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Whose Story is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters by Rebecca Solnit

Who gets to shape the narrative of our times? The current moment is a battle royale over that foundational power, one in which women, people of colour, non-straight people are telling other versions, and white people and men and particularly white men are trying to hang onto the old versions and their own centrality.

In Whose Story Is This? author Rebecca Solnit appraises what's emerging and why it matters and what the obstacles are.

The collection of essays is quite cleverly 'sectioned' into two areas - the shouters and the silenced, and the openings. In the first, Solnit examines the current climate. Whose voices are we hearing? Why is that so? Why does that matter? Solnit offers her analysis on some of our biggest issues - from immigration and climate change, to #MeToo, far right politics, and capitalism.

The second section of the book looks into the openings, into the changes that are slowly gaining momentum.

The outpouring of love and support that saw hundreds form protective barriers and protect mosques around the world following the Christchurch terror attack is mentioned.

So too are seemingly smaller projects that are as equally as important. One of these is the City of Women project - a map that re-imagines the New York City subway map to pay homage to some of the city's great women. Solnit, a co-creator of the map - explores the deep implications of the seemingly innocuous task of naming a street.

The collection of essays finishes with a letter to the March 2019 climate strikers. Solnit thanks them for being unreasonable, and for picking up the baton, for standing up for people who aren't even born yet, for being "the force of possibility".

The book's beginning may seem depressing and overwhelming, but the final essay is full of hope and encouragement. Solnit manages to keep a critical eye on things, while making clear, concise arguments.

There is a lot to unpack in the book and it doesn't suit a reading from cover to cover. The collection needs space and time to breathe - it's better to take it one essay at a time, allowing you space to ruminate on the offering.

Whose Story is This? is an insightful commentary of our day, full of urgency and compassion.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99


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