Thursday, 1 June 2017

Review: Radical Hope ed. by Carolina de Robertis

2017 Virago Press • 272 pages

On 8th November 2016, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States. Since then many Americans have been overcome with fear, worrying about what will become of American society during Trump’s administration. Carolina de Robertis was no exception to this fear and in response to the newly elected President and his policies she put out a call for action. Radical Hope is the outcome to this call. De Robertis reached out to fellow writers and activists asking for letters, predominantly letters of love, addressed to the citizens of today and those of past and future generations in order to help spread hope during times of uncertainty.

This is powerful stuff. In the aftermath of Trump’s election, the fear felt by so many across America was so strong it shook the U.K. and other countries throughout the world. In this collection many different writers come together to share their letters to loved ones, strangers, and children of the future. Each of them is unique but they all share one thing in common: the hope for a better future. Some of the contributors to this work include Celeste Ng, Meredith Russo, Chip Livingston, Lisa See – some more well-known than others but as writers they use their words to create a sense of solidarity, regardless of race or religion or sexual orientation.

The letters in this book provide a voice to numerous different stories from all walks of life. The writers themselves come from countless countries including Syria, Egypt, India, Mexico, Guatemala, Russia, as well as various places throughout Europe and each of them identifies the United States as their home. Each letter focuses on a different life and a new story waiting to be told. They are intelligently written; each one branded with the author’s own unique style. The definitive message that stands out from this collection is about hope and how words help to spread that hope, but it is also about not being silent and vocalises stories about courage and strength in order to fight hatred and anger. In the current political climate Radical Hope is the perfect commentary on how affairs of government affect the lives of ordinary people.

This is a tricky one to review in some respects because despite the book’s overarching themes and collective message, some of the letters spoke to me more than others. Like any short story or essay collection, some are going to stand out more depending on the reader and that very much applies here. But the purpose behind all of these letters is a powerful one and the fact that they are all written by a different contributor adds to the message of the book. It speaks to so many on numerous levels that whoever picks it up will surely find a letter within its pages that they identify with.

This is a stunningly powerful book that I believe most readers will benefit from and I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to read it.

Overall rating: 4 stars

My copy of Radical Hope was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.

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