Recollections of My Nonexistence
An electric portrait of the artist as a young woman that asks how a writer finds her voice in a society that prefers women to be silentIn Recollections of My Nonexistence, Rebecca Solnit describes her formation as a writer and as a feminist in 1980s San Francisco, in an atmosphere of gender violence on the street and throughout society and the exclusion of women from cultural arenas. She tells of being poor, hopeful, and adrift in the city that became her great teacher; of the small apartment that, when she was nineteen, became the home in which she transformed herself; of how punk rock gave form and voice to her own fury and explosive energy.Solnit recounts how she came to recognize the epidemic of violence against women around her, the street harassment that unsettled her, the trauma that changed her, and the authority figures who routinely disdained and disbelieved girls and women, including her. Looking back, she sees all these as consequences of the voicelessness that was and still is the ordinary condition of women, and how she contended with that while becoming a writer and a public voice for women’s rights.She explores the forces that liberated her as a person and as a writer—books themselves, the gay men around her who offered other visions of what gender, family, and joy could be, and her eventual arrival in the spacious landscapes and overlooked conflicts of the American West. These influences taught her how to write in the way she has ever since, and gave her a voice that has resonated with and empowered many others.

Recollections of My Nonexistence Details

TitleRecollections of My Nonexistence
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMar 10th, 2020
PublisherViking
ISBN-139780593083338
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Feminism, Biography

Recollections of My Nonexistence Review

  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    Contemplative and mesmerizing, Recollections of My Nonexistence thoughtfully charts the famous essayists coming of age as a thinker, activist, and writer. In lucid prose Solnit recounts how, in her late teens, she left her suburban Californian home lonely and silenced for the promise of a vibrant life as a woman artist in San Francisco, embarking upon a decades-long quest to write books, join intentional communities, and inspire political change. Across eight chapters, each moving at a Contemplative and mesmerizing, Recollections of My Nonexistence thoughtfully charts the famous essayist’s coming of age as a thinker, activist, and writer. In lucid prose Solnit recounts how, in her late teens, she left her suburban Californian home lonely and silenced for the promise of a vibrant life as a woman artist in San Francisco, embarking upon a decades-long quest to write books, join intentional communities, and inspire political change. Across eight chapters, each moving at a deliberate pace, Solnit drifts from recollection to recollection of what it felt like to grow into white womanhood navigating a culture of sexism and racism at a time when political and cultural change seemed a distant dream. Along the way she seamlessly embeds the social history of San Francisco and the American West into her account of her own life. The work’s easily one of Solnit’s best, and invites rereading.
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    Solnit is an author I have meant to read for quite a while. I have another book of hers somewhere around here, that I received in one of my book boxes. I, now regret waited so long as she is a fabulous writer, essayist.She writes about the apartment in San Fransisco that she lived in for a decade. A beautiful apartment in San Francisco in an all black neighborhood, a neighborhood that was full of life. As in all the essays in this book, she than turns way from herself and talks about all the Solnit is an author I have meant to read for quite a while. I have another book of hers somewhere around here, that I received in one of my book boxes. I, now regret waited so long as she is a fabulous writer, essayist.She writes about the apartment in San Fransisco that she lived in for a decade. A beautiful apartment in San Francisco in an all black neighborhood, a neighborhood that was full of life. As in all the essays in this book, she than turns way from herself and talks about all the people, cultures that have been misplaced. Either for money, or ventures that will make money or just because someone else wanted what someone else already had. Again, the haves and have nots.She talks about violence against women, men who think they have the right to a women's body. Expectations on how bodies should look to appeal to men, of to feel good about oneself. Socities expectations. Her own brushes with violence and again she turns away from her own story to tell of violence against other women. As well as historical bias against women victims of crime.Books and what they mean to her. Her writing life and so much more. Elegantly and gracefully written. Her words just flowed. Yes, I was impressed and once I can put my hands on that book that is somewhere on some pile, I fully intend to dive in.ARc from Edelweiss.
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  • Roman Clodia
    January 1, 1970
    One of the iconic stories in Ovid's Metamorphoses is the terrible tale of Philomela, raped by her brother-in-law and then silenced by him hacking out her tongue so that she can't accuse him or speak out about her ordeal. It's this classic intertwining of violence against women and the muting of female voices which drives Solnit's memoir. Don't come to this expecting anything like a conventional autobiography: Solnit retains a sense of privacy with regard to her personal life. Instead this is a One of the iconic stories in Ovid's Metamorphoses is the terrible tale of Philomela, raped by her brother-in-law and then silenced by him hacking out her tongue so that she can't accuse him or speak out about her ordeal. It's this classic intertwining of violence against women and the muting of female voices which drives Solnit's memoir. Don't come to this expecting anything like a conventional autobiography: Solnit retains a sense of privacy with regard to her personal life. Instead this is a kind of biography of her voice, how she moves from a young woman harassed on the streets of 1980s San Francisco and aware of violence against women all around her to the advocate, essayist and outspoken feminist writer she is today. Solnit may not be a supreme stylist but she is intelligent, honest, compassionate and empathetic: she has that ability to reach out via her words, to move from the individual to a voice for other women, but without appropriating others' experiences as her own. She can be funny, too, not least when recounting how she came to write her classic essay 'Men Explain Things To Me'. Sharp but accessible, thoughtful, committed - a must-read for Solnit groupies and those new to her writing.Many thanks to Granta for an ARC via NetGalley.
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  • Megan Bell
    January 1, 1970
    Readers like me who, over Rebecca Solnits thirty years of writing, have fallen in love with her seismic, world-shifting essays will not be disappointed in this memoir, her first longform writing in seven years. True to her form, this is a memoir not necessarily of the events of Solnits coming of age, but rather the greater influences in her development as a feminist, an activist, and a writer in 1980s San Francisco. In these pages, Solnit describes the formation of her own powerful voice while Readers like me who, over Rebecca Solnit’s thirty years of writing, have fallen in love with her seismic, world-shifting essays will not be disappointed in this memoir, her first longform writing in seven years. True to her form, this is a memoir not necessarily of the events of Solnit’s coming of age, but rather the greater influences in her development as a feminist, an activist, and a writer in 1980s San Francisco. In these pages, Solnit describes the formation of her own powerful voice while interrogating the culture that routinely silences women through violence and disregard. By sharing these formative years, Solnit is sure to inspire and vindicate generations of women and offer much-needed encouragement to people of all genders to invest in voices long suppressed.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 rounded downWhen I heard Rebecca Solnit was publishing a memoir this year it quickly became one of my most anticipated releases of 2020 - having enjoyed a number of her previous collections (including Whose Story Is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, The Faraway Nearby and Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises to name but a few) Solnit is one of my favourite living essayists. And this is a very "Solnit" memoir. Rather than being a straight retelling of 4.5 rounded downWhen I heard Rebecca Solnit was publishing a memoir this year it quickly became one of my most anticipated releases of 2020 - having enjoyed a number of her previous collections (including Whose Story Is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, The Faraway Nearby and Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises to name but a few) Solnit is one of my favourite living essayists. And this is a very "Solnit" memoir. Rather than being a straight retelling of the formative events of her life thus far the reader learns about the author and how she has become the writer she is today through snippets of her past which are seamlessly weaved into writing in a style typical of her essays. A key theme is (duh) her identity, and how gender is inextricably linked to that - and how her experience of gender through her life as a white American woman in the 20th and 21st centuries has contributed to the writer she has become today. I found myself relating closely to a lot of what she said and ended up highlighting long sections of writing. There've been times in the past where I've felt that even though the topics she has chosen to write about are quite zeitgeist-y and the essays are published still in that moment that they already feel a bit passé, but I have to say I never felt that here.Highly recommended to everyone, but I think those who are already fans of Solnit will enjoy this even more.Thank you Netgalley and Granta Publications for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Steve
    January 1, 1970
    My, my, my .... that was an exquisite, though-provoking, sublime, powerful book.Sure, it's a memoir, but it's much more. Solnit recollects a writer's life, and the history, the journey, the articulation of the craft, the circuitous route to productivity and readership, was as inspirational as it was engaging, interesting, and inspiring.But, ultimately, Solnit's voice is a woman's voice, and not merely a powerful voice, but a clear and compelling and lyrical voice ... speaking about the evolution My, my, my .... that was an exquisite, though-provoking, sublime, powerful book.Sure, it's a memoir, but it's much more. Solnit recollects a writer's life, and the history, the journey, the articulation of the craft, the circuitous route to productivity and readership, was as inspirational as it was engaging, interesting, and inspiring.But, ultimately, Solnit's voice is a woman's voice, and not merely a powerful voice, but a clear and compelling and lyrical voice ... speaking about the evolution of her voice. And that's a remarkable story well told.I'm not sure what it says that, until recently, I was (almost entirely) unfamiliar with Solnit and that, left to my own devices, I never would have found her or this book. My sense is that Traister's GOOD AND MAD (which I read at just the right moment and found compelling and now frequently recommend) prodded me in this direction, and for that I'm grateful.Caveat/disclaimer: Based on its size and length, what looks and feels like a slender volume, I'd generally describe a book of this size as a little book, but it's anything but. It a big book ... in terms of content, ideas, gratifying riffs, etc. ... even if it's been marketed in a less-than-massive package. Nor is it necessarily a quick read. I found the short chapters perfect for savoring the book, digesting a little each day, often sitting and enjoying and ruminating on each (again, brief) chapter. ... And, throughout, I found myself re-reading passages - phrases, sentences, and paragraphs - that were elegantly crafted and demanding of additional attention and consideration.Reader's delight: I read the hardback version (not long after it was published), and I admit that I was intrigued ... not only as a reader, but as a photographer ... by the cover photo. Without offering any spoilers, I'll merely concede that I was immensely gratified, almost giddy, with the passage in the book that placed the photograph in context (which could not have been further from than what I expected). Nicely played, Rebecca Solnit.Now that she's on my radar screen (and reading list), I'm guessing I'll turn to Wanderlust next. But for now, I ecstatic that I found and read this book.
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  • Jaclyn Crupi
    January 1, 1970
    One does not review Solnit, one imbibes her wisdom and words and feels grateful.
  • Tanya
    January 1, 1970
    This memoir was my first foray into Solnit's long-form writing after having become a fan of her feminist essays, through which she gained popularity. If you liked those, this more personal piece will likely resonate with you tooher essays have a very distinct voice that blends the political and the anecdotal (the political is personal, after all) while remaining inclusive, and this memoir is written in the same vein. I love the title, and it's really the aptest one she could've gone with, since This memoir was my first foray into Solnit's long-form writing after having become a fan of her feminist essays, through which she gained popularity. If you liked those, this more personal piece will likely resonate with you too—her essays have a very distinct voice that blends the political and the anecdotal (the political is personal, after all) while remaining inclusive, and this memoir is written in the same vein. I love the title, and it's really the aptest one she could've gone with, since the thread running throughout each chapter is how she found her voice in a society that would've preferred to rob women of one. "I became silently furious, back in the day when I had no clear feminist ideas, just swirling inchoate feelings of indignation and insubordination. A great urge to disrupt the event [reviewer's note: the opening for an exhibition of Allen Ginsberg photographs, with two sad, mentally ill women as the only female subjects in the entire show] overtook me; I wanted to shout and to shout that I was not disrupting it because a woman is no one, and to shout that since I did not exist my shouting did not exist either and could not be objectionable. I was, in that room, that time, clear and angry about my nonexistence that was otherwise mostly just brooding anxiety somewhere below the surface." Keeping her background as a writer on art, culture, places, and political and environmental issues in mind, it might not come as a surprise that this is not your standard biography. You won't learn much about Solnit as a person as far as hard facts go, and more often than not, it was not so much about her, but rather about what was happening around her, and how that influenced her life's trajectory. It's more of a series of snapshots of a different time and place, a portrait of the artist as a young woman, recounting the watershed moments in her formative years (and beyond) that led to her becoming the writer and activist that she is, while fighting against a culture that wanted to silence and erase her, make her disappear.In more ways than one, it reminded me of Patti Smith's airy, bohemian memoirs, but less dreamy, more tangible and coherent (and Solnit criticizes many of the artists Smith reveres). The language is lyrical, the feelings very relatable, and much like Just Kids was a love-letter to New York City in the late 60's and early 70's, Recollections Of My Nonexistence is an ode to 1980s San Francisco, with its vibrant queer culture, before the gentrification (which she contributed to), despite the pervasive atmosphere of gender violence, and also to the vast expanse of the American West, in which she found direction and clarity by solitarily drifting and wandering, as Smith did in Year of the Monkey . She made me nostalgic for a time I haven't lived through, in a city I've only ever visited once, and deserts I've only driven through on dusty roads. "Out on your own, you're a new immigrant to the nation of adults, and the customs are strange; you're learning to hold together all the pieces of a life, figure out what that life is going to be and who is going to be part of it, and what you will do with your self-determination. You are in your youth walking down a long road that will branch and branch again, and your life is full of choices with huge and unpredictable consequences, and you rarely get to come back and choose the other route. You are making something, a life, a self, and it is an intensely creative task as well as one at which it is more than possible to fail, a little, a lot, miserably, fatally." "I have no regrets about the roads I took, but a little nostalgia for that period when most of the route is ahead, for that stage in which you might become many things that is so much the promise of youth, now that I have chosen and chosen again and again and am far down one road and far past many others. Possibility means that you might be many things that you are not yet, and it is intoxicating when it's not terrifying." The evocativeness of her writing is probably a big part of how she always manages to leave me feeling hopeful, despite the horrid things it often dwells upon. Many feminist works gets me angry and riles me up, which is good and necessary—nasty women get shit done—but too much of it, and, in the long run, you'll just wear out and despair. Solnit walks that fine line of educating and empowering, while also encouraging to believe in the potential for change. She's lived through many seismic shifts in society herself, which has given her her own hope, and she passes it along to the reader, as a little light to keep you safe and hopeful in the dark.In digital books, I often highlight quotes that make an impression on me; either because of the beauty of the writing itself, the pictures they evoke, the relatable feelings they describe, or sometimes even just because I think that they'd fit into a later review nicely, but I'm finding that I did a poor job here, or rather, Solnit did hers exceptionally well: I didn't highlight sentences, passages, or even paragraphs, but entire pages of text because they resonated with me so strongly, so I'm leaving much out. Instead, I'll wrap up with this beautiful thought; a different kind of nonexistence, and one I cherish more than almost anything. "When I read, I ceased to be myself, and this nonexistence I pursued and devoured like a drug. I faded into an absent witness, someone who was in that world but not anyone in it, or who was every word and road and house and ill omen and forlorn hope. I was anyone and no one and nothing and everywhere in those hours and years lost in books. I was a fog, a miasma, a mist, someone who dissolved into the story, got lost in it, learned to lose myself this way as a reprieve from the task of being a child and then a woman and the particular child and woman I was. I hovered about in many times and places, worlds and cosmologies, dispersing and gathering and drifting." Note: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.—————All my book reviews can be found here · Buy on BookDepository
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  • BecSoBookish
    January 1, 1970
    This book was...fine. I enjoy reading Solnit's essays, so I was looking forward to reading her memoir, thinking that I would actually learn a bit more about her. This was very much focused on Solnit finding her voice and learning how to use it through her writing. The problem is that she neglects to tell the reader anything personal about herself. I felt so disconnected from the author. She almost completely skips over her childhood and starts the memoir with her as a young adult living on her This book was...fine. I enjoy reading Solnit's essays, so I was looking forward to reading her memoir, thinking that I would actually learn a bit more about her. This was very much focused on Solnit finding her voice and learning how to use it through her writing. The problem is that she neglects to tell the reader anything personal about herself. I felt so disconnected from the author. She almost completely skips over her childhood and starts the memoir with her as a young adult living on her own. She skims over relationships, friendships, or anything that would showcase emotion. Solnit spends a large chunk of the book going over events of the 1970s and 1980s, dropping names of artists and writers and movements that I've never heard of, and only spending 20 pages or so on her career from the 2000s onward, which is the point at which she became well-known as an author. I think it was a mistake on the part of the publisher to market this as a memoir, since it really is a series of recollections on a writer finding her voice, with very little biographical information at all.
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  • Alex Sarll
    January 1, 1970
    A memoir of sorts, but as always with Solnit, it conforms to a genre only in so far as she feels like that's useful. "I am not a proper memoir writer in that I cannot reconstruct a convincing version of any of our conversations", she says at one point, and what reference is made to anything before she left home is pretty oblique, though the implications are clear enough all the same "I'm uninterested in the brutalities of childhood in part because that species has been so dwelt upon while some A memoir of sorts, but as always with Solnit, it conforms to a genre only in so far as she feels like that's useful. "I am not a proper memoir writer in that I cannot reconstruct a convincing version of any of our conversations", she says at one point, and what reference is made to anything before she left home is pretty oblique, though the implications are clear enough all the same – "I'm uninterested in the brutalities of childhood in part because that species has been so dwelt upon while some of the brutalities that come after have not." In large part it is the story precisely of how she came to write the books that she did, a biography of her poetics or her voice more than her self, but which necessarily addresses the self too simply because every voice must come from somewhere, because the journalism teachers who wanted clipped faux-objectivity and the English professor who considered Hemingway the zenith of English style were wrong, and must be shown to be wrong: "I believe in the irreducible and in invocation and evocation, and I am fond of sentences less like superhighways than winding paths". Which she crafts so very well. It's the height of cliche to say that someone writes like a dream, but in Solnit's case it's true in very precise ways: as in a dream, there are areas of evocative mistiness, but others of pin-sharp clarity, and the transitions between the two which you'd think might feel juddering instead happen so smoothly you barely notice that the corridor from your old school is now in a cruise liner on the Moon, or that a description of the first room where Solnit lived independently has flipped, by way of the history of her writing desk, into a disquisition on the weight and the ubiquity of gendered violence, and the even wider erasure with which it's in symbiosis. This has been the recurrent topic of Solnit's recent work, and the one which has made her famous at a whole different level since the publication of Men Explain Things To Me; it's also, she explains here, the one topic she's written about which she never consciously set out to make one of her themes. And isn't there a horrible irony in the way it's forced itself on her like that? One strand of Recollections sees Solnit go back through her previous work, adding in the details not just about how they came to be written, or their legacy, but about the stuff she left out at the time – like the fear of what might happen to a lone woman walking, her own bad experiences in that area, which were a far more marginal presence in her books on walking and on getting lost. Here too you'll find the artist whose reputation she did much to salvage, and who repaid her with sexual harassment; the editors and publicists who sabotaged her either deliberately or simply because they couldn't be arsed not to. Some names are named; given the account of the bullshit lawsuit by one particularly choice specimen, I suspect she's sailed as close to the wind on that as she dared, and that this is a fair bit closer than most would. Of course, legally it helps that some of the culprits are dead now, as in the section monstering the Beats; I especially loved her observation that even Homer, hardly Mr Woke, gives the static women in the Odyssey far more interiority and agency than Kerouac cared to in On The Road.Not that that's the whole book. It's also a love letter to San Francisco, at least as it was, alongside a recognition of her own small and unwitting part in its gentrification, having once been the first white face in a neighbourhood where her building supervisor was a black man who remembered Bonnie & Clyde hiding out with his sharecropper family. An attempt to capture the flat where she spent much of her life – and for all that I would never watch Through The Keyhole, and find conversations about home improvement make me want to eat my own face, there is something delightful about a writer who can convey these things just telling you about their old home. She talks about how books are like stars, records of fires burning long ago; about how the growth of the human skull, which must set but must not set too soon, is the perfect metaphor for the growth of humans in general. About how the straight male dream of impenetrability would be blind and fatal were it ever realised in full; about how the present becomes past like the colours shading into each other in the evening sky; about the books one reads more to take up residency than to get to the end. This is the sort of stuff that first got me into Solnit, with her Field Guide To Getting Lost, and there's a part of me (and, she's said elsewhere, of her) that would love her to be able to get back to it – not least because that would mean we were in a better world where there was no longer such an urgent need for the angry dissection of the endless tide of pricks. Towards the end she talks about the writers who are less remembered and read because they changed the culture, were assimilated into the compost of the collective way of seeing, which feels almost like she's taking stock of her legacy, though I hope there's plenty more to come, that she's still writing once the wars are won. And if not, well, at least she can already say "I wanted to be pretty much what I eventually became".(Netgalley ARC)
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  • Chantale Onesi-Gonzalez
    January 1, 1970
    The focus that it takes to write a compelling memoir is fascinating and Rebecca Solnit has not disappointed with her, "Recollections of My Nonexistence". Beginning with snippets from her childhood in the Bay Area and returning to that time throughout the work, Solnit paints a picture of San Francisco through the eyes of a female author, struggling for recognition during the slow gentrification of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.A large part of the work deals with the fear that women face simply walking The focus that it takes to write a compelling memoir is fascinating and Rebecca Solnit has not disappointed with her, "Recollections of My Nonexistence". Beginning with snippets from her childhood in the Bay Area and returning to that time throughout the work, Solnit paints a picture of San Francisco through the eyes of a female author, struggling for recognition during the slow gentrification of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.A large part of the work deals with the fear that women face simply walking down the street, but more so on their own in metropolitan places in America. This fear can carry over into the rural and suburban areas of the country just as easily, but there is something to be said for the distinct levels of anxiety that come along with being a solo, woman dweller in an urban area. This feeling of fear is not unique to living in America, as women all over the world deal with fear of place on a daily basis, but Solnit eloquently shows the depths of which this fear manifests in her own daily life, from the perspective of a middle-aged American woman.But it isn't all about fear. Solnit crafts a lovely history of her writing and the challenges she faced in the early days of learning to be a journalist and eventually moving over to the non-fiction (and later creative non-fiction) areas of composition. She weaves through her research on her early works and shows us the unique difficulties she faced to be taken seriously and to feel like she was on the right path. As she writes at the desk a friend gifted her after Solnit helped her release herself from a bad (to say the least) relationship, she allows her anxieties to inform her work in a way that is ever-engaging. Memoirs are so often rollercoaster rides of semi-good writing, but with this work, the prose often takes over in a way that transports you directly into the room where Solnit is writing. It allows the reader to come along for the journey, rather than to simply watch it unfold. Overall, this memoir is well worth the read and I would recommend it to anyone that is interested in San Francisco history, memoirs of artists and/or authors, feminist scholars, or anyone that enjoys reading about the history of place through the lens of an individual lived life. I suppose that, in the end, is what a memoir should be and Solnit delivers fully with this work.
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  • Gizem-in-Wonderland
    January 1, 1970
    To be a young woman is to face your own annihilation in innumerable ways or to flee it or the knowledge of it, or all these things at once.Rebecca Solnit is one of the most brilliant authors of feminist literature and womens nonfiction in general. I absolutely love her penmanship, her eloquence, the way she uses the language so elegantly and uniquely to express herself on such ideas as freedom of movement for women, violence, misogyny and gender equality. This is my second book of the author and “To be a young woman is to face your own annihilation in innumerable ways or to flee it or the knowledge of it, or all these things at once.”Rebecca Solnit is one of the most brilliant authors of feminist literature and women’s nonfiction in general. I absolutely love her penmanship, her eloquence, the way she uses the language so elegantly and uniquely to express herself on such ideas as freedom of movement for women, violence, misogyny and gender equality. This is my second book of the author and I need to repeat once more with feeling how I loved Men Explain Things to Me. Recollections of My Nonexistence is a more personal account of Solnit’s life, what she’s been through and shaped her ideas over the years she lived on her own deciding what to do with her life. The title of the book comes, as she states later in the book, from the everyday challenge of women to get excelled at being nonexistent by trying to avoid male grasp, eye sight, sneaking away, being inconspicuous, dodging kisses, hugs and touch.“You could be erased a little so that there was less of you, less confidence, less freedom, or your rights could be eroded, your body invaded so that it was less and less yours, you could be rubbed out altogether, and none of those possibilities seemed particularly remote. All the worst things that happened to other women because they were women could happen to you because you were a woman."She tells her life story, talks about the key events that changed her life by stating in each chapter how we lived in a men’s world and how even the language itself is shaped by men; so “If men were everyone, then women were no one.”Furthermore she adds:“It’s not you, it’s patriarchy. That is there’s nothing wrong with you; there’s something wrong with the system that bears down on you and tells you you’re useless, incompetent, untrustworthy, worthless and wrong.”I’m so happy that she found her own voice, her own calling and decided to write.
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  • Mike
    January 1, 1970
    Rebecca Solnit's writing has greatly informed my role in, and identification with, feminism (especially as a cis-gendered, straight, white man) and the stories in this book contain some of the best lessons I've learned from her to-date.For men who are doing the work of learning from womenworking to understand their experience, working to question their own role in the challenges that women face, worldwidethis is a critically important book to read. Rebecca Solnit's writing has greatly informed my role in, and identification with, feminism (especially as a cis-gendered, straight, white man) and the stories in this book contain some of the best lessons I've learned from her to-date.For men who are doing the work of learning from women—working to understand their experience, working to question their own role in the challenges that women face, worldwide—this is a critically important book to read.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not ready to write the review I'd like to, but excellent and hopeful.
  • Morgan Schulman
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest reviewBecause I am humanly self-centered, this book made me think about my youth in Aughties Brooklyn and how I thought I knew everything but really didn't know everything. What i really did not know was how much of my life was trying to survive my experience as a young woman, and that this state of being was temporary, and how quickly this time would end, and I would become another thing, a no-longer young woman, a mother, a career I received an advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest reviewBecause I am humanly self-centered, this book made me think about my youth in Aughties Brooklyn and how I thought I knew everything but really didn't know everything. What i really did not know was how much of my life was trying to survive my experience as a young woman, and that this state of being was temporary, and how quickly this time would end, and I would become another thing, a no-longer young woman, a mother, a career woman, a wife, an NPR listener, and how I would miss the un-understanding of my struggle, without every wanting to go back. This book provides a great way to revist that time and think through all the things I never thought through, without actually having to be in my 20s in the city ever again. And for that, 5 hearty stars. Mwah.
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  • Misha
    January 1, 1970
    Quotations from the advanced reader copy:Becoming a writer formalizes the task that faces us all in making a life: to become conscious of what overarching stories are and whether or not they serve you, and how to compose versions with room for who you are and what you want. (130)On the Beats:Also, most of them despised women, and in this respect they were entirely conventional and of their time and place, the woman-hating American 1950s, whose mainstream literary lions were dubbed a few years Quotations from the advanced reader copy:“Becoming a writer formalizes the task that faces us all in making a life: to become conscious of what overarching stories are and whether or not they serve you, and how to compose versions with room for who you are and what you want.” (130)On the Beats:“Also, most of them despised women, and in this respect they were entirely conventional and of their time and place, the woman-hating American 1950s, whose mainstream literary lions were dubbed a few years back the Midcentury Misogynists.” (159)“The gay men and lesbians around me encouraged me to imagine that gender is whatever you want it to be, and that the rules were breakable, and that the price to pay for breaking them was generally worth it and then some. The men made it clear that what troubled and frustrated me in straight men was not innate to the gender but built into the role. Or as the direct-action group Queer Nation put it in the stickers they scattered around town in the early 1990s, ‘What causes heterosexuality>’ They modeled for me the radical beauty of refusing your assignment, and if they did not have to be what they were supposed to be than neither did I.” (179)“Queer culture made it clear that a life can have as its stable foundation friendships so strong that they are a form of family, that family too can be liberated from the conventional roles of spousal contracts and begetting and blood kinship. It was a bulwark against the widespread, wearing insistence that only the nuclear family supplies love and stability—which sometimes it does, but we all know that sometimes it supplies misery and sabotage.” (186)“My life has spanned a revolution against the old authoritarianisms. In response to the late 1950s and early 1960s crisis of nuclear fallout, ordinary people questioned the authority of the scientists in service of the military and the chemical companies, and then the nascent environmental movement asked broader questions about anthropocentrism, capitalism, consumerism, and ideas of progress and the domination of nature. Racial justice movements questioned the centrality of whiteness, gay and lesbian liberation movements questions the centrality of heterosexuality, and feminism questioned patriarchy (and when we were lucky, these boulevards intersected). Though they were more than questions; they were demands for change and for the redistribution of power and values.Change is the measure of time, and these movements were often regarded as having failed to realize short-term or specific goals, but in the long term they often changed the very premises by which decisions were made and facts were interpreted, and how people imagined themselves, each other, their possibilities, their rights, and society. And who decided, who interpreted, what was visible and audible, whose voice and vision mattered.” (222-223)“Also it seems safe to say I’m damaged and a member of a society that damages us all and damages women in particular ways.” (235)
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  • Mary
    January 1, 1970
    Recollections of My Nonexistence is very much what it sounds like. An intimate look at Solnits role in the world as a woman, it is largely a story of the oppressionthe invisibilityof women, and it is told with such grace and delicacy, but also with great dignity and strength. Including her development as a feminist writer in 1980s San Francisco, the cultures that impacted her there, the origins of a handful of the books shes authored, and the origin of the desk at which she wrote many of them, Recollections of My Nonexistence is very much what it sounds like. An intimate look at Solnit’s role in the world as a woman, it is largely a story of the oppression—the invisibility—of women, and it is told with such grace and delicacy, but also with great dignity and strength. Including her development as a feminist writer in 1980’s San Francisco, the cultures that impacted her there, the origins of a handful of the books she’s authored, and the origin of the desk at which she wrote many of them, this memoir—bursting with intellect and insight—could only have come from the epitome of ferocity that is Rebecca Solnit.
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  • Peter Rock
    January 1, 1970
    I really admire Solnit's writing, erudition, fearlessness, attitude. Over the years I've read many of her books (favorites: THE FARAWAY NEARBY, A FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOST, RIVER OF SHADOWS). She really is (though she's generous about those who've helped her) a self-taught searcher, weird auto-didact; sometimes her ferocity feels a little defensive, but that too expresses its own necessity, borne out of the past. So after reading her work that is not explicitly about her, it was really I really admire Solnit's writing, erudition, fearlessness, attitude. Over the years I've read many of her books (favorites: THE FARAWAY NEARBY, A FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOST, RIVER OF SHADOWS). She really is (though she's generous about those who've helped her) a self-taught searcher, weird auto-didact; sometimes her ferocity feels a little defensive, but that too expresses its own necessity, borne out of the past. So after reading her work that is not explicitly about her, it was really fascinating to read this story, which accounted for her own personal history (though it's unlike most memoirs, in that its internalized abstractions and reflections are rarely about other people, but more often how the geographical becomes personal? The descriptions of her apartment on Lyon Street! Wow.). I think this book would be wonderful for anyone to read, but I suspect that those who know her other work will find context and perspective, here. I read it in two days.“Writing is often treated as the making of things, one piece at a time, but you write from who you are and what you care about and what true voice is yours and from leaving all the false voices and wrong notes behind, and so underneath the task of writing a particular piece is the general one of making a self who can make the work you are meant to make.”
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  • Angie
    January 1, 1970
    Toward the end of her memoir, Rebecca Solnit writes: "..there are two ways of making contributions that matter. One is to make work that stays visible before people's eyes; the other is to make work that is so deeply absorbed that it ceases to be what people see and becomes how they see. It is no longer in front of them; it's inside them."Rebecca Solnit is one of those writers for me. Reading her words sometimes articulates things I've thought but never examined; felt but never put into words. Toward the end of her memoir, Rebecca Solnit writes: "..there are two ways of making contributions that matter. One is to make work that stays visible before people's eyes; the other is to make work that is so deeply absorbed that it ceases to be what people see and becomes how they see. It is no longer in front of them; it's inside them."Rebecca Solnit is one of those writers for me. Reading her words sometimes articulates things I've thought but never examined; felt but never put into words. And other times, they have opened up a new way of thinking or seeing that becomes a part of me. This will definitely be a book I return to.
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  • Kerry Pickens
    January 1, 1970
    Very inspiring story of the author's time spent in San Francisco when she was just beginning her career. This was during the early gentrification of Black neighborhoods, and reminds me of the years I spent in Austin TX watching it grow from a liberal college town into a high-tech center. I enjoy reading all of Rebecca Solnit's works because of her intelligent and feminist mentality.
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  • June
    January 1, 1970
    Rebecca Solnit is a light in the darkness. This is a moving look back at formative experiences from her past which set her on course for the writer and activist she has become. In another author's hands, this kind of work might be egocentric or preachy, but Solnit focuses on the other people, places, and circumstances that inspired her and informed her path. Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for a digital ARC.
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    I've loved all of Sonit's books. Her writing is exquisite in some passages. I enjoyed learning about her childhood and young adulthood, as she describes becoming independent at a very young age. Favorite portions include descriptions of her archivist work at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art & what writing is like for her. Solnit has seen more of the world than probably most of her readers, certainly more than this reader, and I'm grateful for her letting me see the world through her eyes. I've loved all of Sonit's books. Her writing is exquisite in some passages. I enjoyed learning about her childhood and young adulthood, as she describes becoming independent at a very young age. Favorite portions include descriptions of her archivist work at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art & what writing is like for her. Solnit has seen more of the world than probably most of her readers, certainly more than this reader, and I'm grateful for her letting me see the world through her eyes. In the end she tells us that when she writes to encourage, it's not to make people feel good, but to make them feel powerful: "As stealing away the best excuse for doing nothing: that you have no power and nothing you do matters."
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  • Callum McAllister
    January 1, 1970
    It gets a ye boi from me More autobiographical than her other books but still ethereal and meandering. About writing and her feminist awakening and gender based violence and everything in between.
  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    Truly, I underlined most of this book. The last time I did so to such an absurd (and potentially unhelpful) degree was when I read Rachel Cusks COVENTRY last summer. Not only did this memoir speak directly to me as a woman, it was written with such care and awareness of community, culture, history, power, language, and love. Also, an awareness of the patriarchy, homophobia, misogyny, racism, etc. Solnits journey into awareness as well as a sense of mission and a keen sense of her work as a Truly, I underlined most of this book. The last time I did so to such an absurd (and potentially unhelpful) degree was when I read Rachel Cusk’s COVENTRY last summer. Not only did this memoir speak directly to me as a woman, it was written with such care and awareness of community, culture, history, power, language, and love. Also, an awareness of the patriarchy, homophobia, misogyny, racism, etc. Solnit’s journey into awareness as well as a sense of mission and a keen sense of her work as a writer is an exquisite, nonlinear narrative. I’m humbled by her career and this glimpse into her journey into selfhood is itself a humbling act. Breaking things down and making connections, she empowers the reader to see why everything we do matters—even if we think we are powerless or that extra kindness or effort is only a drop in the ocean. You’re going to want to buy this when it comes out next week because, rest assured, you’ll tattoo your copy too.
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  • Allison
    January 1, 1970
    I cant believe I havent read Rebecca Solnit before now. I have some catching up to do. I can’t believe I haven’t read Rebecca Solnit before now. I have some catching up to do.
  • Chris Haak
    January 1, 1970
    I liked the first half of this memoir, but I was a bit disappointed by the second half. I was hoping it to be more personal instead of just activist. All in all, not bad, but it didn't work for me as a whole.Thank you Viking and Edelweiss for the ARC.
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  • Roxanne
    January 1, 1970
    Equal parts memoir, homage to San Francisco, and essays on our countrys emotional intelligence quotient, Stolnits lyrical writing is so musical, you can almost hear Tony Bennett singing I Lost My Heart is San Francisco in the background. Solnit is uncompromisingly objective and sees the gentrification she unwittingly partook in (recently tackled in this past years beautiful film The Last Black Man in San Francisco). Her recapturing of simpler times and settings of telephone booths and Mom & Equal parts memoir, homage to San Francisco, and essays on our country’s emotional intelligence quotient, Stolnit’s lyrical writing is so musical, you can almost hear Tony Bennett singing I Lost My Heart is San Francisco in the background. Solnit is uncompromisingly objective and sees the gentrification she unwittingly partook in (recently tackled in this past year’s beautiful film The Last Black Man in San Francisco). Her recapturing of simpler times and settings of telephone booths and Mom & Pop shops will leave you gloriously nostalgic.
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  • Julia
    January 1, 1970
    We need the words, but use them best knowing they are containers forever spilling over and breaking open. Something is always beyond.
  • Laura King
    January 1, 1970
    I love Rebecca Solnit so much, and this is only my third book by her. I started with Men Explain Things and moved onto Call Them By Their True Names and thought I could read Solnit write about just about anything, but wondered how she might write about her own life. Solnit's essays, as far as I had read, weren't particularly personal, and I felt I knew nothing about her. And interestingly, I felt I didn't know a whole lot more after finishing. This is a memoir, not about the events of a life but I love Rebecca Solnit so much, and this is only my third book by her. I started with Men Explain Things and moved onto Call Them By Their True Names and thought I could read Solnit write about just about anything, but wondered how she might write about her own life. Solnit's essays, as far as I had read, weren't particularly personal, and I felt I knew nothing about her. And interestingly, I felt I didn't know a whole lot more after finishing. This is a memoir, not about the events of a life but of a constant erasure and rebuilding, of trying to see oneself in glimpses, turning sharply around to catch something before it disappears before all that is left in the mirror is a two dimensional seeming picture of a person you basically recognise ad yourself. Solnit's memoir is like a hall of mirrors, where we learn about her life and her personality through the subjects that inform and permeate her writing, for example her writing on domestic and gender based violence which is a topic of study in many of her books, but also something that has affected her own life.She also takes her discovery of the non fiction form itself to be a subject matter, as well as a sort of epiphany about her work and its contribution to the world. She says that non fiction is "at its best an act of putting the world back together - or tearing some piece of it apart to find what's hidden beneath". This does not seem to her to be a narrow focus on a topic but a way of seeking out and exposing patterns over time and space. Similarly, meeting new people isn't subject for anecdote in this memoir, instead she writes that she believes in capacities strangers have to be messengers and mirrors in which you see possibilities". This really feels like a memoir of a writer of non fiction, as opposed to a memoir of a person in a traditional sense, and while unexpected, was exaxtly what I wanted from Solnit.
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  • Maria
    January 1, 1970
    I am grateful to #netgalley for my copy of this book, which I was offered in exchange for an honest review.How we read depends on how we feel: what were drawn to, how were spending the time during a week in March when its raining nonstop and all the talk in the news seems negative. Would it have been different for me to read this memoir during a bright week in June, with a bit more hope in the air?So maybe it wasnt the right time for me. This is a memoir by Rebecca Solnit, an American writer I am grateful to #netgalley for my copy of this book, which I was offered in exchange for an honest review.How we read depends on how we feel: what we’re drawn to, how we’re spending the time during a week in March when it’s raining nonstop and all the talk in the news seems negative. Would it have been different for me to read this memoir during a bright week in June, with a bit more hope in the air?So maybe it wasn’t the right time for me. This is a memoir by Rebecca Solnit, an American writer whose work I’ve wanted to dip into. She has written widely- on walking, activism, the environment, feminism, art. The term #mansplaining was inspired by her 2008 essay ‘Men explain things to me’ which is worth reading. It’s sharp, funny & true. As a woman, like most of us, I’ve had the experience of ‘mansplaining’, someone explaining things to me from my field of work (which they’re not involved in). So I’m with her on that. But despite my hope with this book, it didn’t work for me. I look to memoirs to imagine myself in a person’s life. Their everyday life; how things feel to them when they happen. That’s missing here. This reads like a coming of age story about Solnit becoming a writer- but told from a distance. There is little detail, texture, everydayness here. I could see what Rebecca Solnit’s politics are, but I couldn’t capture what she’s like as a person. I couldn’t get a sense of her. Solnit is at her best when discussing her love of reading: “Alone, immersed in a book, I was faceless, everyone, anyone, unbounded, elsewhere, free of meetings. I wanted to be someone, to make a face and a self and a voice, but I loved these moments of reprieve”.Going back to my own mood & expectations when reading this, I note one more phrase from the book:“It’s the reader who brings the book to life”.
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