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Reviews of How Far the Light Reaches by Sabrina Imbler

How Far the Light Reaches

A Life in Ten Sea Creatures

by Sabrina Imbler

How Far the Light Reaches by Sabrina Imbler X
How Far the Light Reaches by Sabrina Imbler
  • Critics' Opinion:

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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Dec 2022, 272 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2024, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

A queer, mixed race writer working in a largely white, male field, science and conservation journalist Sabrina Imbler has always been drawn to the mystery of life in the sea, and particularly to creatures living in hostile or remote environments.

Each essay in their debut collection profiles one such creature: the mother octopus who starves herself while watching over her eggs, the Chinese sturgeon whose migration route has been decimated by pollution and dams, the bizarre Bobbitt worm (named after Lorena), and other uncanny creatures lurking in the deep ocean, far below where the light reaches. Imbler discovers that some of the most radical models of family, community, and care can be found in the sea, from gelatinous chains that are both individual organisms and colonies of clones to deep-sea crabs that have no need for the sun, nourished instead by the chemicals and heat throbbing from the core of the Earth. Exploring themes of adaptation, survival, sexuality, and care, and weaving the wonders of marine biology with stories of their own family, relationships, and coming of age, How Far the Light Reaches is a book that invites us to envision wilder, grander, and more abundant possibilities for the way we live.

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In "My Mother and the Starving Octopus," Imbler explores the pitfalls of motherhood and womanhood through the lens of an octopus that brooded over her eggs for an astonishing four-and-a-half years, not leaving them even for a moment to seek nourishment. An essay called "We Swarm" is an ode to queer locations and events in New York City, including the annual Pride parade and accompanying Dyke March ("which any of us will remind you is a protest, not a parade"), as well as a stretch of Jacob Riis Beach in Queens that is a popular party spot and hallowed part of LGBTQ+ history. In one of the strongest pieces, "Hybrids," Imbler addresses the theme of community again, interrogating language to consider how white supremacy invades and infects self-expression for people of color. They conclude astutely that "Maybe complaining to someone who gets it is one of the purest comforts on Earth."..continued

Full Review (787 words)

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(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

New York Times
Imbler, a science journalist, shines a light on some of the ocean's most delightful and overlooked creatures: goldfish that flourish in the wild, an aquatic worm named after Lorena Bobbitt, octopus mothers that make sacrifices for their offspring. Along the way, the author draws connections between these fascinating animals and our own needs and desires — for safety, family and more.

Time, 10 Best Nonfiction Books of the Year
Imbler thoughtfully examines connections between science and humanity, tying together what should be very loose threads in 10 dazzling essays, each a study of a different sea creature…Throughout, Imbler reveals the surprising ways that sea creatures can teach us about family, sexuality, and survival.

VOGUE, Best Books of Fall
Imbler pulls off an impressive feat: a book about the majestic, bewildering undersea world that also happens to be deeply human.

Ms. Magazine
Imbler uses their fascination with deep sea creatures to enlighten readers about these mysterious crabs, worms, fish and other organisms but also to encourage us to radically reimagine our own families, ways and lives.

Scientific American
A tender, lucid look at the author's life refracted through the deep sea. Imbler's essays' mesmerizing descriptions of the often mysterious lives of aquatic animals also serve as portals of inquiry into their life on land.

Booklist (starred review)
Imbler's insightful blend of marine biology and memoir is utterly captivating and complexly elucidating.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
In this captivating debut, science writer Imbler shines a light on the mysterious sea creatures that live in Earth's most inhospitable reaches, drawing parallels to their own experience of adaptation and survival...Imbler's ability to balance illuminating science journalism with candid personal revelation is impressive, and the mesmerizing glints of lyricism are a treat. This intimate deep dive will leave readers eager to see where Imbler goes next.

Kirkus Reviews
[M]uch more than an account of deep-sea creatures…Imbler compellingly examines the parallels between the lives and priorities of people and aquatic animals…unique and engaging…the overall effect is heartening and encourages a reexamination of inherited ideas about family, community, and identity…Elegant, thought-provoking comparisons between aspects of identity and the trials of deep-sea creatures.

Author Blurb Ed Yong, New York Times Bestselling author of I Contain Multitudes
This is a miraculous, transcendental book. Across these essays, Imbler has choreographed a dance of metaphor between the wonders of the ocean's creatures and the poignancy of human experience, each enriching the other in surprising and profound ways. To write with such grace, skill, and wisdom would be impressive enough; to have done so in their first major work is truly breathtaking. Sabrina Imbler is a generational talent, and this book is a gift to us all.

Author Blurb Kristen Arnett, New York Times bestselling author of With Teeth
Compulsively readable, beautifully lyric, and wildly tender, How Far the Light Reaches asks the reader to sink down, slip beneath, swim forward with outstretched hands, trusting that Sabrina Imbler is there to guide us through the dark. It presents the body as one that might morph and grow in any number of directions. How do we see ourselves? Can we learn to unsee? A breathtaking, mesmerizing debut from a tremendous talent.

Author Blurb Megha Majumdar, New York Times bestselling author of A Burning
How Far the Light Reaches marks the arrival of a phenomenal writer creating an intellectual channel entirely their own, within which whales and feral goldfish swim by the enchantment, ache, and ecstasy of human life.

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Beyond the Book

Jacob Riis Beach

A photo of the beach at Jacob Riis Park, showing a crowd of people with chairs and umbrellas on the sand In the essay "We Swarm" from their debut collection How Far the Light Reaches, Sabrina Imbler reflects on their experience finding comfort and kinship in New York City's queer community. The primary setting of this essay is a part of the beach at Jacob Riis Park in the borough of Queens, which, they explain, "had been a gay haven as early as the '40s, or even the '30s." By the 1950s and '60s, the area called "Bay 1" or "the People's Beach" was a popular meeting spot for a diverse group of LGBTQ+ New Yorkers and visitors. A 1963 article in the New York Times reported that Jacob Riis was somewhere "the New York homosexual" could find others of "his kind." In the 1970s, the beach became a hub of political activity for a community seeking ...

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