Book details

Lessons for Survival

Mothering Against “the Apocalypse”

Author: Emily Raboteau

Lessons for Survival

Lessons for Survival

About This Book

Award-winning author and critic Emily Raboteau crafts a powerfully moving meditation on race, climate, environmental justice—and what it takes to find shelter.


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Book Details

Award-winning author and critic Emily Raboteau crafts a powerfully moving meditation on race, climate, environmental justice—and what it takes to find shelter.

Lessons for Survival is a probing series of pilgrimages from the perspective of a mother struggling to raise her children to thrive without coming undone in an era of turbulent intersecting crises.

With camera in hand, Raboteau goes in search of birds, fluttering in the air or painted on buildings, and city parks where her children may safely play while avoiding pollution, pandemics, and the police. She ventures abroad to learn from Indigenous peoples, and in her own family and community, she discovers the most intimate examples of resilience. Raboteau bears witness to the inner life of Black womanhood, motherhood, the brutalities and possibilities of cities, while celebrating the beauty and fragility of nature. This innovative work of reportage and autobiography stitches together multiple stories of protection, offering a profound sense of hope.

Imprint Publisher

Henry Holt and Co.



Reading Guide

In The News

A Most Anticipated Book of the Year, ELLE Magazine
Named one of The New York Times 15 New Books to Read in March
Named one of the Los Angeles Times 10 Book to Add to Your Reading List in March
Named one of Vulture's “Best Books of the Year So Far”
Named one of Heatmap's 17 Climate Books to Read in 2024
Named one of Electric Literature's 75 Books by Women of Color to Read in 2024
Named one of Lancaster Online's Summer Books

“Interspersing punchy essays with striking photos of bird murals in her Bronx neighborhood, Raboteau chronicles her search for solace as a Black woman and mother in a world awash in political rage and threatened with climate disaster.”
The New York Times

“The question is, how do we push the politicians and corporations to figure out how to save our environment and acknowledge the economic and ecological discrepancies that still plague our culture? I suggest that every single one of them be required to read Lessons for Survival. Even for someone like me, always sympathetic to ecological concerns, it is eye-opening.”
—Jane Smiley, The Washington Post

“Raboteau calls our attention to the ways in which environmental pressures will create even more social inequality between those who can afford to move, and those who are rooted by economic necessity and lack of access to alternatives.”
Los Angeles Times

“I found myself grounded by this book. In part, for me, it was the experience of being told a hard truth by a thinker who was encapsulating the complex interweaving of issues that are with me all the time. To see them charted and laid out was, frankly, intellectually soothing. The sensation in exact opposition to the feeling of being gaslit that is all too common these days . . . Raboteau reminds us that even that will do harm if we are not mindful of our obligations to one another, to hold strangers as close as we hold our children.”
—Jade Sanchez-Venture, Mutha Magazine

“Through stories and photographs drawn from her own life and her studies abroad, Raboteau grounds the audience in the beauty—and resilience—of nature.”
ELLE, A Most Anticipated Book of the Year

“Ms. Raboteau doesn’t take the obvious route. She doesn’t delve into the coming water wars of the Western U.S. or spend time discussing carbon taxes or deforestation. The writing shines, instead, in the personal and cultural nuance, and the way they are inevitably intertwined with climate change and its inequality…She described her grandmother Mabel, who was forced to flee with her children from the Jim Crow south, in passages so delicate they seemed to float.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Raboteau masterfully examines issues of climate injustice while making the essays intimate and accessible to the reader. The book is at once realistic in the face of daunting social and ecological crises, cautiously hopeful, and deeply humane.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“This is scintillating work, an essential primer for our times.”
—Tope Folarin, One of Vulture's Best Books of the Year So Far

“The best essayists allow us to think more clearly but also more compassionately. Emily Raboteau is one of those essayists.”

“Rarely have I read a book that speaks so vitally to our current moment, which illustrates how entrenched these social and environmental crises are.”
—Brian Gresko, Electric Literature

“The author's capacious and curious mind allows her to examine these potent issues and their interconnectedness with a personal eye, sharing her most intimate thoughts as a mother, an artist and teacher, and a descendant of enslaved women. She deftly stitches together the patchwork of essays in the tradition of storytelling quilts, employing a variety of perspectives and tones that augment a single fabric.”
—Ms. Magazine

Lessons for Survival is a moving, meaningful read about how, in the midst of our most difficult crises, we maintain the strength to show up for ourselves and for one another.”
—Roxane Gay, The Audacity

In Lessons for Survival: Mothering Against “The Apocalypse”, Emily Raboteau, a writer, photographer and mother, explores the challenges of parenting through an ecological crisis. It is a collection of personal essays, mainly rooted in New York and accompanied by her photographs of the city, in which she insists that we can sustain our children’s spirits and our own by acknowledging worry, accepting loss, tending relationships and “scavenging” for hope: a graceful testament to the unfolding tragedy of our moment.”
The Guardian

“Raboteau meditates on climate change, motherhood, and injustice in this lyrical essay collection . . . Her urgent and thought-provoking book encourages readers to face the climate crisis and oppression courageously.”

“A vivid and varied consideration of a world in crisis.”
Publishers Weekly

“As the world burns, Emily Raboteau is paying attention as a mother, as a writer and as a pilgrim in search of beauty and justice. At a time when the disconnect between the violence and inequities surrounding race and the climate crisis is too often unseen and ignored, Raboteau makes this relationship clear through her moving inquiries and observations. Lessons for Survival has wings. This beautiful, soaring book is its own pilgrimage and prayer.”
Terry Tempest Williams, author of Refuge

“My gratitude is immense for this important book. Emily Raboteau dedicates her considerable intellectual gifts, clarity and moral courage to confront the catastrophes of our era. She traverses generations and geographies, all the while caring for her children, and in so doing, teaches us that to ‘mother' is to tend, to study, to nurture, and to hand over our most precious inheritances.”
—Imani Perry, author of South to America

“Raboteau's vision and pen pan out as lusciously as they pan in here. And what is left in the folds is utterly devastating and as layered and magnificent as essayistic-writing gets. Lessons for Survival is the height of what an essay collection can do, and be.”
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

“Never have I needed a book as badly as I needed Lessons for Survival. There is so much talk these days about raising resourceful, resilient children. But what does that mean and how does one do it without going to pieces entirely? What new worlds can be assembled from the wreckage of the one that is (always) ending all around us? Emily Raboteau fearlessly addresses these questions in her brilliant, lambent new essay collection.”
—Elizabeth Rush, author of The Quickening

“In these powerful yet elegant essays, Emily Raboteau shows us again and again how multiple vectors of the planetary crisis—biodiversity loss, climate change, migration, racial divisions, pandemics—impinge upon our everyday lives, often in deeply personal and surprising ways.”
—Amitav Ghosh, author of Smoke and Ashes

Lessons for Survival is a glorious and rigorous collection of essays, animated by the urgencies of intimacy, care and witnessing, cut from vast swaths of grief and joy. The beauty of this book is not a distraction from crisis but a call to see its stakes more clearly: to celebrate and protect what we are fighting for.”
—Leslie Jamison, author of Splinters

“[This] is exactly the kind of book we need right now: one that models how to carry the unprecedented environmental urgency of the present moment in our bodies and our actions and our minds.”
—Lacy M. Johnson, author of More City Than Water

About the Creators

Lessons for Survival

Lessons for Survival

Lessons for Survival
Lessons for Survival