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.
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.