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A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

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A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster Cover

ISBN13: 9780670021079
ISBN10: 0670021075
All Product Details

 

Staff Pick

If, like me, you've ever wondered how people can possibly survive the mental ordeal of a catastrophe like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, A Paradise Built in Hell will pique your curiosity — and reward it with a riveting examination of what happens to ordinary people in the aftermath of extraordinary disasters.
Recommended by Rico, Powells.com

Review-A-Day

"How were such changes made possible? "Revolution has a different legacy here," Solnit suggests, "and the idea of radical change a different currency. It is as though they had an ability to recognize that disaster utopia, name it, connect it to other experiences, and make something of it. In other places, the unnamed qualities of a richer civic life and deeper ties often slip away for lack of a language and framework to prize them." Brian Sholis, The Brooklyn Rail (read the entire Brooklyn Rail review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A startling investigation of what people do in disasters and why it matters

Why is it that in the aftermath of a disaster — whether man-made or natural — people suddenly become altruistic, resourceful, and brave? What makes the newfound communities and purpose many find in the ruins and crises after disaster so joyous? And what does this joy reveal about ordinarily unmet social desires and possibilities?

In A Paradise Built in Hell, award-winning author Rebecca Solnit explores these phenomena, looking at major calamities from the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco through the 1917 explosion that tore up Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. She examines how disaster throws people into a temporary utopia of changed states of mind and social possibilities, as well as looking at the cost of the widespread myths and rarer real cases of social deterioration during crisis. This is a timely and important book from an acclaimed author whose work consistently locates unseen patterns and meanings in broad cultural histories.

Review:

"Natural and man-made disasters can be 'utopias' that showcase human solidarity and point the way to a freer society, according this stimulating contrarian study. Solnit (River of Shadows) reproves civil defense planners, media alarmists and Hollywood directors who insist that disasters produce terrified mobs prone to looting, murder and cannibalism unless controlled by armed force and government expertise. Surveying disasters from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, she shows that the typical response to calamity is spontaneous altruism, self-organization and mutual aid, with neighbors and strangers calmly rescuing, feeding and housing each other. Indeed, the main problem in such emergencies, she contends, is the 'elite panic' of officials who clamp down with National Guardsmen and stifling regulations. Solnit falters when she generalizes her populist brief into an anarchist critique of everyday society that lapses into fuzzy what-ifs and uplifting volunteer testimonials. Still, this vividly written, cogently argued book makes a compelling — and timely — case for the ability of ordinary people to collectively surmount the direst of challenges. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Solnit demonstrat[es] that disasters give rise to small, temporary utopias in which the best of human nature emerges and a remarkable spirit of generosity and cooperation takes over." Washington Post

Review:

"Through forays into philosophy, religion, Hollywood, carnivals, and revolutions...Solnit forges a fresh vision of our capacity for rising from the rubble to cast off dismal societies and create paradise." Booklist

Synopsis:

Why is it that in the aftermath of a disaster, people suddenly become altruistic, resourceful, and brave? Award-winning author Solnit explores this phenomena, looking at major calamities from the past 100 years.

Synopsis:

A startling investigation of what people do in disasters and why it matters

Why is it that in the aftermath of a disaster? whether manmade or natural?people suddenly become altruistic, resourceful, and brave? What makes the newfound communities and purpose many find in the ruins and crises after disaster so joyous? And what does this joy reveal about ordinarily unmet social desires and possibilities?

In A Paradise Built in Hell, award-winning author Rebecca Solnit explores these phenomena, looking at major calamities from the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco through the 1917 explosion that tore up Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. She examines how disaster throws people into a temporary utopia of changed states of mind and social possibilities, as well as looking at the cost of the widespread myths and rarer real cases of social deterioration during crisis. This is a timely and important book from an acclaimed author whose work consistently locates unseen patterns and meanings in broad cultural histories.

Synopsis:

"The freshest, deepest, most optimistic account of human nature I've come across in years."

-Bill McKibben

The most startling thing about disasters, according to award-winning author Rebecca Solnit, is not merely that so many people rise to the occasion, but that they do so with joy. That joy reveals an ordinarily unmet yearning for community, purposefulness, and meaningful work that disaster often provides. A Paradise Built in Hell is an investigation of the moments of altruism, resourcefulness, and generosity that arise amid disaster's grief and disruption and considers their implications for everyday life. It points to a new vision of what society could become-one that is less authoritarian and fearful, more collaborative and local.

About the Author

Rebecca Solnit is an award-winning writer, historian, and activist. Her books include A Book of Migrations, Hollow City: The Siege of San Francisco and the Crisis of American Urbanism, River of Shadows, and Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. She is a contributing editor to Harper's and a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times and the London Review of Books.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

san francisco reader , December 29, 2009 (view all comments by san francisco reader )
Not only is this book about extraordinary communities that arise in disaster but itself is an extraordinary appeal for the power inherent in ordinary people who connect as communities helping one another after a disaster. In this well-researched, well-documented, and well-considered book, the author provides substantial historical evidence that beloved communities, or utopian-like communities built on altruism, often emerge after disasters, both natural and human-made. Solnit also provides the philosophical and psychological explanations for these behaviors, as well as for the antithetical behaviors of mistrust and suppression, often found in public authorities. The book is engrossing, energizing, and hopeful. It also explains a great deal about what actually happened during Katrina and 9/11 and why it happened. A must read.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780670021079
Subtitle:
The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Publisher:
Penguin Books
Author:
Solnit, Rebecca
Subject:
Disasters -- Psychological aspects.
Subject:
Disasters -- Social aspects.
Subject:
Disasters & Disaster Relief
Subject:
Social Psychology
Subject:
Sociology - General
Subject:
Psychology
Subject:
Sociology-Disasters and Disaster Relief
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
20100831
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
9.14x6.34x1.19 in. 1.25 lbs.
Age Level:
17-17

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Sociology » General

A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 368 pages Viking Books - English 9780670021079 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

If, like me, you've ever wondered how people can possibly survive the mental ordeal of a catastrophe like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, A Paradise Built in Hell will pique your curiosity — and reward it with a riveting examination of what happens to ordinary people in the aftermath of extraordinary disasters.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Natural and man-made disasters can be 'utopias' that showcase human solidarity and point the way to a freer society, according this stimulating contrarian study. Solnit (River of Shadows) reproves civil defense planners, media alarmists and Hollywood directors who insist that disasters produce terrified mobs prone to looting, murder and cannibalism unless controlled by armed force and government expertise. Surveying disasters from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, she shows that the typical response to calamity is spontaneous altruism, self-organization and mutual aid, with neighbors and strangers calmly rescuing, feeding and housing each other. Indeed, the main problem in such emergencies, she contends, is the 'elite panic' of officials who clamp down with National Guardsmen and stifling regulations. Solnit falters when she generalizes her populist brief into an anarchist critique of everyday society that lapses into fuzzy what-ifs and uplifting volunteer testimonials. Still, this vividly written, cogently argued book makes a compelling — and timely — case for the ability of ordinary people to collectively surmount the direst of challenges. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "How were such changes made possible? "Revolution has a different legacy here," Solnit suggests, "and the idea of radical change a different currency. It is as though they had an ability to recognize that disaster utopia, name it, connect it to other experiences, and make something of it. In other places, the unnamed qualities of a richer civic life and deeper ties often slip away for lack of a language and framework to prize them." (read the entire Brooklyn Rail review)
"Review" by , "Solnit demonstrat[es] that disasters give rise to small, temporary utopias in which the best of human nature emerges and a remarkable spirit of generosity and cooperation takes over."
"Review" by , "Through forays into philosophy, religion, Hollywood, carnivals, and revolutions...Solnit forges a fresh vision of our capacity for rising from the rubble to cast off dismal societies and create paradise."
"Synopsis" by , Why is it that in the aftermath of a disaster, people suddenly become altruistic, resourceful, and brave? Award-winning author Solnit explores this phenomena, looking at major calamities from the past 100 years.
"Synopsis" by ,
A startling investigation of what people do in disasters and why it matters

Why is it that in the aftermath of a disaster? whether manmade or natural?people suddenly become altruistic, resourceful, and brave? What makes the newfound communities and purpose many find in the ruins and crises after disaster so joyous? And what does this joy reveal about ordinarily unmet social desires and possibilities?

In A Paradise Built in Hell, award-winning author Rebecca Solnit explores these phenomena, looking at major calamities from the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco through the 1917 explosion that tore up Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. She examines how disaster throws people into a temporary utopia of changed states of mind and social possibilities, as well as looking at the cost of the widespread myths and rarer real cases of social deterioration during crisis. This is a timely and important book from an acclaimed author whose work consistently locates unseen patterns and meanings in broad cultural histories.

"Synopsis" by ,
"The freshest, deepest, most optimistic account of human nature I've come across in years."

-Bill McKibben

The most startling thing about disasters, according to award-winning author Rebecca Solnit, is not merely that so many people rise to the occasion, but that they do so with joy. That joy reveals an ordinarily unmet yearning for community, purposefulness, and meaningful work that disaster often provides. A Paradise Built in Hell is an investigation of the moments of altruism, resourcefulness, and generosity that arise amid disaster's grief and disruption and considers their implications for everyday life. It points to a new vision of what society could become-one that is less authoritarian and fearful, more collaborative and local.

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