Terry Tempest Williams: The Politics of Place

Mkay, I said I was going to make my next post something uplifting, and I think I’ve found it.

I am one of those folks who is constantly reading several books at the same time, and one of those I have been slowly savoring is The Open Space of Democracy by Terry Tempest Williams.  She is an incredible writer, thinker and environmentalist, and I often find myself on the verge of weeping while reading her work. (Hormones? Perhaps. But not always. 😉 )  I first came across her when she was mentioned in an article by another of my very favorite writers, Susan Griffin, after both of them were arrested along with the amazing Alice Walker and other Code Pink members during a White House protest against the Iraq war.

Every article of Williams’ that I have read is a gem, and I also saw a video of a keynote speech that she gave in Las Vegas, Nevada at a conference organized by Nevada Desert Experience on the 50th year of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima (I cannot bring myself to write “anniversary” or “commemoration” in this context). Two summers ago, on August 6, 2006 I was symbolically arrested along with other NDE members during a Hiroshima remembrance ceremony when we crossed onto the “property” of the test site (although the citations were basically meaningless pieces of paper due to official recognition of anti-nuclear protesters by the Western Shoshone tribe, who are of course the rightful owners of the land). But this is another blog posting entirely!

In any case, Williams’ speech during the ceremony had the same blend of poignancy and strength as her writing. Last I heard, the video was never edited–what a shame. (As someone with 30 hours of footage sitting in my closet for an as-of-yet-unmaterialized documentary, however, who am I to talk?!)

Anyway, in a class I am teaching right now, one of my students mused aloud regarding what foreigners really feel about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. My mind immediately went to Williams, who herself is a hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor)–having grown up in Utah downwind of the Nevada test site, and having lost several family members, including her mother, to cancer–and who often writes on the topic.

I know this post was supposed to be light and uplifting–but Williams honestly manages to infuse hope and joy into her writing, even when dealing with subjects as wrenching, grief-inspiring and untouchable as this one. In any case, here you are, folks: an interview with Terry Tempest Williams courtesy of Scott London, whom I had never heard of previously, but who has put together what looks like a very interesting and inspiring blog indeed.


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