cover image A Language Older Than Words

A Language Older Than Words

Derrick Jensen. Context Books, $18 (399pp) ISBN 978-1-893956-03-2

Singular, compelling and courageously honest, this book is more than just a poignant memoir of a harrowingly abusive childhood. It relates the extraordinary journey of one man striving to save his own spirit and our planet's. Comparing his physically and sexually abusive father's destruction of his family with humankind's systematic destruction of civilization, New York Times Magazine contributor Jensen (Listening to the Land) tells a story about the hope for regeneration in a landscape of human and natural desolation. Throughout, Jensen mobilizes his experiences as student, teacher, environmentalist, beekeeper, high jumper, abused child and survivor to delve deeper inside his own wounded psyche while condemning the constrictions of a culture that fosters abuse. In lyrical prose, Jensen calls for accountability and urges people ""to live in dynamic equilibrium with the rest of the world."" Rather than na vely proposing an answer to the ills of modernity, he demonstrates the complexity of the problems by examining an array of environmental and sociopolitical atrocities, including the Holocaust, and what he sees as the reckless production of plutonium to further space exploration and the maltreatment of indigenous peoples by self-serving neighbors. His visceral, biting observations always manage to lead back to his mantra: ""Things don't have to be the way they are."" Jensen's book accomplishes the rare feat of both breaking and mending the reader's heart. 15,000 first printing; 10-city author tour. (May)