Book Review | Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises by Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit
Trade Paperback
Publication date:
September 4th 2018
Haymarket Books
Received from publisher.


“To know history is to be able to see beyond the present; to remember the past gives you the capacity to look forward as well, to see that everything changes and the most dramatic changes are often the most unforeseen.” (p. 178)

With all that is happening in the US lately, Rebecca Solnit’s latest essay collection Call Them by Their True Names is an extremely timely read. Having been introduced to her writing from her last collection, The Mother of All Questions which I enjoyed immensely, I was excited to hear that she had a new collection coming out this year.

Unlike The Mother of All Questions, the eighteen essays in Call Them by Their True Names are not tied together as tightly under one theme. Rather the theme here is looser, as the essays are on various, scattered topics ranging from racial disparities to gentrification, to climate change and environmental justice. 

Solnit is a brilliant writer and while her short essay collections may not be the easiest and/or lightest read because they need a great deal of concentration to be able to focus and truly understand each essay it’s all worth it. My favorite essays in this collection were: “Preaching to the Choir” where Solnit argues that it is more worthwhile to motivate and encourage those who are already on your side as opposed to trying to change the minds of those who disagree with you; “Eight Million Ways to Belong ” which is written as a letter to the current US president and focuses on what the wonderful cultural diversity that makes up the “real” New York; and of course “Break the Story” which serves as both a call to arms and motivational speech that should be required reading for those who wish to get into the journalism field. The three stood out to me as they were the most compelling reads in this collection.

Once again, Call Them by Their True Names is another enlightening essay collection from Rebecca Solnit. While I did not enjoy this collection as much as I enjoyed The Mother of All Questions, I did appreciate how Solnit was able to offer hope and encouragement through her essays even while discussing the major problems society is facing today.  




Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.