I read Sasha Sagan’s book For Small Creatures Such as We and Sarah Krasnostein’s The Believer almost a year apart. But they are that rare thing – two great works that speak to each other. And so the idea for this session was born.
At the heart of this conversation, and their two books, is a deep and very human consideration of how we all grapple with reality. How do we make sense of the world we live in, the world we see, the world we perceive. And how do we do that when we live alongside other people whose views and values don’t align with ours.
The pandemic has shown us the deep fissures in our societies and in our close circles. We are suddenly face to face with the deep values of other people, including those close to us, in ways we couldn’t have imagined. And it’s almost as if we don’t have the tools to navigate the differences. But writers like Sasha Sagan and Sarah Krasnostein and their two brilliant books give us some of those tools.
Both authors impress with their ability to write about other cultures and other practices and yet never sound judgemental. They open up worlds for their readers and they opened up lots of ideas for viewers of this conversation.
I wanted to know how all of us might listen differently to people whose lives and experiences and values are different to ours. I wanted to hear from these two authors about whether there are commonalities between different faiths, cultures and believers, that motivate their actions. Sasha spoke powerfully about the way that all people grapple with mortality. And Sarah described it as the vulnerable part of us all, the hole where the cold wind blows through us, that we try to fill with belief, with religion, with myth, with stories to make sense of the world.
These two authors and their writing also reminds us of the importance of both understanding the status quo and of questioning the status quo. I loved hearing their exchanges on knowledge, on what fact is, and on the false conflict between science and faith.
As Sarah Krasnostein said toward the end of the session, there’s no plan b. And while it can feel overwhelming to try and navigate the uncertainty and fear of these pandemic times, when we feel so far apart from people, these authors and speakers gave us ideas about how to listen, wisdom about ways to navigate debates and prodded us all to rethink the things we take for granted.
Sasha Sagan holds a degree in Dramatic Literature from NYU. She has worked as a television producer, filmmaker, editor, and speaker in New York, Boston and London, and her writing has appeared in New York Magazine, O. the Oprah Magazine, Literary Hub, Mashable.com, The Violet Book, and elsewhere. For Small Creatures Such as We is her first book.
Sasha Sagan’s parents were the late great astronomer and science communicator Carl Sagan and award winning science writer/producer Ann Druyan. Carl Sagan was the grandson of Orthodox Jews, but Sasha’s parents taught her that the natural world and vast cosmos are full of profound beauty and that science reveals truths more wondrous than any myth or fable. When Sasha became a mother, she began her own hunt for the meaning of rituals in her life and wondered what rituals and traditions she wanted her daughter to grow up with.
Part memoir, part guidebook and part social history, ‘For Small Creatures Such as We’ is a celebration of the mystery and beauty of the Cosmos.
Sarah Krasnostein is a writer. She is admitted to legal practice in Australia and America, and holds a doctorate in criminal law. She is the best-selling author of The Trauma Cleaner, which won the Victorian Prize for Literature, the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Non- Fiction, the Australian Book Industry Award for General Non-Fiction and the Dobbie Literary Award, among others. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications and academic journals in Australia, the UK and America.
Sarah Krasnostein’s ‘The Believer’ chronicles her interviews with people from all walks of life about the beliefs that shape their reality, from those who believe in UFOs and the supernatural, in heaven and the devil, to scientists who believe in the literal creation of the universe in six days. In this intensely personal and gorgeously written new book, Krasnostein talks with her characteristic compassion and empathy to these believers – and explores
what happens their beliefs crash into her own.
PRAISE for Sasha Sagan’s ‘For Small Creatures Such as We’
“How often have you asked yourself: What is the meaning of life? Sasha Sagan finds its meaning everywhere—with her family, around the world, and especially among the stars of the cosmos. Read her work; you’ll have a deeper appreciation for your every step, every bite, and every breath.”
— Bill Nye, author of Everything All At Once
PRAISE for Sarah Krasnostein’s ‘The Believer’
‘This book has got me thinking far more than most. Sarah Krasnostein tells the stories of people who live in mindsets unfamiliar to her with compassion and respect… Krasnostein’s art is that she never places herself on the throne of judgment…The result is both beautiful and unpredictable. Krasnostein is neither naïve nor cynical. She is an existential adventurer.’
Sydney Morning Herald
Sasha’s and Sarah’s books are available from Gertrude and Alice, the official SJWF book seller. You can order online here https://www.gertrudeandalice.com.au/product-category/sjwf/ or by calling 02 9130 5155