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Rebecca Solnit (born June 24, 1961)[citation needed] is an American writer. She has written on a variety of subjects, including the environment, politics, place, and art.[1] Solnit is a contributing editor at Harper's Magazine, where bi-monthly she writes the magazine's "Easy Chair" essay.

Rebecca Solnit
Rebecca Solnit in 2010
Rebecca Solnit in 2010
Born (1961-06-24) June 24, 1961 (age 57)
Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States
OccupationAuthor, memoirist, essayist
SubjectCultural history, environmentalism, memoir
Notable works


Early life and educationEdit

Solnit was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to a Jewish father and Irish Catholic mother,[2] and in 1966 her family moved to Novato, California, where she grew up. "I was a battered little kid," she said of her childhood.[3] 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. She returned to California to finish her college education at San Francisco State University.[4] She then received a master's degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984[5] and has been an independent writer since 1988.[6]



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


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.[9][10]

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."[7]

In 2014, Haymarket Books published Men Explain Things to Me, a collection of short essays written about instances of "mansplaining." Solnit has been credited with paving the way for the coining of the word "mansplaining,"[11][12] which has been used to refer to instances in which men explain things (generally toward women) in a condescending and/or patronizing way, but Solnit did not use it in the original essay.[13]


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.[14] In 2010 Utne Reader magazine named Solnit as one of the "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World".[15] Her The Faraway Nearby (2013) was nominated for a National Book Award,[16] and shortlisted for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award.[17][18]

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.”[19][20]

For River of Shadows, Solnit was honored with the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism[21] 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.[22] Solnit was also awarded Harvard's Mark Lynton History Prize in 2004 for River of Shadows.[23] Solnit was awarded the 2015-16 Corlis Benefideo Award for Imaginative Cartography by the North American Cartographic Information Society [24]

Solnit's book, Call Them By Their True Names: American Crises, won the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction.[25]

Solnit credits Eduardo Galeano, Pablo Neruda, Ariel Dorfman, Elena Poniatowska, Gabriel García Márquez, and Virginia Woolf as writers who have influenced her work.[7][not in citation given]



Essays and reportingEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Peter Terzian (July–August 2007). "Room to Roam". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2007-08-17.
  2. ^ Susanna Rustin (May 29, 2013). "Rebecca Solnit: a life in writing". The Guardian.
  3. ^ Caitlin D. (September 4, 2014). "Why Can't I Be You: Rebecca Solnit". Rookie.
  4. ^ Benson, Heidi (June 13, 2004). "Move Over, Joan Didion / Make room for Rebecca Solnit, California's newest cultural historian". San Francisco.
  5. ^ "Meet Our Alumni: College of Letters & Science - Authors". Regents of the University of California. 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-06-10.
  6. ^ "Rebecca Solnit". Trinity University Press. 2014.
  7. ^ a b c Taylor, Astra (Fall 2009). "Rebecca Solnot". BOMB Magazine. Archived from the original on 2009-09-02. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  8. ^ Interviewers: Leslie Chang and Mike Osborne (August 9, 2013). "San Francisco, the island within an island". Generation Anthropocene. Season 5. 25:58 minutes in.
  9. ^ "TomDispatch author page". TomDispatch. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  10. ^ "LitHub author page". LitHub. Electric Literature. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  11. ^ Valenti, Jessica (June 6, 2014). "Mansplaining, explained: 'Just ask an expert. Who is not a lady'". The Guardian. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  12. ^ Lewis, Helen (June 4, 2014). "The Essay That Launched the Term "Mansplaining"". The New Republic. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  13. ^ Staff, MPR News. "Do we need a different word for 'mansplaining'?". Retrieved 2017-11-28.
  14. ^ "The Wired Rave Award". Wired. April 2004. Retrieved 2009-10-08.
  15. ^ "Rebecca Solnit: The Silver Cloud". Retrieved 2010-10-19.
  16. ^ Critical Mass(January 13, 2014) "Announcing the 2014 Publishing Year Natinonal Book Awards." (Retrieved 4-13-14.)
  17. ^ Kirsten Reach (January 14, 2014). "NBCC finalists announced". Melville House Publishing. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  18. ^ "Announcing the National Book Critics Awards Finalists for Publishing Year 2013". National Book Critics Circle. January 14, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  19. ^ "Hope's Rising Star". The Attic. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  20. ^ Garner, Dwight. "'A Paradise Built in Hell' by Rebecca Solnit". Retrieved 2018-07-29.
  21. ^ National Book Critics Circle (2014). "All Past National Book Critics Circle Award Winners and Finalists". Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard (2014). "J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project". Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  24. ^ "Rebecca Solnit, 2015–16". 2016. Retrieved October 17, 2016.
  25. ^ "2018 Finalists | Kirkus Reviews". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 2018-10-30.

External linksEdit