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The Reckonings: Essays (Hardcover)
Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
This extraordinary, timely new collection of essays by the award-winning writer of The Other Side—rooted in her own experience with sexual assault—pursues questions of justice, sexual violence, and retribution.
In 2014, Lacy Johnson was giving a reading from The Other Side, her “instant classic” (Kirkus Reviews) memoir of kidnapping and rape, when a woman asked her what she would like to happen to her rapist. This collection, a meditative extension of that answer, draws from philosophy, art, literature, mythology, anthropology, film, and other fields, as well as Johnson’s personal experience, to consider how our ideas about justice might be expanded beyond vengeance and retribution to include acts of compassion, patience, mercy, and grace.
From “Speak Truth to Power,” about the condition of not being believed about rape and assault; to “Goliath,” about the concept of evil; to “Girlhood in a Semi-Barbarous Age,” about the sacred feminine, “ideal woman,” and feminist art, Johnson creates masterful, elaborate, gorgeously written essays that speak incisively about our current era. She grapples with justice and retribution, truth and fairness, and sexual assault and workplace harassment, as well as the broadest societal wrongs: the BP Oil Spill, government malfeasance, police killings. The Reckonings is a powerful and necessary work, ambitious in its scope, which strikes at the heart of our national conversation about the justness of society.
About the Author
Lacy Johnson is the author of The Reckonings and the memoir The Other Side, which was named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, an Edgar Award in Best Fact Crime, and the CLMP Firecracker Award in Nonfiction. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Tin House, Guernica, and elsewhere. She lives in Houston and teaches creative nonfiction at Rice University.
Praise for The Reckonings:
"The Reckonings is a beautiful and complicated collection of essays. In essence, these essays are an exploration of violence—sexual violence, environmental violence, racial violence, economic violence. It can be bleak, because Johnson writes about rape and mass shootings and nuclear waste. But it’s also intellectually rigorous, big-hearted, and nuanced. A gorgeous combination of personal narrative and investigative journalism, these essays ask more questions than they answer—in the best possible way.”
"These essays attempt to parcel out several knotted problems and suggest forms of meaningful
justice ... Johnson’s questions and answers are hard but necessary."
—Booklist, starred review
"[Johnson] makes a plea for activism, art, and ... common decency ... [in this] thoughtful and probing collection."
“This is a hell of a book! Lacy M. Johnson has thought through issues most of us do not want to think about, and she has written a powerful and deeply compassionate confrontation with violence in its most personal forms. I can barely express how impressive this work is.”
—Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina and Cavedweller
“Lacy M. Johnson’s The Reckonings is breathtaking. At the heart of this book of essays is both the body of an individual woman and the body of the world, both endlessly transgressed and yet able to endure with defiance and bold beauty. Whatever we mean when we say justice, Lacy M. Johnson reminds us how love must be threaded through the everything, a love that is a fierce life-force and not an apology. Here is a woman whose voice and body have moved through violence to refuse cultural inscription. Let that be song.”
—Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan and The Chronology of Water
"Through prose that is at once passionate and percussive, Lacy Johnson's The Reckonings demands that we place justice and discovery at the center of our conversations, memories, imaginations, and art. I don't know that I've ever been happier to be alive after reading any book. In this weird way that probably says way too much about the smallness of my life, I felt like everything would be okay -- like we will make and sustain justice -- because a book I needed but never imagined reading was in the world. The Reckonings is as important as it is masterful on the sentence and conceptual level. The Reckonings is proof that caring about this place, and getting lost in the minutiae of what makes us unjust might actually be a pre-req for creating incredible, life-altering, just art."
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy and How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America
“In lyrical and stunning prose, Lacy M. Johnson responds to our ongoing violence—environmental, racist, sexist—and dares to imagine what repair might look like. Johnson is the best kind of witness—brave, brilliant, accountable, prophetic. Her essays are urgent, riveting. I couldn’t put this book down. Reading The Reckonings reminded me it’s possible to write our way into a new world.”
—Sarah Sentilles, author of Breaking Up with God and Draw Your Weapons
"Lacy M. Johnson's The Reckonings is an essay for thinking people, which, in an age where the essay is reduced at times to "click bait" headlines and recycled advice about dating and wellness, is the highest compliment. Johnson grapples with the fundamental issue of our time: what is justice? What is punishment? What is mercy? Johnson's beautiful writing and hard-won wisdom will make you think, and then think again. I am grateful for this book."
—Emily Rapp Black, author of Poster Child and The Still Point of the Turning World
“As ever, Lacy M. Johnson’s work here is ambitious and brave, and with The Reckonings she has written an essential book about what means to emerge from darkness, bounding step by bounding step. This brilliant collection of essays is a tour de force in empathy, an evocative work that invites us to consider how to make way for joy despite the unavoidable tragedies that shape our lives. With her keen eye closing the distance between the personal to the political, the constructed world and the environment, Johnson provides a compassionate vision of endurance and transformation in coming to terms with the facts of life as we now know them. Her writing engages the lyricism of poetry and the fortitude of reportage as she brings her own experiences of pain into conversation with others also still making their way despite loss.”
—Wendy S. Walters, author of Multiply/Divide and Troy, Michigan
Praise for Lacy Johnson and The Other Side:
"[Johnson's] writing style is engaging and redemptive, a trick accomplished partly by virtue of Johnson’s voice—clear and direct, but with a breezy archness that belies her story’s dark core."
"The frankness and eloquence of Johnson's writing puts this true-crime memoir in a league of its own."
"Johnson’s memoir is an extraordinary document, and she herself holds an important place in a movement to stop violence against women."
"[Johnson's] direct and honest prose not only evokes empathy, but an incendiary anger."
"The Other Side is neither flowery nor stale, never shy or gratuitous. Instead, its haunting beauty grips the reader from the opening line ... Unforgettable."
—The Austin Chronicle
"[Johnson writes] with both fury and restraint. The reader feels pulled onto a fast train, in a compartment with a narrator telling an intimate and terrifying tale."
—Wall Street Journal