By Alexis Pauline Gumbs
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!