February Book Club: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

By Emily Clever

If you are like me, you were probably confused as to why Flight Behavior was part of an environmental book club.  I had picked it up a while ago, likely on sale or found on a clearance shelf somewhere, because I found the title interesting.  I didn’t read the synopsis so I spent the first chapter completely baffled by this choice.  To be completely honest, I wasn’t even sure I would be able to read the whole book, something about it just wasn’t grabbing me.  Once I was about halfway through I felt connected to it, so if you are currently reading it and feeling unsure just keep going.  

While the environmental focus of the book may have been about the monarchs I was more intrigued by Barbara’s ability to illustrate the divides that separate people.  She captured the divide between many groups; academics and non-academics, rural and urban, immigrants and non-immigrants, religious and non-religious and the haves and have-nots.  There were two parts that I felt were very telling of some of the issues that can arise between groups.  

Page 326, Mr. Akins is asking Dellarobia to make the sustainability pledge. He was trying to get her to sign a pledge to not do things she can only hope to do one day.  This is a prime example of how the environmental movement may be losing support by not recognizing or understanding where people are. Mr. Akins seems to have come from a region with a level of prosperity those in Dellarobia’s town were dreaming of.  He missed that the people he was trying to reach are the ones who may be further injured by changes made to the economy due to things like sustainability pledges.  
The other example of the how groups can talk past each other occurs on page 395.  Juliet is discussing culture.  “The key this is,’ Juliet said, resting her elbow on the table, that beautiful wrist bending under the weight of its wooden rings, ‘once you’re talking identity, you can’t just lecture that out of people.  The condescension of outsiders won’t diminish it.  That just galvanizes it.”  I think this is important to remember because some jobs have their own sort of culture and criticizing the job can be felt as a personal attack.

Please join the discussion January 24 at 7pm at the River Action office, 822 E River Dr, Davenport.

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