Review: Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times – Carolina De Robertis

radical hopeRadical Hope is a collection of letters–to ancestors, to children five generations from now, to strangers in grocery lines, to any and all who feel weary and discouraged–written by award-winning novelists, poets, political thinkers, and activists. Provocative and inspiring, Radical Hope offers readers a kaleidoscopic view of the love and courage needed to navigate this time of upheaval, uncertainty, and fear, in view of the recent US presidential election. 

Rating: 4.5/5

I’m not American, but I did follow the electoral goings-on with a mixture of horror and dismay. And dramatic political upheavals are not limited to the US of A – a brief glance at the news will reveal that bigotry and corruption have gotten a stranglehold in countries across the globe.

So when I saw this book up for request on Edelweiss, I didn’t hesitate to click. I think we’re all in need of some mental encouragement, some restorative for the soul in these rather trying times. (I’m not one to bury my head in the sand, but constant political awareness is somewhat exhausting and depressing.)

This is hard work. One could easily become exhausted, or fall prey to despair. This is where this book comes in. There is an antidote to despair to be found in connection, in shared words and thoughts and voices.

While the anthology is obviously US-centric, many of the lessons, observations and encouragements contained in this anthology can be applied across borders. As evidenced by the cover, this collection is made up of a diverse array of voices, some which may resonate with you, and others you will learn from.

And I think, for this review, I’ll allow a selection of quotes from the book to speak for themselves.

Colonial power, patriarchal power, capitalist power must always and everywhere be battled, because they never, ever quit.

On nationality, roots and ancestral history:

The human story is one of continual branching movement, out of Africa to every corner of the globe. When people talk of blood and soil, as if their ancestors sprung fully formed from the earth of a particular place, it involves a kind of forgetting.

On idealism:

I want to believe in prophecies more than policies. I want to listen to poets instead of pollsters. I want prosperity for all rather than profits for some. I want to believe in the people rather than the president.

Being a white women, it is perhaps unsurprising that one of the essays that resonated with me was one entitled “Dear White People”.

Nothing changes if we just feel shitty about being White. And nothing changes if we refuse to talk about it. The opposite of white pride does not have to be white shame. We can’t push it away and pretend it’s not us. We are not color-blind, we are not post-race, we do not get to reject our whiteness because it makes us feel bad…This does not get solved with a Celebration of Diversity Day and a coexist bumper sticker.


You are an ally because of your actions, not because you say you are.

On those who hold political power:

Sometimes the office may elevate the man; more often, the man degrades the office.

On despair:

I saw that I had overestimated the goodness of ordinary people. I saw that men who care about nothing but money will always rule the world.

A critique of the ‘better option’ still not being good enough:

Yet we progressives had handed you the very tools with which you would critique what was possible in favour of what was perfect. You couldn’t see Hillary as creating the preferable but imperfect conditions in which you would act. Because you were taught to wait on the sidelines for someone beyond criticism.

And this food for thought, which I don’t think I have the goodness to embrace:

There will come a time and it won’t be long, when the followers of Orange Caesar will realise that they have been lied to. That they have been fooled. That they are objects of cynical derision.  And they will be hurt. We think we ache, we Nasty Women and Bad Hombres. That is when we must act. It will be our task not to gloat or mock. Because they are Us. It will be our job to comfort. We are not, in this midnight, permitted to refuse to shine. We are the light. Grace beats karma.

This thoughtful rumination on the power of words:

But language is malleable, and it is not always on the side of truth. This is something every writer knows. Words make and unmake the world with terrifying rapidity, and they do so without moral distinction…There is a battle going on right now over the words we use, over who has the right to speak and who does not.

A scathing indictment of US policy towards migrants – this passage just gripped me and wouldn’t let me go:

…Obama’s so called Plan Sur, which has literally outsourced immigration enforcement to corrupt Mexican authorities, providing Mexico with millions and millions of dollars to hunt and deport – effectively hunt, rape, rob, extort, murder, and maybe deport – Central American migrants in its southern regions in an attempt to alleviate the embarrassment of having hundreds of thousands of child refugees amassing at our borders, fleeing the violence and poverty of the very same Central America countries we gifted with “democracy” in exchange for helping to turn their countries into mass graves back in the ‘80s.

And a final message for all of us, going forward.

That people you don’t know are worth knowing, that they have something to teach you. That learning about them – that encountering new ideas – doesn’t threaten you, it enriches you.


ARC received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof and may differ from final publication.


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