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 2015-10-07
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
by Yasmin Nair

facebook twitter pin it 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 ) ( ) 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 .

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 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.


Gerber/Hart officials discuss move, financial challenges 2015-10-13
Books events: LGBT history; violence against queer people; Black gay identity 2015-10-07
BOOKS Read this! Chatting with 'I Hope My Mother...' author Greg Scarnici 2015-10-07
Jeanette Winterson at Women & Children First Oct. 26 2015-10-05
Faderman puts history in its place in 'The Gay Revolution' 2015-09-30
THEATER REVIEW Miss Buncle's Book 2015-09-30
Performance artist Karen Finley talks AIDS, pope, Planned Parenthood 2015-09-30
Upcoming: Health symposium; Open Books; Lynch; Martin, Short; CrossTown; PrEP talk 2015-09-30
BOOK REVIEW The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle 2015-09-29
BOOKS Douglas O'Keeffe on surviving India's 9/11 2015-09-23
Jackie Collins dies at 77 2015-09-23
1985 BOOKS 2015-09-23
Revealing the real Sally Ride in new photobiography 2015-09-16
Book focuses on transgender women in male prisons 2015-09-16
Steinem, Gay at WC&F Oct. 29 2015-09-16
BOOK REVIEW Green Nails and Other Acts of Rebellion: Life After Loss 2015-09-16
LGBT history celebration for kids at Open Books Oct. 17 2015-09-10
BOOKS Queer Brown Voices: Personal Narratives of Latina/o LGBT Activism 2015-09-09
BOOKS Uncovering the past: Emily Bingham is 'Irrepressible' 2015-09-02
Feminist book group turns 40 2015-09-02
BOOK REVIEW Nothing Looks Familiar 2015-09-01
National: Ashley Madison and Grindr; RentBoy; Facebook apology 2015-09-01
Writer Oliver Sacks dies at age 82 2015-08-30
Women & Children First to host Gloria Steinem talking with Roxane Gay 2015-08-28
BOOKS New book spotlights out high-school and college athletes 2015-08-26
BOOKS Angela Koenig: Lesbian Chicago novelist on works, influences 2015-08-26
Acclaimed graphic novelist speaks at Unabridged 2015-08-11
Summer reading: LGBT books 2015-08-05
BOOK REVIEW After Woodstock 2015-08-04
Upcoming: Queer graphic novelist; Iddy Id art exhibit; Kinsey Sicks 2015-08-04
BOOK REVIEW The Holy Mark: The Tragedy of a Fallen Priest 2015-08-04
MOMBIAN LGBTQ-inclusive sex-ed book for kids affirms, empowers 2015-07-29
OUTspoken! marks one year of LGBTQ storytelling 2015-07-29
BOOK REVIEW There Is Room for You 2015-07-28
Upcoming: Book Fair; Cannabis conference; marriage law seminar 2015-07-21
Author of Shirtlifter at Unabridged Books Aug. 7 2015-07-21
Upcoming: Hall & Oates; Kelly Clarkson; Black Alphabet Film; Book Fair 2015-07-14
Mark Merlis on 'JD: A Novel' 2015-07-14
Chicago Humanities Fest newsmakers, cultural commentators to include Evan Wolfson 2015-07-14
Women & Children First announces July events 2015-07-10

Copyright © 2015 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.








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.