Our booksellers' favorite books of the year!
If I could, I would shelve this book in every applicable section, so as to get the maximum number of eyes on it! It is certainly welcome in the climate change section, as its overarching theme is the threat of rising seas to Guam and other Pacific Island nations. I'd also welcome it in US History, where you can learn about our government's treatment of Guam, its people, its resources. Literature Reference? Yep, the book is full of loving recommendations. Poetry? Obviously, the book is full of impactful poems. Julian Aguon is a remarkable writer — so open-hearted and full of fierce love for his home island, for books, for people, for the planet. I am blown away. Recommended By Lesley A., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Aguon's book is for everyone, but he challenges history by placing indigenous consciousness at the center of his project... The result is the most tender polemic I've ever read.
—Lenika Cruz, The Atlantic
A collection of essays on resistance, resilience, and collective power in the age of climate disaster from Chamorro human rights lawyer and organizer Julian Aguon.
Part memoir, part manifesto, Chamorro climate activist Julian Aguon's No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies is a coming-of-age story and a call for justice — for everyone, but in particular, for Indigenous peoples.
In bracing poetry and compelling prose, Aguon weaves together stories from his childhood in the villages of Guam with searing political commentary about matters ranging from nuclear weapons to global warming. Undertaking the work of bearing witness, wrestling with the most pressing questions of the modern day, and reckoning with the challenge of truth-telling in an era of rampant obfuscation, he culls from his own life experiences — from losing his father to pancreatic cancer to working for Mother Teresa to an edifying chance encounter with Sherman Alexie — to illuminate a collective path out of the darkness.
A powerful, bold, new voice writing at the intersection of Indigenous rights and environmental justice, Julian Aguon is entrenched in the struggles of the people of the Pacific to liberate themselves from colonial rule, defend their sacred sites, and obtain justice for generations of harm. In No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies, Aguon shares his wisdom and reflections on love, grief, joy, and triumph and extends an offer to join him in a hard-earned hope for a better world.
“[An] incandescent debut....In eloquent maxims that call forth comparisons to Thoreau, Aguon pits lofty ideals against a backdrop of racism, brutality, and habitat destruction, but optimism prevails....This is bound to inspire any activist.”
Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)
“A slender but meaningful call for justice.”
"A powerful, beautiful book. Its fierce love — of the land, the ocean, the elders, and the ancestors — warms the heart and moves the spirit."
Alice Walker, author of Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart
“No Country for Eight-Spot Butterflies is a masterpiece, a literary talisman shaped by mad beauty and grief, evoking the magic of presence and poetry, warding off cynicism and injustice. I keep it close. You will too.”
V (formerly Eve Ensler), author of The Vagina Monologues and The Apology
"Powerful with love, and tender about what it needs to be tender about, and direct, even fierce where it means to tell us what we need to be thinking about what we've been doing to this world, to Aguon's people, and to Indigenous people everywhere, to the land and to all its beings... as the dying eight-spot butterfly he writes about, strong and luminous as a needed beacon in a fog of disinformation and dismay, Julian Aguon with this small book emerges already a giant."
Tommy Orange, author of There There
"I did not know I needed this book until it had me in its embrace like the oldest and dearest of friends, from the very first page....With bottomless love for his people and place, Aguon guides us through a portal to the Pacific, sharing deep insights earned from life on the existential knife's edge."
Naomi Klein, author of How to Change Everything: The Young Human's Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other
“Julian Aguon connects the global struggles for justice with the local precision and anecdotes of Guam and Oceania. The result is this deeply felt book: Aguon writes so you understand the arguments for change with your mind and feel the urgency in your heart.”
José Olivarez, author of Citizen Illegal
"Inspired spiritual and practical wisdom from a Guam lawyer/poet/seer that transmits ways of knowing, feeling, and acting, which speak directly to the mind and heart of everyone on the planet. If reading this short book doesn't change your life, nothing will."
Richard Falk, author of Public Intellectual: The Life of a Citizen Pilgrim
"A breathtaking book and I mean it — this book took my breath away... alive with passion, wisdom, and heart, you can almost feel its pulse. A call not only for justice but for a brand-new covenant with our world."
Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
"Aguon's pen is a spear. He has the unerring ability to pierce the heart of any matter he writes about, from colonialism to climate change, and he writes in a way that both exposes horrors and expresses love to the young."
Noenoe K. Silva, author of Aloha Betrayed
"This book is a gift — full of beauty, truth telling, and love. This book will enlighten and inspire anyone interested in understanding and doing something about colonialism, capitalism, racism, militarism, war, and violence of all kinds. As importantly, this book will move you emotionally. It will move you to change how you live your life. It will move you to help change the world for the better."
David Vine, author of Base Nation and The United States of War
"Aguon is one of Oceania's most important thinkers who uses his ability to see through complicated systems to fight for our islands and peoples. With razor-sharp analysis and a ton of heart, he both defends and calls forth our communities. I will regularly return to this book for inspiration — to remind me why I do my own work."
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, author of Iep Jaltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter
"Aguon's work transcends all boundaries and centers Indigenous relationships to people and place. Whether drawing on his legal or poetic skills, Aguon reckons with the rage and violence of colonialism while gently unfolding a new vision for justice and healing."
Holly Barker, author of Bravo for the Marshallese
"Aguon gifts us, in shrunken times, the indigenous version of the all-encompassing vision that Aristotle and his disciple Aquinas bequeathed humanity: truth equals beauty equals goodness."
Maivân Lâm, author of At the Edge of the State
"A celebration of Indigenous hope and survival amid the destructive and desecrating forces of militarism, capitalism, and climate change, and a provocation for collective action for just and sustainable futures in the Marianas — a must read for anyone interested in the beauty of Indigenous worlds and struggles for liberation!"
Christine Taitano DeLisle, author of Placental Politics
"A devastatingly gentle song of resistance."
Jonathan K. K. Osorio, author of Dismembering Lāhui
“Moving and impassioned....This short read packs a great deal of heart and promise for readers. Aguon has written both an informational and philosophical book that will please readers interested in environmental and political issues.”
Anna Kallemeyn, Library Journal
"Aguon tells the Chamorro story by merging a profound love for our indigenous people and culture with his potent intellect and creative genius."
Anne Perez Hattori, author of Colonial Dis-Ease
About the Author
Julian Aguon is a Chamorro human rights lawyer and defender from Guam. He is the founder of Blue Ocean Law, a progressive firm that works at the intersection of Indigenous rights and environmental justice; and serves on the council of Progressive International — a global collective with the mission of mobilizing progressive forces around the world behind a shared vision of social justice. He lives in the village of Yona. Visit julianaguon.com.