A Paradise Built in Hell

A Paradise Built in Hell

The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

Book - 2009
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A startling investigation of what people do in disasters and why it matters

Why is it that in the aftermath of a disaster? whether manmade or natural?people suddenly become altruistic, resourceful, and brave? What makes the newfound communities and purpose many find in the ruins and crises after disaster so joyous? And what does this joy reveal about ordinarily unmet social desires and possibilities?

In A Paradise Built in Hell , award-winning author Rebecca Solnit explores these phenomena, looking at major calamities from the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco through the 1917 explosion that tore up Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. She examines how disaster throws people into a temporary utopia of changed states of mind and social possibilities, as well as looking at the cost of the widespread myths and rarer real cases of social deterioration during crisis. This is a timely and important book from an acclaimed author whose work consistently locates unseen patterns and meanings in broad cultural histories.

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Viking, 2009
ISBN: 9780670021079
Characteristics: x, 353 p. ; 24 cm


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Aug 21, 2018

This book made an impression on me. In a dystopian year--as I write this, the sky outside is orange with smoke from wildfires--it's essential work to examine our beliefs about how humans behave when pushed to extremes by circumstance. Solnit's research and analysis is wide-ranging, and I sometimes felt only 90% convinced by her arguments. But overall I found her writing profound and hopeful. PARADISE left me feeling like I had new strategies and new energy in the struggle against doom and toward that beloved community.

Sep 14, 2015

Solnit goes to some lengths to de-bunk the idea of mindless chaos after disasters, sometimes to the point of 'yeah, okay I get it.' If her tone sometimes gets a little breathless, her research continues to keep her grounded: she's no crackpot. This is going on my Preparedness/Must Read list.


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