–Millard Fuller, founder, Habitat for Humanity“For anyone worn down, The Impossible Will Take a Little While is a bracing double cappuccino!”
— Barbara Ehrenreich
“Deeply moving and motivating…a plethora of commentary from those dedicated to the concept of a better world”
—— Baltimore Sun
“A much needed salvo against despair.”
—— Psychology Today
“Hopeful, inspiring, and motivating…May well be required reading for us all.”
—— Sierra Club magazine
“Might possibly be the most important collection of stories and essays you will ever read.”
—— American Book Association and the History Channel
Buy this book from your independent bookstore.
THE IMPOSSIBLE WILL TAKE A LITTLE WHILE: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times
Basic Books $18.99 2014 ISBN 978-0-465-03173-3
People need hope more than ever in tough political times—-like these.
The Impossible Will Take a Little While, mixes my own essays on hope with the voices of some of the most eloquent writers and activists around, adding new contributions for the second edition and working closely with the authors to update existing ones. Think Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, Bill Moyers, Arundhati Roy, Tony Kushner, Bill McKibben, Paul Hawken, Pablo Neruda and Vaclav Havel. Alice Walker, Mary Pipher, Jonathan Kozol, Diane Ackerman, and Marian Wright Edelman. Cornel West, Terry Tempest Williams, Dan Savage, Desmond Tutu, and Howard Zinn. These essays, poems, and stories teach us how to keep on working for a more humane world, replenish the wellsprings of our commitment, and no matter how hard it sometimes seems.
I’ve included pieces that explore the historical, political, ecological and spiritual frameworks that help us to persist— with concrete examples of how people have faced despair and overcome it. They examine what it was like to confront South African apartheid, the Eastern European and Egyptian dictatorships, Mississippi’s entrenched segregation, the corporations driving global climate change, or the Robber Barons of 100 years ago. They look at what keeps us going day after day in more humble struggles as well. This book teaches us, in the words of Sojourners founder Jim Wallis, to learn how to believe in spite of the evidence, then watch the evidence change.
See The Impossible‘s annotated Table of Contents below, or click to read its wholly updated Introduction. You can also find information on classroom teaching, including classroom study questions that you also work well for reading groups, and examples like a Minnesota Community College that assigned the book in disciplines, from sociology to health classes and student multimedia projects. And for bulk order details.
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“An indispensable anthology of hope and inspiration. It’s impossible to feel pessimistic after basking in the collective wisdom of the likes of Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Marian Wright Edelman, Alice Walker, Tony Kushner and Cornel West (and that’s just for starters!). This book is also Exhibit A in how the political and the personal can come together to change the world. Put away your Prozac and pick up The Impossible Will Take a Little While.”
— Arianna Huffington
“When my daughter asked from college how to be an effective grassroots citizen, I gave her Paul’s books.” — Josette Sheeran, former Executive Director, United Nations World Food Program
“You are part of what’s good about this world and I admire your work very much.This book can even make one hopeful about the future despite so many signs to the contrary.”
—— Bill Moyers [on the earlier edition–the new edition includes a terrific Moyers essay]
“[This] magnificent anthology celebrates hope, guts, and the power of taking action.”
—–Pam Houston, The Oprah Magazine, lead review
“A must read”
—— Teaching Tolerance
“A stirring collection of essays aimed at people who still want to believe that ordinary people can change the world.”
—— Atlanta Journal Constitution
“An anthology of some of the most powerful voices of our time.”
—— Boston Globe
“A wonderful book, with some extraordinary folks contributing. It reminds us that darkness always comes before the dawn. We live in a critical time, in an unpredictable world, but knowing that remarkable changes occur between night and day gives us unexplainable hope.”
—— Reg Weaver, president, National Education Association
“Will resonate with anyone struggling with despair and doubt.”
—— Dallas Morning News
The Impossible will take a Little While
Table of Contents
SECTION ONE: SEEDS OF THE POSSIBLE
Poem: Seamus Heaney—From “The Cure at Troy”
Section One: Loeb Introduction
Diane Ackerman—”A Slender Thread”: Hope and despair in volunteering at a suicide prevention line, by the author of A Natural History of the Senses
Jonathan Kozol—”Ordinary Resurrections”: From the book of the same name, the hope Kozol draws from children
Marian Wright Edelman—”Standing for Children”: by the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund and author of A Letter to My Children
Paul Hawken—”You are Brilliant and the Earth is Hiring”: a call to engagement from the author of The Ecology of Commerce
Danusha Goska—”Political Paralysis”: An Indiana activist with a paralyzing physical disAbility talks about overcoming political immobilization, drawing on her history working with the Peace Corps and Mother Teresa.
SECTION TWO: DARK BEFORE THE DAWN
Poem: W.H. Auden-From “September 1, 1939”
Section Two: Loeb Introduction
Howard Zinn—”The Optimism of Uncertainty”: Drawing strength from the very uncertainty of our efforts, by the author of A People’s History of the United States.
Dan Savage–“On Being Different”: Lessons on perseverance from the gay rights movement’s successes.
Nelson Mandela—”The Dark Years”: Memoir of his Robben Island imprisonment from The Long Walk to Freedom
Vaclav Havel—”Orientation of the Heart”: The value of seemingly futile actions by Czech president Havel, adapted from his book, Disturbing the Peace
Mary Pipher—”Reluctant Activists”: How Pipher and a handful of Nebraska friends successfully launched the national resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline, by the bestselling author of Reviving Ophelia.
SECTION THREE: EVERYDAY GRACE
Poem: Wendell Berry—”The Peace of Wild Things”
Section Three: Loeb Introduction
Naomi Shihab Nye—”Gate A-4″:: A story of unlikely grace in an airport boarding area by one of our powerful poet.
Scott Sanders—”Mountain Music”: Hope between generations, from Hunting for Hope.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow—”The Sukkah of Shalom”: The Sukkot shelter as a metaphor for hope in a vulnerable world, by the author of Godwrestling and Seasons of Our Joy.
Rose Marie Berger—”Getting Our Gaze Back”: Daily respite amid overload, from a contributing editor to the radical evangelical magazine Sojourners, remembering that “we have more in common with flowers than microchips.”
Henri Nouwen—”Fragile and Hidden”: Catholic theologian Nouwen on daily grace.
Parker Palmer—”There is a Season”: The seasons of the earth as metaphor for those of our personal and political life; by the author of The Courage to Teach and Let Your Life Speak
SECTION FOUR: REBELLIOUS IMAGINATION
Poems: Eduardo Galeano—”Celebration of the Human Voice” and Antonio Machado—”Last Night As I Was Sleeping.”
Section Four: Loeb Introduction
Pablo Neruda—”Childhood and Poetry”
Susan Griffin—”To Love the Marigold”: On imagination and hope, by the author of Women and Nature.
John Lewis—”Walking With the Wind”: Sustaining metaphors from the Congressman and former head of the civil rights group SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee).
Toni Mirosevich—”Rough Translation”: Brief vignette of jazz and resistance in the heart of Soviet Russia.
Walter Wink—”Jesus and Alinsky”: Jesus as model for legendary community organizer Saul Alinsky.
Vern Huffman—”Stories from the Cha Cha Cha”: Comic and creative nonviolent resistance in Rhodesia.
Sherman Alexie—”Do Not Go Gentle”: A story, from the author of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, about grief, despair, sexuality, and wild hope that transcends any parties or platforms.
Tony Kushner—”Despair Is a Lie We Tell Ourselves”: by the author of Angels in America and the screenplay for Lincoln.
SECTION FIVE: COURAGE IS CONTAGIOUS
Poem: Marge Piercy—”To Be of Use.”
Section Five: Loeb Introduction
Audre Lorde—”The Transformation of Silence”: Classic essay on the costs of silence, by the pioneering African American lesbian poet.
Victoria Safford—”The Small Work in the Great Work”: Opening the gates of hope, from a wonderful Unitarian minister.
Wael Ghonim—”We are All Khaled Said”: Memoir of the Arab Spring by an Egyptian activist whose Facebook page helped launch it.
Stephen Zunes—”Arab Revolutions”: Middle expert Zunes on the enduring power of the Arab Spring events.
Paxus Calta-Star—”Not Deterred”: Brief powerful vignette of an 18-year-old who launched the overthrow of Bulgaria’s dictatorship.
Sister Rosalie Bertell—”In What Do I Place My Trust?”: Essay on faith and hope for the environment, by a leading Catholic environmental activist.
Jim Wallis—”Faith Works”: Faith and persistence from Sojourners editor and radical evangelical Wallis.
Bill Moyers—”The Progressive Story of America”: Classic look by the renowned journalist at how Progressives and Populists of an earlier year reversed the incursions of unchecked wealth on American democracy.
SECTION SIX: THE GLOBAL STAGE
Poem: Martin Espada—”Imagine the Angels of Bread”
Section Six: Loeb Introduction
Mark Hertsgaard—”Kids, Trees and Climate Change”: The author of Earth Odyssey and Hot on global environmental hope.
Bill McKibben—”Curitiba”: How this Brazilian city has become a global model for development that respects the earth and delights its inhabitants, by the author of Hope, Human and Wild and Eaarth and founder of 350.org.
Paul Loeb—”Return to Curitiba”: My follow up visit, 15 years after McKibbben’s.
Arundhati Roy—”Come September”: September 11 and global justice, by the author of The God of Small Things.
Ariel Dorfman—”The Black Hole”: Recovering the hope of Salvador Allende, by the author of Death and the Maiden.
Carla Seaquist—”Behemoth in a Bathrobe”: An inner dialogue on conscience, from the Christian Science Monitor.
SECTION SEVEN: RADICAL DIGNITY
Poems: Adrienne Rich-From “Natural Resources” and Jalaluddin Rumi—”How Have You Spent Your Life?”
Section Seven: Loeb Introduction
Martin Luther King —”Letter from Birmingham Jail”: The classic text that everyone’s heard of but fewer have read.
Paul Loeb—”The Real Rosa Parks”: My widely reprinted Los Angeles arial essay on Parks and persistence.
Cornel West—”Prisoners of Hope”: Hope and rage in the African American community.
Billy Wayne Sinclair—”Road to Redemption”: How Sinclair, who has been in prison for 38 years and co-edited the award-winning prison publication, The Angolite, helped to stop pardon selling in Louisiana at the cost of remaining another decade in jail.
Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall—”Resisting Terror”: How nonviolent resistance overthrew murderous dictatorships in Argentina and Milosovic’s Serbia, and even freed the Jewish husbands and wives whose non-Jewish relatives protested in Berlin under Hitler, from the book A Force More Powerful.
Mary Catherine Bateson—”Composing a Life Story”: Courage, intentionality, and radical continuity in the narratives of our personal lives.
SECTION EIGHT: BEYOND HOPE
Poems: Elizabeth Barrette—”Origami Emotion” and Sam Hamill-From “The New York Poem”
Section Eight: Loeb Introduction
Mary-Wynne Ashford—”Staying the Course”: Wrestling with despair by the former president of International Physicians Against Nuclear War.
Joanna Macy—”The Elm Tree Dance”: Despair and healing ritual in a visit to the city most contaminated by Chernobyl’s nuclear meltdown, by the author of Despair and personal power in the nuclear age.
David Roberts—”Is There Hope on Climate Change?”
Nadezhda Mandelstam—”Hoping Against Hope”: From her memoir of deportation under Stalin.
K.C. Golden—”The Inevitability Trap”: Brief take on why we shouldn’t succumb to predictions of the inevitable.
Sonya Vetra Tinsley, as told to Paul Loeb—”You Have to Pick Your Team”
Margaret Wheatley—”From Hope to Hopelessness”: By the author of Turning to Each Other and Leadership and The New Science.
SECTION NINE: ONLY JUSTICE CAN STOP A CURSE
Poem: Maya Angelou—”Still I Rise”
Section Nine: Loeb Introduction
Alice Walker—”Only Justice Can Stop a Curse”: The rage that convinces us the world deserves destroying, and how to find the hope that moves us beyond it.
Terry Tempest Williams—”The Clan of One-Breasted Women”: Her classic essay on radiation survivors and hope, with a new introduction, by the author of Refuge.
Starhawk—”Next Year in Mas’Ha”: Essay on an Arab-Israeli Seder in the occupied West Bank, by the author of Dreaming the Dark.
Amos Oz—”The Gruntwork of Peace”: Account by the noted Israeli novelist of an Israeli-Palestinian meeting that has produced a new peace plan as an alternative to despair.
Desmond Tutu—”No Future Without Forgiveness”: How South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has helped inspire the world, from Ireland to Rwanda.