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Rebecca Solnit with filmmaker Christian Bruno in 2010
June 24, 1961
Early life and education
Solnit grew up in Novato, California. She skipped high school altogether, enrolling in an alternative junior high in the public school system that took her through tenth grade, when she passed the GED. Thereafter she enrolled in junior college. When she was 17 she went to study in Paris, France. She ultimately returned to California and finished her college education at San Francisco State University when she was 20 years old. She then received a master's degree in Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984 and has been an independent writer since 1988. She credits her education in journalism and art criticism with strengthening her critical thinking skills and training her to quickly develop expertise in the great variety of subjects her books have covered.
Solnit has worked on environmental and human rights campaigns since the 1980s, notably with the Western Shoshone Defense Project in the early 1990s, as described in her book Savage Dreams, and with antiwar activists throughout the Bush era. She has discussed her commitment to 350.org and advocating for the rights of women worldwide, causes in which she has expressed optimism.
Solnit is the author of thirteen books as well as essays in numerous museum catalogs and anthologies. Her 2009 book A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster began as an essay called "The Uses of Disaster: Notes on Bad Weather and Good Government" published by Harper’s magazine the day that Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast. It was partially inspired by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which Solnit described as "a remarkable occasion...a moment when everyday life ground to a halt and people looked around and hunkered down". In a conversation with filmmaker Astra Taylor for BOMB magazine, Solnit summarized the radical theme of A Paradise Built in Hell: "What happens in disasters demonstrates everything an anarchist ever wanted to believe about the triumph of civil society and the failure of institutional authority."
Awards and recognition
Solnit has received many awards for her writing: two NEA fellowships for Literature, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan literary fellowship, and a 2004 Wired Rave Award for writing on the effects of technology on the arts and humanities. In 2010 Utne Reader magazine named Solnit as one of the "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World". Her The Faraway Nearby (2013) was nominated for a National Book Award, and shortlisted for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award.
- Secret Exhibition: Six California Artists of the Cold War Era (City Lights Books, 1990)
- Savage Dreams: A Journey Into the Landscape Wars of the American West (Sierra Club Books, 1994)
- A Book of Migrations: Some Passages in Ireland (Verso, 1997)
- Wanderlust: A History of Walking (Viking, 2000)
- Hollow City: The Siege of San Francisco and the Crisis of American Urbanism (Verso, 2000), co-authored and photographed by Susan Schwartzenberg
- As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art (University of Georgia Press, 2001)
- River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (Viking, 2003), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism and of the Mark Lynton History Prize.
- Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (Nation Books, 2004)
- A Field Guide to Getting Lost (Penguin, 2005)
- With Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, Yosemite in Time: Ice Ages, Tree Clocks, Ghost Rivers (Trinity University Press, 2005)
- After the Ruins, 1906 and 2006: Rephotographing the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire (University of California Press, 2006) co-authored by Philip L. Fradkin, Mark Klett, and Michael Lundgren
- Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics (University of California Press, 2007)
- "News from Nowhere: Iceland's Polite Dystopia". Harper's Magazine. October 2008.
- A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster (Viking, 2009)
- The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle (AK Press, 2009) co-authored by David Solnit
- A California Bestiary (Heyday Books, 2010), with illustrations by Mona Caron
- Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas (University of California Press, 2010)
- The Faraway Nearby (Viking Adult, 2013)
- Men Explain Things To Me (Haymarket Books, 2014)
- The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness (Trinity University Press, 2014)
- Peter Terzian (July–August 2007). "Room to Roam". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2007-08-17.
- "Rebecca Solnit". BOMB Magazine. Fall 2009. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
- "Rebecca Solnit, Authors, TomDispatch". TomDispatch. 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-28.
- "The Wired Rave Award". Wired Magazine. April 2004. Retrieved 2009-10-08.
- "Rebecca Solnit: The Silver Cloud". Retrieved 2010-10-19.
- Critical Mass(January 13, 2014) "Announcing the 2014 Publishing Year Natinonal Book Awards." (Retrieved 4-13-14.)
- Kirsten Reach (January 14, 2014). "NBCC finalists announced". Melville House Publishing. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
- "Announcing the National Book Critics Awards Finalists for Publishing Year 2013". National Book Critics Circle. January 14, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
- Penguin Group
- Move Over, Joan Didion; Make room for Rebecca Solnit, California's newest cultural historian, by Heidi Benson
- Rebecca Solnit official website
- Works by or about Rebecca Solnit in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Rebecca Solnit author page at Penguin Books
- Rebecca Solnit at The Nation magazine
- Rebecca Solnit author page at TomDispatch.com
- Rebecca Solnit in the London Review of Books
- Rebecca Solnit in Harper's Magazine
- New York Public Library conversation with Peter Coyote
- 2009 BOMB Magazine interview of Rebecca Solnit by Astra Taylor
- Interview With Rebecca Solnit by Padma Viswanathan in The Rumpus, August 7, 2009