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Rebecca Solnit has established herself as one of the leading feminist voices in the country. She has reported on gender inequities for decades and gave birth to the concept of “mansplaining” with a 2008 essay in which she recalled a man condescendingly explaining the finer points of a book to her—a book that Solnit actually wrote herself. Solnit’s latest work, Recollections of My Nonexistence, is her first memoir. As with the mansplaining essay, Recollections is at its most powerful when she shares personal stories that humanize feminist theory. She writes, for instance, about how she inherited a desk from a woman who was stabbed 15 times by a jealous ex-boyfriend: “Someone tried to silence her. Then she gave me a platform for my voice. Now I wonder if everything I’ve ever written is a counterweight to that attempt to reduce a young woman to nothing. All of it has literally arisen from the foundation that is the desktop.” With such reflections, Solnit paints a resonant and moving portrait of how challenging life can be in the female body.

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