NONFICTION

These Are Strange Times, My Dear: Field Notes from the Republic

Counterpoint. Feb. 2019. 320p. ISBN 9781640091511. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781640091528. LIT
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In this collection of essays, poet Willis (Blood Sisters of the Republic) is determined not to give in to despair after the 2016 election and offers a unique vision for life in such challenging times. As an activist in deep blue Portland, OR, she turns to writers—Vaclav Havel, Pablo Neruda, and Walt Whitman, among them—for inspiration and guidance as she searches for ways to be a more responsible, truthful, and humane citizen, while still carrying on her resistance. Willis argues that the Internet, commercialism, government snooping, and even voting by mail, while they may make our lives safer and more convenient, are eroding our democracy and sense of community. Yet while righteous rage would seem to be an appropriate emotion, in "Tilt," she advocates a more balanced, empathetic approach to understand the suffering of those with whom we disagree. Finally, she calls on writers to band together to inspire a collective opposition to today's societal toxicity.
VERDICT Willis's nuanced and interior approach to politics is a welcome departure from the harsh rhetoric so popular today. Even readers who disagree with her will appreciate her sincerity and experiences as a mother, lawyer, and author.

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