cover image Lessons for Survival: Mothering Against “the Apocalypse”

Lessons for Survival: Mothering Against “the Apocalypse”

Emily Raboteau. Holt, $29.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-80976-6

“What does it mean to survive in the midst of protracted crises,” asks Raboteau (Searching for Zion), a creative writing professor at the City College of New York, in this ruminative collection. Through a mix of personal essay and reportage, the author reflects on public art, climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, and racialized violence. “Climate Signs” sees Raboteau traverse New York City’s five boroughs to view 10 highway warning signs, bearing messages such as “CLIMATE DENIAL KILLS” and “NO ICEBERGS AHEAD,” created by environmental artist Justin Brice Guariglia. “Mother of All Good Things,” meanwhile, offers lucid reporting on energy and resource use in Israel and Palestine, as told through Raboteau’s 2016 trip to the region. “The water crisis is rising for the entire Middle East due to increasing desertification, but here, in the poorest communities, the problem is most pronounced,” she writes of one Palestinian village. “It Was Already Tomorrow,” a year’s worth of diary entries meant to capture the impact of climate change, overwhelms with its onslaught of people and places, leaving the reader feeling somewhat numb and disengaged, although the effect is clearly intended. Raboteau’s at her best with “In Those Dark Days,” a lyrical account of mothering in lockdown: “You dilated our contracting world. I’m telling you, wild thing, you dissolved the walls.” It’s a vivid and varied consideration of a world in crisis. (Mar.)