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House of Anansi Press


The Call of the American West

Written by Joanna Pocock

Published September 24, 2019 | ISBN 9781487007249
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural & Social

Cover of Surrender

Regular price $22.95 CAD

384 pages | 8 in × 5 in
Print Format

Also Available as an Ebook

About this book


The Call of the American West

Joanna Pocock

An evocative blend of narrative nonfiction, personal memoir, nature writing, and reportage in the style of Barry Lopez and Annie Dillard, Surrender explores the changing landscape of the American West and the outsider eco-cultures that have taken root in an era of increasing climatic disruption.

The mid-life crisis handed to Joanna Pocock came in a box marked with one simple word: Montana. With their seven-year-old daughter in tow, Joanna and her husband packed up their house, filled one suitcase each, and left the rhythms of life in England behind for their great adventure in the American West.

Blending personal memoir with insightful reportage and vivid nature writing, award-winning writer Joanna Pocock investigates the changing landscape of the West and the radical environmental movements that have taken root in the Mountain States. She witnesses the annual tribal bison hunt near Yellowstone Park, where she meets a scavenger community honing ancestral skills. She joins Finisia Medrano, a transgender rewilder who for many years has been living on the “hoop,” following her food source by seasonal migration. She attends the Ecosex Convergence — an annual gathering of people who place their relationship with the earth above everything else — and attends a workshop led by Reverend Teri Ciacchi, a sexologist, priestess of Aphrodite, and holistic spiritual healer in the Living Love Revolution Church.

In the style of Barry Lopez, Annie Dillard, and Eula Biss, Surrender explores the outsider cultures oblossoming in the new American West in an era of increasing climatic disruption, rising sea levels, animal extinctions, melting glaciers, and catastrophic wildfires.

About the Author

Joanna Pocock

JOANNA POCOCK is an Irish-Canadian writer living in London, U.K. Her essays, reviews, and travel pieces have appeared in Distinctly Montana, Litro, the Sunday Independent, the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, Orion, Tahoma Literary Review, and 3:AM, and on the Dark Mountain blog. She was a finalist for the Barry Lopez Narrative Nonfiction Prize in 2017 and won the 2018 Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize for Surrender. She teaches creative writing at the University of the Arts in London and works as a freelance editor for a variety of publishers.

Awards and Praise


Winner, Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize
Finalist, Barry Lopez Creative Nonfiction Prize
A Quill & Quire Book of the Year

“[A] poignant, insightful examination of the American West.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“A bewitching and deeply affecting book. Pocock’s elegant interweaving of the intimate and the expansive, the personal and the universal, culminates in a work that forces us to consider our own place in, and impact upon, a world that could itself have more past than future.” — Spectator (U.K)

Surrender is an astonishing book about the fragility of nature, grief, the American West, the consolations of travel, and the exquisite agonies of mortal life. Pocock travels widely in time and space, through memories, visions, the deaths of her parents, and the birth of her child. Beautiful, wise, and deeply moving, this is ambulatory philosophy at its finest — for readers of Rebecca Solnit, Lauren Elkin, Garnette Cadogan, and Iain Sinclair.” — Joanna Kavenna, author of A Field Guide to Reality

“In Surrender, Joanna Pocock follows rewilders, nomads, ecosexuals, and a host of outliers who see living with and off the land as the salvation of our species and everything else on the planet. Her candid and beautifully written journey confronts the angst, guilt, and grief she experiences while examining the greatest existential crisis of all time — the killing of diverse life on our planet. Pocock’s book is deeply researched and broad in its search for solutions. Her deft blending and layering of the personal with the political makes Surrender a necessary read for our times.” — Edward Burtynsky

“Written with great narrative richness and an anthropologist’s intrepid gaze, Surrender is fascinating, urgent, and profoundly compelling. It is an important addition to nature’s library.” — Chloe Aridjis, author of Sea Monsters

“Joanna Pocock’s compelling debut, a tapestry of personal narrative and vibrant reporting, explores the fresh, unconventional, and often hopeful relationships with nature that are clashing with the tintype images of the American West. So much more than a memoir, Surrender is an important enquiry into the ground upon which we find and establish a home.” — Harley Rustad, author of Big Lonely Doug