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Rebecca Solnit

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Rebecca Solnit
Solnit in 2018
Solnit in 2018
Born1961 (age 62–63)
Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.
OccupationAuthor, memoirist, essayist
EducationSan Francisco State University (BA)
University of California, Berkeley (MA)
Years active1988–present
Notable works

Rebecca Solnit (born 1961) is an American writer. She has written on a variety of subjects, including feminism, the environment, politics, place, and art.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Solnit was born in 1961[2] in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to a Jewish father and Irish Catholic mother.[3] In 1966, her family moved to Novato, California, where she grew up. "I was a battered little kid. I grew up in a really violent house where everything feminine and female and my gender was hated," she has said of her childhood.[4] 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 General Educational Development tests. Thereafter she enrolled in junior college. When she was 17, she went to study in Paris. She returned to California to finish her college education at San Francisco State University.[5] She then received a master's degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984[6] and has been an independent writer since 1988.[7]



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.[8] She has discussed her interest in climate change and the work of 350.org and the Sierra Club, and in women's rights, especially violence against women.[9]


Her writing has appeared in numerous publications in print and online, including The Guardian newspaper and Harper's Magazine, where she is the first woman to regularly write the Easy Chair column founded in 1851. She was also a regular contributor to the political blog TomDispatch and is (as of 2018) a regular contributor to LitHub.[10][11]

Solnit is the author of seventeen 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."[8]

In 2014, Haymarket Books published Men Explain Things to Me, a collection of short essays on feminism, including one on the phenomenon of "mansplaining." Men Explain Things to Me has been translated into many languages, including Spanish, French, German, Polish, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Italian, Slovak, Dutch, and Turkish.[12] Solnit has been credited with paving the way for the coining of the word "mansplaining,"[13][14] which has been used to refer to instances in which men "explain" things generally to women in a condescending or patronizing way, but Solnit did not use the term in her original essay.[15] Solnit's book included illustrations from visual and performance artist Ana Teresa Fernández.[16] In 2019, Solnit rewrote a new version of Cinderella, also for Haymarket Books, called Cinderella Liberator.[17] In this feminist revision, Solnit reclaims Ella from the cinders and gives both the prince ("Prince Nevermind" in her version) and Ella new futures that involve thinking for themselves, acting out free will, starting businesses, and becoming friends, rather than dependent lovers. As Syreeta McFadden argued for NBC News, Cinderella has long been retold, changing with the times.[18] Solnit's book uses Arthur Rackham’s original silhouetted drawings of Cinderella.[19]


Solnit has received two NEA fellowships for Literature, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Creative Capital Award, a Lannan literary fellowship, and a 2004 Wired Rave Award for writing on the effects of technology on the arts and humanities.[20] In 2010, Utne Reader magazine named Solnit as one of the "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World".[21] Her The Faraway Nearby (2013) was nominated for a National Book Award,[22] and shortlisted for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award.[23][24]

New York Times book critic Dwight Garner called Solnit "the kind of rugged, off-road public intellectual America doesn't produce often enough. ... Solnit's writing, at its worst, can be dithering and self-serious, Joan Didion without the concision and laser-guided wit. At her best, however [...] she has a rare gift: the ability to turn the act of cognition, of arriving at a coherent point of view, into compelling moral drama."[25]

For River of Shadows, Solnit was honored with the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism[26] and the 2004 Sally Hacker Prize from the Society for the History of Technology, which honors exceptional scholarship that reaches beyond the academy toward a broad audience.[27] Solnit was also awarded Harvard's Mark Lynton History Prize in 2004 for River of Shadows.[28] Solnit was awarded the 2015–16 Corlis Benefideo Award for Imaginative Cartography by the North American Cartographic Information Society [29] Solnit's book, Call Them By Their True Names: American Crises, won the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction.[30] She won the 2019 Windham–Campbell Literature Prize in Non-Fiction.[31]

Solnit credits Eduardo Galeano, Pablo Neruda, Ariel Dorfman, Elena Poniatowska, Gabriel García Márquez, Virginia Woolf,[32] and Henry David Thoreau[33] as writers who have influenced her work.[8]



Essays and reporting[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peter Terzian (July–August 2007). "Room to Roam". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved August 17, 2007.
  2. ^ Wiener, Jon (March 10, 2017). "Rebecca Solnit: How Women Are Changing the World". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  3. ^ Susanna Rustin (May 29, 2013). "Rebecca Solnit: a life in writing". The Guardian.
  4. ^ Caitlin D. (September 4, 2014). "Why Can't I Be You: Rebecca Solnit". Rookie.
  5. ^ Benson, Heidi (June 13, 2004). "Move Over, Joan Didion / Make room for Rebecca Solnit, California's newest cultural historian". SFGate.com. San Francisco.
  6. ^ "Meet Our Alumni: College of Letters & Science - Authors". berkeley.edu. Regents of the University of California. 2010. Archived from the original on June 10, 2010.
  7. ^ "Rebecca Solnit". tupress.org. Trinity University Press. 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Taylor, Astra (Fall 2009). "Rebecca Solnit". BOMB Magazine. Archived from the original on September 2, 2009. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  9. ^ Interviewers: Leslie Chang and Mike Osborne (August 9, 2013). "San Francisco, the island within an island". Generation Anthropocene. Season 5. 25:58 minutes in.
  10. ^ "TomDispatch author page". TomDispatch. 23 December 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  11. ^ "LitHub author page". LitHub. Electric Literature. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  12. ^ Selected Foreign Editions of Men Explain Things to Me
  13. ^ Valenti, Jessica (June 6, 2014). "Mansplaining, explained: 'Just ask an expert. Who is not a lady'". The Guardian. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  14. ^ Lewis, Helen (June 4, 2014). "The Essay That Launched the Term "Mansplaining"". The New Republic. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  15. ^ Staff, MPR News (December 19, 2016). "Do we need a different word for 'mansplaining'?". Retrieved November 28, 2017.
  16. ^ Solnit, Rebecca (2019-04-15). "Men Explain Things To Me". haymarketbooks.org. Retrieved 2024-02-20.
  17. ^ Solnit, Rebecca (2019-05-07). Cinderella Liberator. Illustrations by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939). Chicago, IL. ISBN 978-1-60846-596-5. OCLC 1057649455.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  18. ^ "Opinion | Rebecca Solnit's updated Cinderella tale is an overdue reimagining". NBC News. 7 May 2019. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  19. ^ Kantor, Emma (April 3, 2019). "Q & A with Rebecca Solnit". www.publishersweekly.com. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
  20. ^ "The Wired Rave Award". Wired. April 2004. Retrieved October 8, 2009.
  21. ^ "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World". Retrieved December 14, 2021.
  22. ^ Critical Mass(January 13, 2014) "Announcing the 2014 Publishing Year Natinonal Book Awards." (Retrieved April 13, 2014.)
  23. ^ Kirsten Reach (January 14, 2014). "NBCC finalists announced". Melville House Publishing. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  24. ^ "Announcing the National Book Critics Awards Finalists for Publishing Year 2013". National Book Critics Circle. January 14, 2014. Archived from the original on January 15, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  25. ^ Garner, Dwight (August 20, 2009). "Delighted by the Joy of Bad Things". The New York Times. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
  26. ^ National Book Critics Circle (2014). "All Past National Book Critics Circle Award Winners and Finalists". Archived from the original on December 19, 2008. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  27. ^ Society for the History of Technology (2014). "The Hacker Prize, Recipients of the Sally Hacker Prize". Archived from the original on January 2, 2017. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  28. ^ Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard (2014). "J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project". Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  29. ^ "Rebecca Solnit, 2015–16". 2016. Retrieved October 17, 2016.
  30. ^ "2018 Finalists". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  31. ^ "Rebecca Solnit". Windham–Campbell Literature Prizes. March 12, 2019. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  32. ^ "Interview with Rebecca Solnit • Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments". Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments. March 22, 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  33. ^ Gregory, Alice (August 8, 2017). "How Rebecca Solnit Became the Voice of the Resistance". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 14, 2019.

External links[edit]