The World As We Knew It: Dispatches From a Changing Climate (Paperback)
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Nineteen leading literary writers from around the globe offer timely, haunting first-person reflections on how climate change has altered their lives—including essays by Lydia Millet, Alexandra Kleeman, Kim Stanley Robinson, Omar El Akkad, Lidia Yuknavitch, Melissa Febos, and more
In this riveting anthology, leading literary writers reflect on how climate change has altered their lives, revealing the personal and haunting consequences of this global threat.
In the opening essay, National Book Award finalist Lydia Millet mourns the end of the Saguaro cacti in her Arizona backyard due to drought. Later, Omar El Akkad contemplates how the rise of temperatures in the Middle East is destroying his home and the wellspring of his art. Gabrielle Bellot reflects on how a bizarre lionfish invasion devastated the coral reef near her home in the Caribbean—a precursor to even stranger events to come. Traveling through Nebraska, Terese Svoboda witnesses cougars running across highways and showing up in kindergartens.
As the stories unfold—from Antarctica to Australia, New Hampshire to New York—an intimate portrait of a climate-changed world emerges, captured by writers whose lives jostle against incongruous memories of familiar places that have been transformed in startling ways.
About the Author
Tajja Isen is the author of Some of My Best Friends: Essays on Lip Service. She is an editor for Catapult Magazine and the former digital editor at The Walrus. Also a voice actor, Tajja can be heard on such animated shows as The Berenstain Bears, Atomic Betty, and Go Dog Go, among others.
Amy Brady is the Executive Director of Orion. She is also the author of a cultural history of ice in America and the former Editor-in-Chief of the Chicago Review of Books. She holds a PhD in literature from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has won writing and research awards from the National Science Foundation, the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers Conference, and the Library of Congress.
"The World as We Knew It is an attempt . . . to hold a mirror up to our lives at a crucial moment in our collective history, and reflect the slew of compounding, often conflicting fears that characterize it . . . Very occasionally, in the anthology, those anxieties are replaced by something else—a sense of peace and beauty that springs forth not despite the horrors of our world but because of them . . . These are the moments when stories transform from fragile mirrors into shields. When our power and powerlessness can coexist without us feeling the paralyzing weight of their illogic. When living on a dying planet seems possible." —Lily Houston King, The Atlantic
"These self-revealing glimpses into writers grappling with an array of possible climate scenarios—in places as far-flung as the U.S. Southwest and the ephemeral, shining cities of Middle East oil kingdoms sit on the shimmering edge between what is and what if." —Lydia Millet, Oprah Daily
"To capture the impact of climate change in all its existential proportions, we might need methods more ancient than modern science. Drawing on storytelling, lived experience, and even a bit of superstition, The World As We Knew It is a collection of essays from leading literary writers that does just that, confronting climate change with wider vocabulary than science affords . . . The World As We Knew It is resoundingly articulate about climate change in ways that dispassionate scientific inquiry cannot be. By taking a more off-the-cuff approach, the essay collection is so razor sharp, one feels it has a chance of reaching even the most hardened skeptic." —Joseph Swift, Science
"Rather than reckon with global indicators, the nineteen contributors to The World as We Knew It focus on more intimate and immediate signs of climate change, those that are apparent to families and individuals worldwide. By illuminating 'the connections between the personal and the planetary,' the anthology’s resonant and introspective essays grieve what we’ve already lost, honor what we still have, and prepare us for whatever may come next." —Benjamin Samuel, BOMB
"Each author brings a unique style and focus to their topic, with prose that is in varying degrees lyrical, reflective and urgent . . . [The World As We Knew It] is a warning that commands the full attention of every reader." —BookPage
"A vital collection of essays from some of our best writers . . . What editors Amy Brady and Tajja Isen have created is an unforgettable chorus that, when assembled together, act as a piercing rallying cry." —Katie Yee, Literary Hub
"Inspiring" —Library Journal
"Striking . . . A startling collection of 19 essays documenting the impact of climate change at the individual level, by a geographically diverse group of writers." —Shelf Awareness
"With contributions from Alexandra Kleeman, Kim Stanley Robinson, Omar El Akkad, Melissa Febos, and many others, this book offers input from some of our most inventive and exciting contemporary essayists on our rapidly changing world." —Corinne Segal, Lit Hub, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year
"[A] powerful collection . . . The pieces create a moving mix of resolve and sorrow, painting a vivid picture of an era in which 'climate change is altering life on Earth at an unprecedented rate,' but 'the majority of us can still remember when things were more stable.' The result is a poignant ode to a changing planet." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"In focusing on how climatic shifts have been felt, mourned, and protested, this essay collection, edited by Brady and Isen, sketches an ecological transition point for humanity: a moment when older adults can recall a more secure past but not avoid confronting an increasingly ominous and insecure future . . . The book presents a diverse portrait of environmental awareness and distress. A collection of testimonials, by turns disheartening and inspiring, on the radical climate transformations now well underway." —Kirkus Reviews
"From the desert of Arizona to the waters of Dominica and the Nile, from the glaciers of Antarctica to the streets of Bangkok and New Orleans, The World As We Knew It: Dispatches from a Changing Climate is a dazzling and terrifying array of real-life parables about the way the changing climate is changing our lives. These brilliant thinkers and futurists boldly share their fears, and, perhaps even more daringly, their hopes. Part diary of apocalypse, part celebration of all the small beauties under threat, The World As We Knew It is essential reading." —Helen Phillips, author of The Need
“Spanning the globe, from Antarctica to Qatar to Queensland, The World As We Knew It sometimes has the stark, clear sound of a fire lookout announcing flames, and in other moments, it has the intimate pace of a journal. We need both these registers and more, this important book reveals: clarity in urgency, depth in observation, if we stand a chance at making sense of the gargantuan changes we set in motion and our living through as a species.” —John Freeman, author of The Park and editor of Tales of Two Planet