Hanging on By the Fingernails, or the Comfort of Known Books

Friends, how are you doing? For me, this has been a rough and weary couple of weeks with the looming election and the ongoing state of the nation and the world. Which has made it hard to read. I keep picking up books, peeking at them or starting a bit, and then setting them aside. What’s a reader to do?

For me, the answer is to turn to the Tried and True. This included the Beauty and the Beast rift Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which I apparently read every year at this point. *mild spoilers* I’ve written before about how much I admire Novik’s representation of the human cost of violence, the way the wealthy and powerful spend the lives of the poor like confetti. She presents a more human aspect to traditional fairy tale tropes.

I’ve also mentioned how the novel functions as a metaphor for climate change, with the “evil” wood actually seeking vengeance for the ill use and violence wrought upon it by humans. But in reading it this time, I recognized how the novel does not present a story of how to “conquer” or “fight” climate change. Instead, the witch Agnieszka realizes that repair and care of humanity’s relationship with the wood, and of the wood itself, will be the real protection. This includes a repair of our relationship to natural cycles and seasons, including birth and death.

The other book I’ve returned to is adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy. This work of non-fiction supports visioning a different future, one built on change, interdependence, collaboration, care, and resiliency. It draws from the philosophy found in the fictional works of Octavia Butler, as well as from patterns and behavior found in nature. brown urges us to “science fictional behavior,” saying, “Science fiction is simply a way to practice the future together.” She writes of her history working in activism and organizing, and in the academy learning to deconstruct and critique. She writes, “I do believe that what we pay attention to grows, so I wanted to stop growing the crises, the critique. The elements in this book are a way to shift my attention to the positive, to what I want to grow.” In brown’s work, I find not only inspiration but also practical juice to work toward something, not only against.

How are you doing? What are you reading (or not reading or doing instead of reading)? I hope you are taking good care.

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