Mother of All Questions, The By Rebecca Solnit, 176 pgs.

Aug 16, 2017

Amnesty International annually releases a report documenting human rights violations for that year. Though not annual, Rebecca Solnit’s books operate in roughly the same way for women’s rights.

The Mother of All Questions takes those violations and offenses that populate our social media, removes them from that bustle, and reminds us of them in an isolated setting, adding her always welcome insight—not that I always agree with her (she just had to go and bring up Hemingway).

“Isla Vista.” Remember what that refers to? What if I add “UC Santa Barbara?” Starting to come back to you? Remember the hashtag that grew from that event? That’s one of the recent-past events that reading this book will more firmly affix to your memory.

The central essay is the almost fifty-page “A Short History of Silence,” about the different silences that our society demands of women, men, and children. She also writes about the year 2014, “a year of feminist insurrection against male violence.”

The above paragraphs may make it seem like The Mother of All Questions is a nutritionist-prescribed platter of raw vegetables, but really, it’s your favorite vegan meal. It’s the curried cauliflower soup I had at Ahimsa in Long Beach last weekend. –Jim Woster (Haymarket Books,