Award-winning author and critic Emily Raboteau crafts a powerfully moving meditation on race, climate, environmental justice—and what it takes to find shelter.
Lessons for Survival is a probing series of pilgrimages from the perspective of a mother struggling to raise her children to thrive without coming undone in an era of turbulent intersecting crises.
With camera in hand, Raboteau goes in search of birds, fluttering in the air or painted on buildings, and city parks where her children may safely play while avoiding pollution, pandemics, and the police. She ventures abroad to learn from Indigenous peoples, and in her own family and community, she discovers the most intimate examples of resilience. Raboteau bears witness to the inner life of Black womanhood, motherhood, the brutalities and possibilities of cities, while celebrating the beauty and fragility of nature. This innovative work of reportage and autobiography stitches together multiple stories of protection, offering a profound sense of hope.
A Most Anticipated Book of the Year, ELLE Magazine
Named one of Heatmap's “17 Climate Books to Read in 2024”
Named one of Electric Literature's “75 Books by Women of Color to Read in 2024”
“Through stories and photographs drawn from her own life and her studies abroad, Raboteau grounds the audience in the beauty—and resilience—of nature.”
—ELLE, A Most Anticipated Book of the Year
“Raboteau meditates on climate change, motherhood, and injustice in this lyrical essay collection . . . Her urgent and thought-provoking book encourages readers to face the climate crisis and oppression courageously.”
“As the world burns, Emily Raboteau is paying attention as a mother, as a writer and as a pilgrim in search of beauty and justice. At a time when the disconnect between the violence and inequities surrounding race and the climate crisis is too often unseen and ignored, Raboteau makes this relationship clear through her moving inquiries and observations. Lessons for Survival has wings. This beautiful, soaring book is its own pilgrimage and prayer.”
—Terry Tempest Williams, author of Refuge
“My gratitude is immense for this important book. Emily Raboteau dedicates her considerable intellectual gifts, clarity and moral courage to confront the catastrophes of our era. She traverses generations and geographies, all the while caring for her children, and in so doing, teaches us that to ‘mother' is to tend, to study, to nurture, and to hand over our most precious inheritances.”
—Imani Perry, author of South to America
“Raboteau's vision and pen pan out as lusciously as they pan in here. And what is left in the folds is utterly devastating and as layered and magnificent as essayistic-writing gets. Lessons for Survival is the height of what an essay collection can do, and be."
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
“Never have I needed a book as badly as I needed Lessons for Survival. There is so much talk these days about raising resourceful, resilient children. But what does that mean and how does one do it without going to pieces entirely? What new worlds can be assembled from the wreckage of the one that is (always) ending all around us? Emily Raboteau fearlessly addresses these questions in her brilliant, lambent new essay collection.”
—Elizabeth Rush, author of The Quickening
“In these powerful yet elegant essays, Emily Raboteau shows us again and again how multiple vectors of the planetary crisis—biodiversity loss, climate change, migration, racial divisions, pandemics—impinge upon our everyday lives, often in deeply personal and surprising ways.”
—Amitav Ghosh, author of Smoke and Ashes
“Lessons for Survival is a glorious and rigorous collection of essays, animated by the urgencies of intimacy, care and witnessing, cut from vast swaths of grief and joy. The beauty of this book is not a distraction from crisis but a call to see its stakes more clearly: to celebrate and protect what we are fighting for.”
—Leslie Jamison, author of Splinters
“[This] is exactly the kind of book we need right now: one that models how to carry the unprecedented environmental urgency of the present moment in our bodies and our actions and our minds.”
—Lacy M. Johnson, author of More City Than Water
“A vivid and varied consideration of a world in crisis.”