have crippled men. Additional essays address misogyny and rape jokes in comedy as well as varied gender roles in literature, and the role of language in discussions of sexual assault and domestic violence.
PW Reviews 2017 January #1
The latest collection of essays from author and activist Solnit continues in the same vein as 2014's popular Men Explain Things to Me with short, incisive essays that pack a powerful punch. This collection examines age-old philosophical questions: What does it mean to live a happy life? What is the role of art and entertainment in our day-to-day lives? How does language create myths about happiness and art?—from a contemporary, feminist perspective. As Solnit chronicles recent events, including comedian Amy Schumer's parodies of rape culture, Esquire magazine's list of 80 books every man should read, Gamergate, and the Isla Vista massacre, the book's themes gain greater significance. Solnit argues that books, movies, and other forms of entertainment reinforce self-centered concepts of heroism and happiness that promote entitlement and decrease empathy. Solnit points out that women are frequent targets of this entitlement and decreased empathy, but she also credits men such as government whistle-blower Edward Snowden, stand-up comedian Hannibal Buress, and activist Richard Martinez, whose son was killed in a mass shooting, for standing up for their principles and carving out a less violent or self-centered definition of manhood. Chock-full of references to the work of women at the forefront of contemporary feminist thought, Solnit's essays will stir minds and spark further investigation. (Mar.)Copyright 2016 Publisher Weekly.