Publisher: AK Press
Released: November 17, 2020
Undrowned is a book-length meditation for the entire human species, based on the subversive and transformative lessons of marine mammals. Alexis Pauline Gumbs has spent hundreds of hours watching our aquatic cousins. She has found them to be queer, fierce, protective of each other, complex, shaped by conflict, and struggling to survive the extractive and militarized conditions humans have imposed on the ocean. Employing a brilliant mix of poetic sensibility, naturalist observation, and Black feminist insights, she translates their submerged wisdom to reveal what they might teach us. The result is a powerful work of creative nonfiction that produces not a specific agenda but an unfolding space for wonder and questioning.
Part of the "Emergent Strategy" series, the book is divided into eighty short meditations, each grouped into “movements” with names like “Listen,” “Breath,” “Stay Black,” and “Go Deep.” A graceful use of metaphor and natural models in the service of social justice, it explores themes that range from the ways that echolocation might inform our understandings of visionary action to the similar ways that humans and marine mammals do—or might—adapt within our increasingly dire circumstances. Gumbs’s narrative moves seamlessly between dolphins born in captivity and Black political prisoners giving birth behind bars, between the migratory patterns of dolphins and the Atlantic slave trade. An absolutely unique read!
Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a poet, independent scholar, and activist. She is the author of Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity, M Archive: After the End of the World, and Dub: Finding Ceremony.
Advance praise for Undrowned:
“Alexis Pauline Gumbs pushes us out of our comfort zone and into the sea, where other species are moving and mothering in ways that can teach us how to survive. With her beautifully rendered reflections on the habits and habitats of seals, otters and manatees, Gumbs shows us that humans aren't the only ones affected by climate change, and that other mammals know the pain of having their children hunted. Undrowned is a gift and its message is clear: The natural world offers solutions if we just pay attention.”—Dani McClain, author of We Live for the We
“This book is a devotional. An invitation to live more intentionally, more in harmony/Aligned.In this book, the Divine Mermaid, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, dives inside the wails of the Ancestors as she gives testament and testimony to the brilliance of Knowing Spirit beyond the veils of time, place and embodiment. Here, Alexis serves as guide and translator of vibrational realities of dreaming into how to survive, thrive and shape shift this world.”—Sharon Bridgforth, Doris Duke Performing Artist
“Alexis Pauline Gumbs breaks the surface of living as human and deep dives the depths of life in the planet’s oceans, where human life began but is now a danger to. Gumbs’s riveting, loving, genre-bending embrace of marine mammals and the human peril facing them, her mammal love, charges us to rethink and re-behave what it means to be human as she reminds us humans are mammals too, all life is sacred. On every page, Alexis Pauline Gumbs offers us a new definition of philosophy, a new definition of evolution. If we truly want a more just way of living, of being interspecies. This is a smart, black feminist, queer poetic; a love evangelist trouble making abolitionist offering. Take it. And be the change.” —Alexis DeVeaux, author of Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde