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The Impossible Will Take a Little While, by Paul Rogat Loeb

By an everyday book reader
April 1, 2007

What keeps us going when times get tough?

The Impossible Will Take a Little While gathers stories and essays of engagement that range across nations, eras, and political movements. These visionary and eloquent voices include Diane Ackerman, Sherman Alexie, Maya Angelou, Mary Catherine Bateson, Ariel Dorfman, Marian Wright Edelman, Eduardo Galeano, Susan Griffin, Viclav Havel, Seamus Heaney, Tony Kushner, Jonathan Kozol, Bill McKibben, Nelson Mandela, Pablo Neruda, Henri Nouwen, Arundhati Roy, Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Cornel West, Terry Tempest Williams, and Howard Zinn.

How do we act to create a more humane world, no matter how hard it seems?

The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear
by Paul Rogat LoebBook Picture

Softcover: 422 pages
ISBN: 9780465041664, 0465041663
Basic Books
August 2004

Their voices in this book can help us all keep working for a better world, despite the obstacles.

Danusha Goska, an Indiana activist with a paralyzing physical disability, writes about overcoming political immobilization, drawing on her history with the Peace Corps and Mother Teresa. Vaclav Havel, the former president of the Czech Republic, finds value in seemingly doomed or futile actions taken by oppressed peoples.

Rosemarie Freeney Harding recalls the music that sustained the civil rights movement, and Paxus Calta-Star recounts the powerful vignette of an 18-year-old who launched the overthrow of Bulgaria's dictatorship. Many of the essays are new, others classic works that continue to inspire. How do we offer models of involvement for others when many feel their actions cannot matter?

Together, these writers explore a path of heartfelt community involvement that leads beyond despair to compassion and hope.

"Will resonate with anyone struggling with despair and doubt." - Dallas Morning News

"An anthology of some of the most powerful voices of our time." - Boston Globe

"Deeply moving and motivating... a retinue to be reckoned with from those dedicated to the concept of a better world" - Baltimore Sun

"A book of essays meant to inspire people." - Christian Science Monitor

"A stirring collection of essays aimed at people who still want to believe that ordinary people can change the world." - Atlanta Journal Constitution

In The Impossible Will Take a Little While, a phrase borrowed from Billie Holliday, the editor of Soul of a Citizen brings together fifty stories and essays that range across nations, eras, wars, and political movements. The chapters in this book can be read out of order, each one providing a gem of inspiration. The voices collected in The Impossible Will Take a Little While will help keep us all working for a better world despite the obstacles. The chapter titles are:

  • Seeds of the possible
  • The cure at Troy
  • A slender thread
  • Ordinary resurrections
  • Standing up for children
  • Political paralysis
  • Dark before the dawn
  • From September 1, 1939
  • The optimism of uncertainty
  • The dark years
  • An orientation of the heart
  • Everyday grace
  • The peace of wild things
  • From Last night as I was sleeping
  • Mountain music
  • The Sukkah of Shalom
  • Getting our gaze back
  • Fragile and hidden
  • There is a season
  • The flight of our dreams
  • Celebration of the human race
  • Childhood and poetry
  • To love the marigold
  • Walking with the wind
  • Freedom songs
  • Rough translation
  • Jesus and Alinsky
  • Stories from the Cha Cha Cha
  • Do not go gentle
  • Despair is a lie we tell ourselves
  • Courage is contagious
  • To be of use
  • The small work in the great work
  • In what do I place my trust?
  • Not deterred
  • Rebellion is what built America
  • Faith works
  • Composing a life story
  • The global stage
  • Imagine the angels of bread
  • Come September
  • The black hole
  • Hope for human rights
  • The green dream
  • Curitiba
  • Radical dignity
  • From Natural resources
  • How have you spent your life?
  • Letter from Birmingham jail
  • The real Rosa Parks
  • Prisoners of hope
  • Behemoth in a bathrobe
  • Road to redemption
  • Resisting terror
  • Beyond hope
  • Origami emotion
  • From The New York poem
  • Staying the course
  • The elm dance
  • Hoping against hope
  • The inevitability trap
  • You have to pick your team
  • From hope to hopelessness
  • Only justice can stop a curse
  • Still I rise
  • Only justice can stop a curse
  • The clan of one-breasted women
  • Next year in Mas'Ha
  • The gruntwork of peace
  • No future without forgiveness

The author writes this to us:

"Everywhere I go in the country, people ask me if their efforts can really matter. I wrote this book to give people hope - drawing together some of the finest engaged writers in the world to explore what keeps us going in difficult times.

"People say the book will be tremendously helpful for helping ordinary citizens replenish the wellsprings of their commitment and keep working for justice in this hard political time.

"I've included pieces that explore the historical, political, ecological and theological frameworks that help us to persist - with concrete examples of how people have faced and overcome despair. Some directly address our current politics. Others examine how people persisted in the struggles of the past: what it was like to confront South African apartheid, Eastern Europe's Communist dictatorships, or Mississippi's entrenched segregation.

"Political hope and personal hope are intertwined, of course. What lets us work for change is related to what keeps us going day after day when our personal lives get difficult. So some pieces straddle both. But I've focused on the kind of hope that takes us beyond merely personally surviving and carving out the best private life we can. I believe The Impossible Will Take a Little While can help readers find common solutions and see the world clear-eyed - acknowledging the destructive power of greed, fear, and shortsighted expedience, resisting the temptations of complacency and sentimentality, yet continuing nonetheless, to work for change, remembering that hope, in the words of one of my authors, is acting in spite of the evidence, then watching the evidence change.

"I think you'll enjoy the book."

Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of Soul of a Citizen and three other books. He has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other publications. He's been interviewed on CNN, NPR, PBS, C-SPAN, NBC TV, the BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, American Urban Radio, and national German and Australian radio. He's lectured on over 300 college campuses and at numerous national conferences. His January 2002 talk at the annual provost's conference of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities inspired what is now a 200-campus American Democracy Project. He is an associated scholar at Seattle's Center for Ethical Leadership and lives in Seattle, Washington.

"This book can even make one hopeful about the future despite so many signs to the contrary." - Bill Moyers

"Paul Loeb brings hope for a better world in a time when we so urgently need it." - Millard Fuller, founder, Habitat for Humanity

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