Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Trade paperback format. Part of the Emergent Strategies series.
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: The Political Power of Black Motherhood
"Reading Undrowned, I am re-convinced of the revolutionary potential of the life sciences, and in particular, of the necessity of a Black feminist biology. Alexis Pauline Gumbs listens so carefully to everybody —humans, whales, dolphins, corals, all beings, living and ancestral. It is a blessing that she has shared with us both what she has heard and the experimental methods for how she enacted her expansive listening. In Undrowned, Gumbs offers much-needed examples and practices for how to become sensitive and responsive to our sensitive, responsive kin-beyond-species. It is this loving attunement that makes Undrowned a work of poetry and of biology at its most perceptive and generative." —Kriti Sharma, author of Interdependence: Biology and Beyond
“Undrowned profoundly exemplifies the distinct ways that Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a liaison between the seen and unseen. Her words are libation, meditation, and an incantation that invites us to re-member the interconnectedness between humans and marine mammals. In centering Black feminist praxis, Undrowned is a non-Christocentric baptism into the depth of the ocean and the depth of ourselves. Dr. Gumbs’s offering reminds us that what is dark, hidden, and immersed in water is sacred and holy. Read it alone and with others, in parts, and whole. Come to the sea and be healed."—Aishah Shahidah Simmons, creator of NO! The Rape Documentary and author of Love WITH Accountability: Digging Up the Roots of Child Sexual Abuse