In A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit develops a communitarian premise: that, in the face of catastrophe and disaster, human beings tend to work together, to look out for one another, and to find meaning—and, yes, joy—in acts of mutual aid. It’s an idea that all of us can recognize, especially after the long lockdown provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which we have navigated largely within the boundaries of our own neighborhoods. To illustrate her argument, Solnit invokes five disasters: the 1906 fire and earthquake in San Francisco; the enormous 1917 explosion in Halifax, Nova Scotia; the 1985 Mexico City earthquake; 9/11; and Hurricane Katrina. The result is a visionary work steeped in optimism and collective empathy.
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