In a follow-up to her national bestseller Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit offers commentary on women who refuse to be silenced, misogynistic violence, the fragile masculinity of the literary canon, the gender binary, the recent history of rape jokes, and much more.
...these essays make the case for placing one’s faith, and pouring one’s energy, into channels that can irrigate our culture under any regime: art, activism, and the telling of stories that animate both. The resulting collection provides, to borrow the author’s phrase, a bit of much-needed hope in the dark ... Solnit also grapples eloquently with a challenge that dogs all feminist writing: How does one write about the oppression women suffer at the hands of men without reinforcing the atavistic idea that woman and man are inelastic designations, with little in common and nothing in between? ... Solnit’s voice shows us what it means to refuse to be drowned out, and how doing so creates the hope that you, along with many others, can change the world.
The Mother of All Questions unites some of Solnit’s sharpest feminist polemics with her decades-long preoccupation with crafting narrative … The book is divided into two sections: ‘Silence is Broken’ and ‘Breaking the Story.’ The first offers up what Solnit sees as evidence of major social shifts regarding women’s place in the world, while the second points to specific cultural artifacts that exemplify either sexist or feminist sentiments … The Mother of All Questions is best understood as Hope in the Dark retooled for young feminists. Where Hope spoke to activists at their most defeated, Mother appears in the first months of Trump’s presidency, armed with purpose and reason.
In its content, The Mother of All Questions reinforces Solnit’s gift of hope; in the circumstances of its publication in this bleak year, it obliges readers to put it to use ... Solnit’s connective imagination often functions by boiling things down to essences, and in The Mother of All Questions, the key essence is silence, 'the universal condition of oppression' ... Solnit brings everyday aggressions into new focus, and outlines a cohesive phenomenon where we might have seen a series of isolated events. Notably absent, however, are the silences perpetrated by women against other women: the ways in which privileged women — often straight, white and cisgender — silence gay, bisexual and trans women and women of color, even and sometimes especially within the feminist movement.