Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2016-05-04
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


  WINDY CITY TIMES

Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
by Yasmin Nair
2007-05-16

facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email


In 2004, Barbara Kingsolver relocated from Arizona to Virginia with her family to live for a year on locally produced food that included fruits and vegetables grown, and turkeys killed, in their garden and orchard. They were inspired by the slow-food movement, which advocates the protection of indigenous plant and animal forms threatened by cheaply produced homogenous varieties made for mass production and easy transportation.

Kingsolver deftly weaves the larger context of global agribusiness into descriptions of her family's days planting, pruning and harvesting. Her book espouses many admirable principles, but falls prey to the cloying sentimentality that runs rampant in most food writing and leaves us desperate for the acidic wit of Anthony Bourdain. It also reflects a larger trend in food and environmental writing: The recuperation and depoliticizing of more radical activism into a middle-class aesthetic.

Ultimately, the book is an account of what happens when a nice upper-middle-class family decides to live off the land. Kingsolver is anxious to point out that hers is a solidly respectable endeavor by lovely normal folk. So, despite the alternative nature of her experiment, Kingsolver distances herself from the vegans/hippies who might seem like her natural allies. She insists that she and her fellow farmers are nothing like the 'dreadlocked, Birkenstocked [ guy ] …reeking faintly of garlic.' Instead, they wear 'Red Wing work boots, barbershop haircuts, Levis with a little mud on the cuffs, men and women who probably go to church on Sunday...' So there. Hard-working, all-American sorts with none of that radical nonsense cluttering their neatly-trimmed heads, and presumably smelling of apple pie.

Such caricatures erase the fact that vegans and hippies were among the first in the United States to make connections between food and politics—connections that Kingsolver only occasionally makes in her folksy and precious narrative about good farmers living off the earth. The group Food Not Bombs ( FNB ) ( www.foodnotbombs.net ) provides vegetarian food to the hungry while protesting war and other conditions that create poverty. They're well known for their 'food recycling'—dumpster-diving for food trashed by markets and restaurants for cosmetic 'imperfections.'

These tactics may not be organic but they are every bit as ethical as and more politicized than Kingsolver's year of eating locally. While her brood will not let a speck of non-organic flour pass its lips, FNB utilizes and maximizes available resources in a much less insular and more sustainable fashion.

It never occurs to an otherwise progressive-minded Kingsolver that her project might replicate the United States' political isolationism. And, as even Slow Food NYC's co-leader David Berman has written, choosing only local food can actually diminish the biodiversity that's essential to a healthy environment. But Kingsolver is fixated on the ideas that Alice Waters and others have made popular: The earth is our giver, and we are obliged to eat locally and personally know the farmers who bring its harvest to us.

Or not. I'll never know the city employees who keep my streets clean, but I'll also never vote for any alderman who opposes their unionization. In other words, we don't have to have a stiflingly intimate knowledge of farmers to support their work. Some of us, terrified even of earthworms emerging from the ground, are fine with never going near 'real mud.' And we might not want to spend all—or any—Saturday morning talking to every farmer at the market. But we might support their practices in more impersonal and equally effective ways, like pressing our local stores to buy their produce or insisting that our politicians stop enabling agribusiness.

The current food production system is undoubtedly disastrous for both the world's economy and our health. But the best solution is to think politically, radically and inventively about how best to create a sustainable and varied system of production and consumption that diminishes waste while providing better and more healthful food to everyone. Kingsolver's solution might work for her family, but the rest of us might not want to revert to our hunter-gatherer selves just yet.

E-mail Nair at welshzen@yahoo.com .

Kingsolver appears May 18, 7:30 p.m., at the Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark. Tickets and book available through Women and Children First, 5233 N. Clark.


facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Judith A. Markowitz Emerging Writer Award Winners announced 2016-05-04
Writer Jewelle Gomez to receive award 2016-05-04
Comedian Tig Notaro at BookCon in Chicago May 14 2016-05-03
Alice Walker withdraws from event; Sandburg Awards 2016-05-03
Jewelle Gomez named Golden Crown Literary Society Named 2016 Trailblazer 2016-04-30
Mama, Mi'Jo, and Me: Ana Castillo explains herself in memoir 'Black Dove' 2016-04-27
BOOK REVIEW Lily and Dunkin 2016-04-27
Upcoming: Chicago House spring brunch, 'I Am Jazz,' fashion awards, 2016-04-27
Honors for Black Lives Matter co-founders, Windy City Times 2016-04-19
Out local poet on his first book, awards and Jimmy Carter 2016-04-19
Comedian Tig Notaro at Bookcon in Chicago May 14 2016-04-17
BOOK REVIEW The Raging Skillet 2016-04-13
'I Am Jazz' readings in Chicago in April, May 2016-04-07
MOMBIAN Gay dad pens funny new memoir on international adoption 2016-04-06
Author reflects on new trans kids' book and his own journey 2016-04-06
BOOKS Augusten Burroughs explores relationships in new memoir 2016-04-06
BOOK REVIEW A History of Loneliness 2016-03-29
BOOK REVIEW The Battle for Room 314 2016-03-22
MOMBIAN Two books tell the stories of LGBTQ families 2016-03-16
Publishing Triangle's 28th Annual Triangle Awards to be presented April 21 2016-03-14
BOOK REVIEW Charity & Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America 2016-03-09
Transgender studies joins forces with art history in new book from Chicagoan 2016-03-02
BOOKS Book addresses meth's effect on gay men and lust 2016-03-02
BOOK REVIEW Straights: Heterosexuality in a Post-Closeted Culture 2016-03-01
Five Worth Finding: Deadpool, Andy Warhol book and other items 2016-03-01
The dreams of Gene Davis 2016-02-24
LORDE'S LEGACY New take on notions of Audre Lorde, 'warrior poet' 2016-02-24
BOOK REVIEW Off the Rocks, Vol. 19 2016-02-24
Trans man writes memoir about race, gender, culture 2016-02-24
BOOKS 'Hoodie' writer on new book, academia and upcoming event 2016-02-24
BOOK REVIEW Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling American Style 2016-02-24
Mapplethorpe book out in March 2016-02-24
CivicLab raising funds for "Chicago Is Not Broke" book 2016-02-22
Writer Harper Lee dies at 89 2016-02-19
BOOKS 'Queer Clout' author examines LGBTQ activism, Chicago politics 2016-02-17
Upcoming: Hoodie author Feb. 27; Sexual-assault exhibit; Dance; Mapplethorpe 2016-02-17
BOOK REVIEW Soul Serenade 2016-02-17
Book on gay men and meth offers recovery solutions 2016-02-11
Univ. of Minnesota libraries honored for LGBT service 2016-02-10
BOOK REVIEW Marie Equi: Radical Passions and Outlaw Politics 2016-02-10
 



Copyright © 2016 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.