Rebecca Solnit, an alumna of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, or J-School, was recognized on the 2018 National Book Awards longlist for her collection of essays, “Call Them By Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays).”
Solnit was one of 10 authors to receive recognition in the nonfiction category. The finalists will be named Oct. 10, and the winners will be announced at a ceremony Nov. 14, according to the National Book Awards’ website. The J-School’s Twitter account congratulated Solnit on this recognition last week.
Solnit, who graduated from the J-School in 1984, has written 18 books, including the best-seller “Men Explain Things to Me” and has contributed to publications such as Harper’s Magazine, the Guardian and the London Review of Books.
In “Call Them By Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays),” Solnit’s essays range from analyses of various political events, such as the 2016 election and the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, to ideas about “American emotions,” Solnit said in an email. The longest essay in the collection is about the shooting of Alejandro Nieto by police in San Francisco in 2014 and the resulting trial of the police in 2016, according to Solnit.
Solnit gave the 2016 commencement address at the J-School, which included discussion of journalistic ethics and the political nature of every decision a journalist makes.
Solnit said in an email that her writing career has been “a big surprise” and that she is grateful for the things she learned during her time at the J-School.
She said in an email that she learned the importance of “getting it right” to both readers and the record, as well as how to have a “nice toughness” about getting things done, adding that “journalists don’t get to have writer’s block.” Solnit added that the J-School emphasized ethics and obligation in its teaching, which she said are often left out when nonfiction is taught in other arenas.
“It was a beautiful combination of principles and pragmatic skills, and though I kind of wanted to be what I became—an essayist—I’m glad and grateful I got this education and not another kind,” Solnit said in an email.
Solnit said in an email she thought she’d have a day job forever and write on the side but that in reality, she has been able to make a living as a mainly self-employed writer.
“Last month was the thirtieth anniversary of my last job,” Solnit said in an email. “I see people who expect to be amazing wait for amazing to arrive; I just did the next thing and then something a little more challenging or interesting, and one thing led to another and then another, and here I am.”