With SILENCE: A Social History of One of the Least Understood Elements of Our Lives, Jane Brox is the author of four other books: BRILLIANT: The Evolution of Artificial Light (one of Time Magazine’s top ten nonfiction books of 2010); CLEARING LAND: Legacies of the American Farm (in 2004 a Best Book of the Year: Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution); FIVE THOUSAND DAYS LIKE THIS ONE, (a 1999 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction); and HERE AND NOWHERE ELSE (awarded the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award).
She has received the New England Book Award for nonfiction, and her essays have appeared in many anthologies including Best American Essays, The Norton Book of Nature Writing, and the Pushcart Prize Anthology. She has been awarded grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Maine Arts Commission. She lives in Brunswick, Maine.
SILENCE: A Social History of One of the Least Understood Elements of Our Lives
“[A] clever bit of counterprogramming. Coming upon [Silence] was like finding the Advil bottle in the medicine cabinet after stumbling about with a headache for a long time . . . [Brox’s] two settings, scrutinized intensely, present silence as many textured . . . Brox writes beautifully . . .”
—Gal Beckerman, New York Times Book Review
In this remarkable history, critically acclaimed and award-winning author Jane Brox examines the institution of silence from monastic communion with God to the punitive isolation of inmates. With precision and grace, SILENCE explores the use of silence as both a threat and a tool over time, and our often-fraught relationship with communication and solitude as it has evolved in our digital lives.
Brox starts in 12th century Provence when Cistercian monks took vows of silence to achieve stillness and profound meditation. The story continues as this monastic tradition, along with European concepts of prison reform and the American Enlightenment, gave 19th century social reformers high hopes for the capacity of silence to redeem and rehabilitate at Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary. Through moments of subtle, heart-stopping tension, Brox reveals how this heritage has led us into an age in which peaceful, transformative quiet is increasingly difficult to come by.
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“Jane Brox takes this curious, thin slice of history and makes of it a dazzling epic . . .”
In BRILLIANT, award-winning author Jane Brox offers a sweeping history of our transformative relationship with light—from the stone lamps of the Pleistocene to LEDs embedded in fabrics of the future—and reveals that the surprising, complex story of our illumination is also the story of our modern selves.
Just five hundred years ago almost everyone lived at the mercy of the dark, yet today so much of life as we know it—our long evening hours, our flexible working days, our feelings of safety at night—depends upon cheap, abundant light. Brox not only examines the social and environmental implications of this remarkable transformation, she tells a compelling story imbued with human voices, startling insights, and timely questions about how the light of the future will shape our lives.
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“[Brox’s] precise, eloquent prose, wedded to a sensibility that manages to be at once elegiac and hard-minded, strikes unerringly through sentiment and convention to the heart of the matter...”
—Carlo Rotella, Chicago Tribune
*A Best Book of the Year: The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution*
Jane Brox twines two narratives, personal and historic, to explore the place of the family farm as it has evolved from the Pilgrims’ brutal progress at Plymouth to the modern world, where much of our food is produced by industrial agriculture while the family farm is both marginalized and romanticized. In considering the place of the farm Brox traces the transformation of the idea of wilderness – and its intricate connection to cultivation – which changed as our ties to the land loosened. Exploring these strands with neither judgment or sentimentality, Brox arrives at something beyond a biography of the farm: a vivid depiction of the half-life it carries on in our collective imagination.
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HERE AND NOWHERE ELSE: Late seasons of a farm and its family
“A loving, precisely written evocation of a New England place and its people . . . reminiscent of Thoreau in its exactness and breadth of implications.”
—from the judges' citation, L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award
Winner of the 1996 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award
After years of living away Jane Brox made the decision to return to the family farm of her birth, where her aging father still tended the crops. In this striking memoir of her reintroduction to the land and its habits, Brox captures the cadences of farm life and those who sustain it, at a time when the viability of both are waning.
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FIVE THOUSAND DAYS LIKE THIS ONE: AN AMERICAN FAMILY HISTORY
“Haunting. . . Had Henry David Thoreau the chance, he would be happy to quote Jane Brox.”
—Michael Kenney, The Boston Globe
National Book Critics Circle Award Nonfiction Finalist, 1999
Amid the turmoil after her father’s death – family decision to be made, the future of their farm to be settled – Jane Brox begins a search for her family’s story. The search soon leads her to the fascinating and quintessentially American history of New England’s Merrimack Valley, its farmers, and the immigrant workers caught up in the industrial textile age.
At the center of Brox’s journey through family history is a poignant question: How can her own family identity – language, food, a grandfather’s wish for “five thousand days like this one” – be recovered when so few traces of former lives are left? When FIVE THOUSAND DAYS LIKE THIS ONE returns to the present, along with decision on how the orchards and farm stand will or won’t change, the author must make her own discoveries about those aspects of family identity she can cherish and those she must let go.