A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

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Penguin, Aug 31, 2010 - Social Science - 368 pages
8 Reviews
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.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bibleblaster - LibraryThing

Great look at how people act in the midst of disaster, catastrophe, crisis. Lord of the Flies it ain't. People act far better than we are led to expect. And people in power act far worse. If you think ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Paulagraph - LibraryThing

I am a big fan of Solnit’s and consider her River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West one of my all time favorites. For the first two thirds of A Paradise Built in Hell ... Read full review


The Gathering Place
A Map of Utopia
Countless Acts
States of Mind
Shoot to Kill
The Great Fire
Utopia Besieged
The Rattled Child
The City Belongs to Everyone
A Carnival of Revolution
The Forum
Blood and Food
The Heavenly Banquet and the Smell of Death
The Parade of Clichés
Trauma and Toughness
Business as Usual

Love in Practice
Mapping the Landscape of Love
Days Impact
The Explosion
The Sociologist
The Revolutionist and the Reactionary
Mutual Aid Versus the Social Darwinists
Diggers and Survivors
The Blitz
The Rebirth of Disaster Studies
The BombShelter Crisis
Disaster Without Redemption Redemption Without Disaster
Hero in Foreground
The Absence of Panic
Fear at the Top
Shaking Inside and Out
This Country Awakened
Contemplate This Ruin
A Shock to the System
Revolutionary Weather
The True Feast of Time
The First Day in History
The Deluge and the Guns
The Corpses That Werent There
Locked and Loaded
It Made People Crazy
We Shot Em
The Ordeal of Donnell Herrington
Death by Obstruction
Richer and Poorer
Social Aid and Pleasure
Old and New Ties
Picking Up the Pieces
Pitching a Tent
Finding Common Ground
Welcome Home
Weighing the Balance

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About the author (2010)

Rebecca Solnit is the author of numerous books, including Hope in the Dark, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, and As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art, which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. In 2003, she received the prestigious Lannan Literary Award.

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