Rebecca Solnit

Nonfiction

2019

United States

With fearless brilliance, Rebecca Solnit’s essays range through subject matters that include politics, history, literature, art, and feminism in a manner at once provocative, erudite, and intensely engaging.

Activist and writer Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty highly regarded books of nonfiction, including, most recently, the essay collection Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays) (2018). Call Them by Their True Names ranges through the political landscape, touching upon climate change, Donald Trump, the #metoo movement, mass incarceration, the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, police violence, and voter suppression. Throughout, Solnit argues for the inseparability of language and freedom: “Calling things by their true names cuts through the lies that excuse, buffer, muddle, disguise.” The difficult work of truth-telling unifies Solnit’s varied corpus, from A Paradise Built in Hell (2009), an investigation of what people do in the aftermath of disasters, to Savage Dreams (2000), a journey through “the hidden wars of the American West,” to River of Shadows (2003), a biography of the photographer Eadweard Muybridge. No matter the topic, Solnit maintains a fierce dedication to precision, resisting easy cynicism and inviting the reader to enter with her into intense aesthetic and moral dramas. Winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award, among many other honors, Solnit is a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine. She lives in San Francisco, California.

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This award emerges from two things that have blessed and enriched my life: the love and generosity of gay men and the resources of libraries and archives. The former have blessed and liberated my life in San Francisco in innumerable ways; the latter have been my refuge, the site of some of my most elating epiphanies, and crucial to my writing life. I was actually in Bogota, Colombia, doing another kind of research for a book when I heard from the Prize director out of the blue, and after the sheer amazement settled, I felt so grateful to have this encouragement and support to do what I’ve wanted to do all my life: just write books.
Rebecca Solnit