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

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Penguin, Aug 31, 2010 - Social Science - 368 pages
10 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  - willszal - www.librarything.com

Through the exploration of five events over the past century, Solnit explores how Western societies behave during disasters. She debunks the pop-culture myth that crowds turn into angry mobs during ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rivkat - www.librarything.com

Stories of human altruism in natural disasters. Solnit argues that most people behave their best in natural(ish) disasters, rather than panicking or selfishly trampling others to survive. Though there ... Read full review

Contents

Falling Together
1
The Mizpah Café
13
Pauline Jacobsons Joy
23
General Funstons Fear
34
William Jamess Moral Equivalents
49
Dorothy Days Other Loves
58
THE GREAT DEBATE
71
From the Blitz and the Bomb to Vietnam
99
The Need to Help
195
Nine Hundred and Eleven Questions
211
COMMON GROUNDS AND KILLERS
229
Murderers
247
Love and Lifeboats
267
Beloved Community
282
The Doorway in the Ruins
305
Gratitude
315

Hobbes in Hollywood or the Few Versus the Many
120
Losing the Mandate of Heaven
151
Standing on Top of Golden Hours
165
Mutual Aid in the Marketplace
183
Notes
321
Index
347
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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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