When I was a child, my father made me aware that the world was not always a good place, that there were people who wouldn’t like me solely because of the color of my skin and the country my parents were from. These whispered warnings made me appreciate honesty that could help me navigate the world.
Though it wasn’t always explicitly stated, my parents taught me to be proud of my roots, to remember where—and who—I came from.
Leaving for Trinity University made it clear why it was important not only to remember my family but to look for anything that might help me survive in a new environment. For me this came in the form of writing and books. From my first writing workshop with Dr. Coleen Grissom years ago to my current independent poetry study with Professor Jenny Browne, writing and reading have always been dear to me.
When I started working as an intern at Trinity University Press, I had no idea who Rebecca Solnit was. I felt a bit guilty that I hadn’t heard of this internationally acclaimed author and activist. But I got a chance to read the final manuscript for her new book, “The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness,” and I’m so happy I did. Solnit’s writing is a great example of how honesty can help people find their way.
Solnit shares 29 essays in the book, a powerful survey of the world we live in. From the dangers of nuclear power to the Zapatista revolution in Mexico, she weaves her experiences with those of others. Recently she marched against climate change in New York City in the People’s Climate March, and she has written and spoken about the violent misogyny women experience.
This is how I learned that Solnit’s Tomdispatch.com essay “Men Explain Things to Me” has contributed to the national dialogue on women’s rights via the “mansplaining” movement. There have been times when men have spoken to me with an authority they clearly lacked. This may not be the biggest issue women face, but it is relevant when men question women’s skills and intellect and believe women don’t have the ability to accomplish great things.
In a recent Rookie article, Solnit wrote, “I’m proud of the fact that I apparently inspired the word mansplaining and that, right now, I get to be part of the amazing, transformative feminist conversation about sexual violence, rape, gender identity, and power.”
Her passion for women and sociopolitical issues further awakened my sense of duty to make the world a better place.
I’ve been surrounded by strong women all my life, from my mother, who always speaks her mind, to my professors, who try to offer students well-rounded, honest educations. I’ve never lacked for women to look up to, and perhaps that’s why boys have asked me if I’m a feminist ever since I was little. Before I knew what the word meant and all it encompassed, I let it go, but as I got older I embraced it, because how could a young woman of color not be a feminist? Maybe we don’t all use the same label, and maybe as a woman of color I’ll find a better description later, but at least we believe in a better world for all women and girls.
Solnit’s final essay in “The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness” is about her experiences at a Zapatista gathering in Mexico.
“The Zapatista rebellion has been feminist from its inception,” she writes. She describes how people at the gathering shared testimonies addressing what women’s liberation is—“liberation from forced marriages, illiteracy, domestic violence, and other forms of subjugation.” I catch myself nodding as I read.
These women, much like the women I admire, are brave and ambitious. From the Zapatista women I learn that revolutions come in many forms, and even slow ones are significant. Their slow and steady revolution has gained them land, autonomy, improved literacy, and much more.
These women, along with Solnit’s writing, make me feel powerful, like my own daily rebellions are just as important to this conversation. And, no matter how different women’s lives are from each other, we are all part of this transformative conversation for women’s rights.
As a communication major, I’m interested in how the media represents people, and after seeing the way people of color, specifically women of color, are often misrepresented in all types of media, I feel empowered to change it.
I plan to go into multicultural publishing so that I can contribute to the literary world with great works by people of color. To keep striving for this dream in an industry that doesn’t necessarily encourage it, I hold onto hope. Solnit’s writing encourages me to embrace the idea that no matter how bad something is, something new and perhaps better can come from it—a revolution in the making.
As Solnit wrote in a recent Salon article, “We can do it. And we is the key word here. The world is not going to be saved by individual acts of virtue; it’s going to be saved, if it is to be saved, by collective acts of social and political change.”
Rebecca Solnit will speak about her new book, The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, on Wednesday, November 12, at the Holt Center at Trinity University. Reception at 5:30 p.m., lecture at 6:30 p.m., followed by Q&A and continued reception and book signing. Free and open to the public.