Monday, February 13, 2006

Review: High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never

For book #4 in my 52 book-this-year resolution (I’m behind, I know. I’m reading #5, 6, and 7 right now. I might catch up someday . . .), I read another Barbara Kingsolver book: High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never. Kingsolver describes this book as “creative nonfiction” – a collection of essays – some new, some previously written, organized in a loose theme, creating an excellent collection of very readable, enjoyable, and provocative stories. Kingsolver is just such an excellent writer, it seems any topic she tackles be a page-turner.

In the essay “Making Peace,” Kingsolver wonders about the modern concept of “No Trespassing,” writing, “’No Trespassing’ doesn’t just mean, ‘Don’t build your house here.’ It means: ‘All you see before you, the trees, the songbirds, the poison ivy, the water beneath the ground, the air you would breathe if you passed through here, the grass you would tread upon, the very idea of existing in this place – all these are mind.’ Nought but a human mind could think of such a thing. And nought but a human believes it.” (pp. 30-31)

“Somebody’s Baby” is another excellent essay, about the community responsibility to nurture children – and the community blessings of children. She remembers a time the community she lived in voted down the proposed school budget, with a letter-to-the-editor saying, “I don’t have kinds . . . so why should I have to pay to educate other people’s offspring?” Kingsolver reasons, “I longed to ask that miserly nonfather just whose offspring he expects to doctor the maladies of his old age.” She continues, “If we don’t wish to live by bread alone, we’ll need not only a farmer and a cook in the family but also a home repair specialist, an auto mechanic, an accountant (etc. etc.) . . . If that seems impractical, then we can accept other people’s kids into our lives, starting now.” (pg. 105)

In “The Spaces Between” Kingsolver writes about the dangers of racism that elevates other cultures, and therefore makes people of other cultures simply strange and exotic instead of human. “What began as anthropology has escalated to fad, and it strikes me that assigning magical power to a culture’s every belief and by-product is simply another way of setting those people apart. It’s more benign than burnings crosses on lawns, for sure, but ultimately not much more humane.” (pg. 148)

“In the Belly of the Beast” describes a fascinating visit to a missile museum in Tucson, housing a decommissioned Titan missile, and a moving visit to the museum in Hiroshima, cataloguing items melted and destroyed and devastated from the bomb dropped there.

“Paradise Lost,” as well as the opening/closing duo of “Hide Tide in Tucson” and the “Reprise” are other favorite. Another great read. Check it out!
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