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Paperback Small Wonder : Essays Book

ISBN: 0060504080

ISBN13: 9780060504083

Small Wonder : Essays

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Book Overview

In her new essay collection, the beloved author of High Tide in Tucson brings to us, out of one of history's darker moments, an extended love song to the world we still have. Whether she is contemplating the Grand Canyon, her vegetable garden, motherhood, genetic engineering, or the future of a nation founded on the best of all human impulses, these essays are grounded in the author's belief that our largest problems have grown from the earth's remotest...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A thought-provoking book......a place for reflection and solace.

I agree with the reviewer who cautioned to take this book in small doses. I was moved to tears by the second page, and realized I needed to pace myself. On that second page, Kingsolver was describing the story of a lost child in Iraq (who was found)....her point of view was from the parents of this child, and the heart-wrenching terror they must have felt as the babysitter came running towards them in tears, without their son. This story has an incredible ending, and an incredible does each essay. Some essays are heavy and may provoke thoughts or ideology that makes you uncomfortable, or disagreeable. That is okay.....that is the point of these essays. (As for the reviewer who noted the author's "sexist" remarks - tell me how many women have started a war. Hello? Open your eyes. That is not a sexist statement, it's a fact). If more people would take Kingsolver's gentle, thoughtful manner of considering how our actions affect the global community and our future generations, maybe we could really improve upon our reputation as uncooperative, self-serving, greedy and over-consumptive Americans. Maybe. As for reviewers who likened this to an anti-Bush or post-9/11 rant, they obviously didn't read the entire book. There are beautiful essays detailing a trip to the heart of Mexico, gardening with her daughters, and the long-term effects of the food choices we make - among many others. All in all, I did find myself coming to this book on my lunch hour for a good dose of hope and solace. Sometimes taking time to acknowledge one small wonder in this hectic world can make your mood a little bit lighter.

Be prepared to leave your baggage at the door...

When you embark on this journey with Ms. Kingsolver, if it doesn't make you squirm, you're not paying attention. I got this book on tape because I loved Kingsolver's fiction. I didn't know it was a running commentary on political and environmental issues that are close to the author's heart. I was delighted to find that the author and I share many of the same what could be called 'liberal' views on various issues. This book will make you think about old issues in a new light... but not a glaring one... more like the light that wakes you gently through your window in the morning. Yes, you may not agree with everything she says, but that's not the author's goal. She states her beliefs in a steady calm voice (I have the cassettes) and gives reasons she came to her current positions. Kudos to her for doing her research before making a sometimes bold statement on a sensitive issue. Barbara Kingsolver challenges us to find our own voice in the face of the many controversial issues that face us as individuals living in a sometimes not-so-United country. I don't believe she is pushing her own agenda... more sharing her personal journalling on things that are on her mind, and maybe on yours, too. If you don't agree, don't let it ruin the book for you. Look for ways that it can inspire you to challenge or even strengthen your alternate position on an issue. In the end, after all, aren't our differences and freedom to make our own choices part of what makes this country so great?


Barbara Kingsolver, a biology graduate and author, ends her first story in "Small Wonder" by writing, "I'd like to speak of small wonders and the possibility of taking heart." Instead of having a dangerous nationalistic attitude by saying, "Hey, America's the best!" she shows her patriotism for her country by celebrating the good and shining light on the bad so that we as a country might heal. With great insight and compassion Kingsolver gently helps us become more knowledgeable about our country's challenges and eloquently puts into words what many of us think and feel. About conservation she says the U.S. citizen's compromise 5% of the world's people and uses a quarter of its fuel. The U.S. belongs to the 20% of the world's population that generates 75% of its pollution. Although we are the world's biggest contributors to global warming we walked away from ratifying the Kyoto agreement with the 178 other nations in 2001. Instead of eating local produce the average American's food travels 5 million miles by land, sea and air. Yet our country possesses the resources to bring solar technology, energy independence and sustainable living to our planet. About the Government she says we live in the only rich country in the world that still tolerates poverty. In Japan, some European countries and Canada the state assumes the duty of providing all its citizens with good education, good health and shelter. These nations believe that homelessness simply isn't an option. The citizens pay higher taxes than the U.S. and so they have smaller homes, smaller cars, and appetites for consumer goods. They realize true peace is not the absence of tension but the presence of justice. About wars she says, "The losers of all wars are largely the innocent." Seventy thousand people died in one minute when we bombed Japan in World War II. Then twice that many died slowly from the inside. "Vengeance does not subtract any numbers from the equation of murder, it only adds them." In the last 30 years our government has helped finance air assaults in Afghanistan, Chile, El Salvador, Grenada, Iran, Libya, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Panama, the Sudan, Vietnam and Yugoslavia. Most wars and campaigns are to maintain our fossil-fuel dependency and our wasteful consumption of unnecessary things. We need to stop being a nation who solves problems by killing people and to "aspire to waste not and want less." About global commerce she says we have a history of overtaking the autonomy and economy of small countries with our large corporations. For example, U.S. corporations and the World Trade Organization are placing pressure on farmers of other countries to buy genetically altered seeds that kill their own embryos. This means the farmers will always have to buy new seeds and pesticides from these companies. The pesticides and insecticides not only kill the unwanted bugs but also the beneficial insects and microbes that sustain, pollinate or cull different species. Kingsolver does not ad

A thought-provoking collection of personal/political essays

I am a long-time fan of all of Barbara Kingsolver's novels (The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven, Animal Dreams, The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summers), so I was interested to hear more about the person and the views behind the stories. Small Wonders did not disappoint. Kingsolver makes it clear that for her, the personal is political, meaning that the choices that we make as individuals have political impact. So, the essays are wide-ranging, from her family life and her garden, to her concerns about the natural environment and thoughts about the U.S.'s reaction to Sept. 11. The essays are well-written, interesting, and thought provoking. I found myself agreeing with most of the points that she makes, and many of her ideas linger afterward; for example, she asks us to consider the environmental costs of shipping food all over the world, instead of eating what is grown locally. Or what it means to have TV streaming into your home every day. Or what the consquences of genetically engineering food might be, not just for our health, but for the environment. I recommend the book highly to fans of her novels as well as to people interested in a thoughtful read.Some may disagree with her post-Sept. 11 analysis -- her concern about our country's agressive response. To those I would say, all the more reason to read the book, and hear her side of it, even if you ultimately disagree, exactly because voices such has hers have received little airplay. Here, her own words say it better than I could:"Questioning our government's actions does not violate the principles of liberty, equality, and freedom of speech; it exercises them, and by exercise we grow stronger. I have read enough of Thomas Jefferson to feel sure he would back me up on this. Our founding fathers, those vocal critics of imperalism, were among the first leaders to understand that to a democratic people, freedom of speech and belief are not just nice luxuries, they're as necessary as breathing. The authors of our Constituion knew, from experience with King George and company, tha governments don't remain benevolent to the interests of all, including their less powerful members, without constant vigilance and reasoned criticism. And so the founding fathers guarenteed the right of reasoned criticism in our citizenship contract--for always. No emergency shutdowns allowed. However desperate things may get, there are to be no historical moments when beliefs can be abridged, vegetarians required to praise meat, Christians forced to pray as Muslims, or vice versa. Angry critics have said to me in stressful periods, "Don't you understand it's wartime?" As if this were just such a moment of emergency shutdown. Yes, we all know it's wartime. It's easy to speak up for peace in peacetime--anybody can do that. Now is when it gets hard. But our flag is not just a logo for wars; it's the flag of American pacificists, too. It's the flag of all of us who love our country enough to do the hard w

Small wonders happen here.

"Maybe life doesn't get any better than this, or any worse" Barbara Kingsolver observes in one of the twenty-three essays collected here, "and what we get is just what we're willing to find: small wonders, where they grow" (p. 264). Although Kingsolver is better known for her fiction (THE POISONWOOD BIBLE, PRODIGAL SUMMER), I am partial to her essays (HIGH TIDE IN TUCSON). Kingsolver began this latest collection on September 12, 2001, the day after the World Trade Center terrorist attack (p. xiii). "Compiling this book quickly in the strange, awful time that dawned on us last September became for me a way of surviving that time," she writes in the book's Foreward, "and in the process I reopened in my own veins the intimate connection between the will to survive and the need to feel useful to something or someone beyond myself. In fact, that is a theme that runs throuugh the book" (p. xv). Kingsolver's book is dedicated to "every citizen of my country who has suffered bereavement with honor, trepidation without panic, and the insult of fundamentalist condemnation without succumbing to similar thinking in turn. We may yet show the world we are worth our salt" (p. xvi).Kingsolver has a talent for writing life-affirming essays. For her, "God is in the details, the completely unnecessary miracles sometimes tossed up as stars to guide us" (p. 6). We find her taking heart in "a persistent river, a forest on the edge of night, the religion in a seed, the startle of wingbeats when a spark of red life flies against all reason out of the darkness. One child, one bear" (p. 21). Rooted in the "small wonders" of daily life and full of hope, her essays ultimately touch the canopy of life's bigger questions. Kingsolver's diverse subjects include September 11th; democracy ("the majority rules so hard; we seem bent on dividing all things into a contest of Win and Lose, and declaring that the Losers are losers," p. 18); the Grand Canyon ("that vermillion abyss attenuates humanity to quieter internal rhythms," p. 22); mothers and daughters; tv, the "one-eyed monster;" raising chickens; Columbine ("in a society that embraces violence, this is what 'our way of life' has come to mean," p. 182); genetic engineering ("I'm a scientist who thinks who thinks it wise to enter the doors of creation not with a lion tamer's whip and chair, but with the reverence humankind has traditionally summoned for entering places of worship: a temple, a mosque, or a cathedral," p. 108); the homeless ("their presence is a pure, naked shame upon us all," p. 198); the "demise" of independent bookstores; short stories ("A good short story cannot be simply Lit Lite. It should pull off the successful execution of large truths delivered in tight spaces," p. 212); writing poetry ("poems fall not from a tree, really, but from the richly pollinated boughs of an ordinary life, buzzing as lives do, with clamor and glory," p. 231); the San Pedro River (near my childhood home in Southern Arizona); and e
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