Literature of Resilience Gathering

Literature of Resilience: A Gathering of Women Writers | July 17–19th, 2013

Following our 2012 Resilient Communities Roundtable, we focused our attention on new stories of resilience that could help ground us in the face of social, economic, and planetary change.


Everything is changing. Old options about how to live and how to understand ourselves are melting away just as surely as the ice. We don’t know what life-ways and worldviews will replace old ones or where new ideas will come from, but we do know that the imagining must begin.

The climate crisis is a crisis of imagination and moral courage. It calls us to tell new stories about who we are, how we ought to live. We at the Island Institute call it a “literature of resilience.” Jennifer Sahn ofOrion Magazine calls it a “literature of ecological urgency.” The Compton Foundation calls it “courageous storytelling.” Bookpage (in reference to Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Flight Behavior) writes of a “symbiosis between the sacred and the scientific.” Writer Katleen Dean Moore thinks of it as giving words to what Leonard Cohen calls “the broken-hearted halleluia.” Island Institute Co-Director Carolyn Servid invokes poet Wallace Stevens’ term “the necessary angel”—the human imagination pushing through the pressures of reality to allow us to see anew, to “see the earth again.”


This gathering brought together a group of women writers of unusual wisdom, creativity, honesty, and spirit to explore new strong stories about who we are, how we should live, and what our purpose is on this changing planet. The conversation aimed, first, to identify unexamined stories we tell ourselves that have allowed us to bring on the planetary crisis of climate change, and, second, to imagine new stories that might replace the old with values that could move us into a more resilient future.

We learned from our gathering that a literature of resilience must necessarily encompass not only climate change, but other crises in our society that manifest themselves as social injustice, economic disparity, and political dysfunction. It can also celebrate examples of individuals and communities already moving toward a more resilient future.

Read our list of unexamined STORIES WE TELL IN THE DARK and our CREDO OF NEW STORIESand tell us what you think.


(left to right, below) Kathleen Dean Moore | Carolyn Servid | le thi diem thuy | Libby Roderick | Laurie Kutchins | Jennifer Boyden | Michelle Nijhuis | Carolyn Finney | Robin Kimmerer