Recollections of My Non-Existence | Granta

  • Published: 05/03/2020
  • ISBN: 9781783785506
  • Granta Books
  • 256 pages

Recollections of My Non-Existence

Rebecca Solnit

In 1981, Rebecca Solnit rented a studio apartment in San Francisco that would be her home for the next twenty-five years. There, she began to come to terms with the epidemic of violence against women around her, the street harassment that unsettled her, and the authority figures that routinely disbelieved her. That violence weighed on her as she faced the task of having a voice in a society that preferred women to shut up or go away.

Set in the era of punk, of growing gay pride, of counter culture and West Coast activism, during the latter years of second wave feminism, Recollections of My Non-Existence is the foundational story of an emerging artist struggling against patriarchal violence and scorn. Recalling the experience of living with fear, which Solnit contends is the normal state of women, she considers how oppression impacts on creativity and recounts the struggle to find a voice and have it be heard.

Place and the growing culture of activism liberated her, as did the magical world of literature and books. And over time, the clamour of voices against violence to women coalesced in the current feminist upheaval, a movement in which Solnit was a widely audible participant. Here is an electric account of the pauses and gains of feminism in the past forty years; and an extraordinary portrait of an artist, by a seminal American writer.

Solnit taught me that activism is poetic. Her prose as clear and galvanising as it is beautiful. In 'Recollections of my Non-Existence' she takes us through the dreams and dark corners of her life. Each passage a revelation, both idiosyncratic and universal, as she examines the everyday violence of inhabiting a female body, and the everyday erasure that occurs in our society. Unflinching she lights the way, holding up her experience, her insight, that others might find her, and find hope

Florence Welch

Spare, yet lyrical, Solnit's memoir is a powerful portrait of the artist as a young woman. She stumbles, she suffers, she wanders and deviates. She works and works some more. Somehow she arrives at a singular voice that is heard by millions, including the mansplainers she so precisely named. Solnit's voice is 'audible, credible, and consequential'. It is also brilliant and shapes the ways in which women today see, all the while enabling them to speak out

Lisa Appignanesi

A writer of startling freshness and precision

New York Times

The Author

Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty books, including Orwell’s Roses, which was shortlisted for the 2022 Orwell Prize for Political Writing, Men Explain Things to Me, Wanderlust, The Faraway Nearby and Recollections of My Non-Existence, which was longlisted for the 2021 Orwell Prize for Political Writing and shortlisted for the James Tait Black Award. She is also the author of many essays on feminism, activism, social change, hope and the climate crisis. She lives in San Francisco and is a regular contributor to the Guardian and other publications.

More about the author →

From the Same Author

Rebecca Solnit on

Essays & Memoir | Granta 127

Arrival Gates

Rebecca Solnit

‘It was like trying to go back to before the earthquake, to before knowledge.’

In Conversation | Granta 127

Rebecca Solnit | Podcast

Rebecca Solnit & Yuka Igarashi

Rebecca Solnit discusses interweaving personal narratives with the lives of Mary Shelley and Che Guevara, paradoxes and Beyoncé.