cover image Recollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir

Recollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir

Rebecca Solnit. Viking, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-08333-8

Author and activist Solnit (Whose Story Is This?) writes in this enlightening, nonlinear memoir of her life as a poor young woman in 1980s San Francisco and her development as a writer and feminist thinker. As a teen, Solnit fled a volatile home life to forge her path. She rented an apartment in a black neighborhood (“I was the first white person to live in the building in seventeen years”) and acquired a writing desk from a friend who was nearly murdered by an ex (“Someone tried to silence her. Then she gave me a platform for my voice”). While in graduate school, she worked at a museum—which informed the writing of her first book, Secret Exhibition—and struggled to be heard in a world that favored male writers. In fluid, vivid prose, she recalls the terror she experienced while walking the streets alone, not knowing if she’d be attacked or raped, and considers how negative representations of women in art affect creative output (“How do you make art when the art that’s all around you keeps telling you to shut up and wash the dishes?”). Along the way, she highlights her publishing achievements, including the viral essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” which inspired the term mansplaining. This is a thinking person’s book about writing, female identity, and freedom by a powerful and motivating voice for change. (Mar.)