- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books (March 17, 2020)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143133578
- ISBN-13: 978-0143133575
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Customer Reviews: 37 customer ratings
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Our House Is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis Paperback – March 17, 2020
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“An urgent, lucid, courageous account. . . . [E]veryone with an interest in the future of the planet should read this book. It is a clear-headed diagnosis. It is a glimpse of a saner world. It is fertile with hope.” —The Guardian
"An extraordinary account of how one family rose, with unshakable moral clarity, to the tremendous responsibility of being alive at the moment when our immediate collective decisions will determine the fate of life on Earth. They share their story of courage not because they want our accolades, but because they demand our company. Greta Thunberg has already inspired a global moment--this book is part of how we will win." —Naomi Klein
“A surprisingly funny and optimistic book. Thunberg and her family might be screaming ‘FIRE’ on a crowded planet. But they believe we have the power to put that fire out if we act, right here, right now.” —The Telegraph (UK)
“A book about finding purpose as a route to recovery.” —Sunday Times (UK)
“This blazingly candid family memoir reveals the grueling and bewildering struggles that propelled Greta onto the world stage. . . . An unnerving and profoundly enlightening chronicle of the symbiosis between human and planetary health as manifest within one remarkable family whose painful awakening to our ‘acute sustainability crisis’ should embolden us all.” —Booklist, starred review
“An impassioned call to action and a vulnerable family portrait of neurodiversity.” —Kirkus
About the Author
Together with her mother, the celebrated opera singer Malena Ernman, her sister, Beata Ernman, and her father, Svante Thunberg, she has dedicated her life to protecting the living planet.
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It is only in the last chapters that Greta's mother, a famous opera singer, tells the story of Greta coming out of her Asperger shell and through a simple act of staying out of school for three weeks and sitting in front of the Swedish Parliament, galvanizing students all over the world to take action to save the planet from further climate chaos.
Other books chronicle Greta's remarkable travels all over Europe and the U.S. to the United Nations to call out leaders of the world's countries on their lack of work to stop the erosion of our planet.
This is an excellent book!!!!
This is a story of a struggling family, but also about climate crisis and how Greta ended up protesting on the bridge leading to the Swedish Parliament.
Due to their daughters’ (Greta & Beata) various diagnoses, Malena gave up her opera career to work hard (with their father) to find the proper diagnoses and to get help for their daughters. They worked on Greta’s problems first, since she had stopped talking and stopped eating.
Malena goes into detail about how they charted every bite Greta took of what foods and how long it took her to finish each item of food. Greta was eventually diagnosed as having autism (as well as anorexia, which she did conquer).
After a long and harrowing ordeal getting Greta on more stable ground, her younger sister Beata began to fall apart. She experienced numerous “melt-downs,” screaming curse words at her parents, shrieking due to loud noises and being unable to cope with school and dance classes. So the parents went through a gauntlet of having Beata diagnosed and treated. Beata, it turned out has ADHA, OCD and oppositional defiance disorder, with some Aspberger’s symptoms.
I admire the parents for being diligent in helping their children. So many parents are so busy trying to work two or three jobs to support their family that they can’t see their children have serious disorders. I was diagnosed late in life with a form of autism, as well as with atypical bipolar disorder (I have experienced only 3 depressions in my life-time and I am now 67 years old). I get manias more frequently. I also have a condition that is like having dyslexia but with numbers. The head of CU/Boulder Colorado’s learning disabilities center diagnosed me over a week of testing after noticing that I wrote 7 instead of 1 and 3 instead of 8 (as well as other problems).
I certainly wish my parents had been as diligent as Greta’s in finding out what was wrong with me. Instead, they shouted at me, called me “a pain” and demanded that I put my nose to the grindstone and do well in school. Socializing was and still is hell for me, I didn’t understand social cues at all. So school was difficult, although I did end up getting three university degrees. (Which took me 7 years, due to several breakdowns.)
I studied at the Master’s level special education. The last seven years of my career, I worked with adults, teens and children who had various types of brain differences. It was rewarding but extremely low pay. People who do this type of work deserve good pay. Each child/teen/adult deserves one-on-one attention (which was impossible even in the high income county where I worked).
So it is laudable how Greta’s and Beata’s parents worked hard to help their daughters. They also gave their vacation home over to refugees. This is something that wealthy people can do if they choose. Very few of us have the resources to give a home to refugees. But many of us do what we can to help people. My husband and I have protested at ICE juvenile detention centers with many other concerned citizens, for example. We have marched for civil rights and against war. And we attended Greta’s rally in Denver, Colorado where Native Americans led a prayer chant after Greta’s inspiring speech.
One thing I will quibble with about this book. Greta frequently says how Nobody is talking about the environment. How no celebrities care about the environment. But she is wrong and her parents should know better (since they are both celebrities). Neither could come up with any names of actors, singers, painters or dancers who care about the environment.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s foundation has awarded over $10 million toward groups that help wild animals, the environment and other work. He speaks frequently about this topic. I cannot understand how Greta is unaware of this. Or her parents.
Morgan Freeman converted his 2,000 acre farm into a haven for bees, which are utterly crucial for plant life to survive. James Cameron (Titanic) frequently speaks about saving Mother Earth, including going vegan. Jack Johnson sings in classrooms to educate children about the environment. Darryl Hannah has long been an environmental activist, protesting recently against the pipeline which was being built on Native American soil, near water sources. Cate Blanchett helped fund one of the largest rainwater collection systems (in Australia). She lives in a “green home” totally off the grid. Julia Louis-Dryfus was an outspoken opponent of the Keystone XL Pipeline and appeared in a video which urged President Obama to reject the proposal. She has donated millions for Heal the Bay, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Trust for Public Land. She speaks out for the environment often.
But let’s also talk about average people who also speak up and do actions to save Mother Earth. When my sister was 11 years old, she organized a group of young people (including me, age 15, and also our father) to found the world’s first Earth Day. We set up the nation’s first recycling center in the Washington DC area. We planted hundreds of trees. We met with senators and congress-people, demanding that they clean up rivers and other resources. We protested so that a development group was stopped from taking down trees in a forest now called Burling Park.
The Ocean Cleanup group is set to clean 90% of plastic from the oceans. They are already having success. Millions of people around the world in 1970 did these kinds of actions. We continue doing these kinds of things. Cold Play no longer flies to venues, to stop CO2 emissions. Other musical groups have joined in this action.
Although my husband and I (and most of our friends) are in a low economic strata, we give money to these causes. My friend and her husband run an animal sanctuary. They take in abused/unwanted animals of all kinds (dogs, cats, birds, horses, squirrels.) They are poor but use a large part of the small income to feed and care for these creatures. My husband and I donate monthly to this sanctuary. Hundreds of thousands of other "regular" people do these kinds of things.
I am baffled that Greta’s parents have no knowledge about the environmentally conscious celebrities, their outspokeness and actions to save the environment.
So other than this annoying blindness, the book is important. It shows how determined parents can help their children through extremely difficult problems like anorexia and autism. It shows how very young people can have a huge effect on the environment. I am a huge fan of Greta Thunberg. I hope she becomes aware of the many many people who also care deeply. She is not alone.
Top international reviews
It is a sad indictment of modern western society when we fail to cater for the vulnerable to such an extent that they (Greta) is reduced to anorexia and selective mutism. The tale relayed is just awful, where the callousness and bullying is not limited to pupils but also by staff. She is lucky that she has parents who have found the time to battle for their children. It highlights the issue of late diagnosis of autism in girls and young women and the lifelong problems it can lead to if help isn’t available. When Greta is finally diagnosed the private school puts profit before service and fails her (and her sister) repeatedly.
Parts of this book made me weep openly.
This book clearly demonstrates that autism can be a condition (rather than a disorder) as it allows Greta a clarity that neurotypicals so obviously lack at times and cut through all the fluff and focus on the key issues: namely the climate crisis that the world is persistently failing to treat as a crisis. It also allows her to bat off national and international politicians ‘abuse’ (hey, she’s been bullied must of her life, you all just stay classy) and highlight their own hypocrisy.
That a such a small girl can have such a significant impact actually gives me some hope. And inspiration.
This should be a national ciriculum text book.
It then establishes a link to modern society and its (similar) woes, a critique of unfettered consumerism especially in the rich Western world, and how politicians and mass media are ignoring science's pleas. This middle part summarizes the main points of the climate movement (debunking common myths like that technology will save us without affecting individual lifes much) and argues that radical system change is necessary to stop it.
The final third of the book returns to the family and how Greta overcomes her struggles by getting involved and becoming accepted in the ecological community (supported by her family, also through actions such as not flying any longer), culminating in the story of her (now famous) school strike for climate, starting on 20 August 2018.
The book adds a rich, deeply personal back story to the media reporting, repeats all the arguments, and gives hope and encouragement to join the movement.
Greta is a round peg in a square hole. She is ‘different from the norm’. Early on in her development, she suffers from anorexia and depression and is then diagnosed with Aspergers and OCD. She is clearly high functioning but customary upbringing and social mores have little bearing on her behaviours. Greta’s parents devote their lives to ensuring that their daughters grow up in a non bullying atmosphere and where their individuality and talents are appreciated. Beata has ADHD and OCD and is also unable to cope in conventional situations.
This is a well written book, authored in a prosaic, even poetic style. The sentences and chapters are short and the book itself is also short (as it would be given Greta’s tender years). However, I did find the style and content become increasingly repetitive and take on the tone of a diatribe as the Ernman-Thunberg family propound their deep-seated beliefs in green and eco living. Their thinking is not necessarily incorrect but their frustration with others and the laisee-faire attitude of those in government, is evidenced in the writing. Covid-19 in 2020 therefore must be a scenario that will almost be a relief for proponents of pollution-free living. Economy vs ecology is the continuous dilemma.
Nevertheless, this book is hugely interesting from a parental perspective when dealing with children with psychological and behavioural difficulties to learning about the background of one of the world’s most outstanding and current thinkers. It is no exaggeration to state that ‘the climate is a burning issue’. Indeed, Our House Is On Fire narrates the story of a young, hugely influential teenager whose perspective and views on the world is at times vastly at odds with others. It begs the question as to whose vision is skewed. Moreover, it demonstrates that with appropriate support and encouragement, those who may find society challenging can also find a place and haven within it.
Yes, she has a famous daughter, but Malena herself has travelled the world and is successful in her own right as an opera singer.
This is her story, about how she struggled to balance work and being there for both her daughters who have their own neurological conditions, while she herself suffers from ADHD.
Before I started this book I had been aware of Greta, I think everyone has heard of her since her famous sit in. I had always wondered about his girl, here was someone that I thought looked quiet, lonely and almost standoffish. It wasn’t until I started reading this book and discovered she had Asperger Syndrome that I began to understand, how I saw her TV made sense. Knowing this and looking back I have even more respect for her and the stand she made.
This is a mother’s open and honest account of her life, the difficulties she has faced. It is not a sugar-coated account but an honest wart and all account. The embarrassing moments sit along with the heartbreaking ones. She tells of her own breakdown and challenges as well as changes in her life. This is what makes this such a good read.
This is a biography about the mother of a renowned activist and it has been done as a family collaboration. It was first written before Greta made her sit in and the whole family agreed to release it just after.
The first half of the book focuses more on the family while the second half goes more into the climate crisis and how Greta makes her stand. This latter half does have more figures and information. they are laid out in a digestible way. The information is laid out for the reader in a way that it makes you question things about how you live your rather than telling you how you should live.
I really enjoyed reading this, it wasn’t too preachy it too full of facts, figures or confusing information. It is easy to read and understand book that I would definitely recommend.
As a jointly written piece, it isn't always apparent who the narrator is, though for most of the book it is Malena Erman, Greta`s mother.
It certainly gives a fascinating insight into the family and how Greta developed into the internationally recognised activist she now is.
It's a bit preachy at times – as one would expect, given the commitment characterised by informed protest – which can be a little wearing for the sympathetic reader (only fools and fascist politicians deny the serious immediacy of global warming) but it is otherwise an interesting book that also presents a lot of information about the climate crisis.
A quick but rather grim read; there's not much levity and it's amazing that the family's personal outcomes have been so positive – as for the climate crisis – that's in everyone's hands.
I have to be honest, Malena isn't the most personable author and reading how she writes does make this seem, at times, a bit narcissistic, but that aside, she allows readers to see into very important struggles for the family and this should be praised in their honesty.
So long as you realise this isn't a book by Greta but more about her and her family, you won't be too disappointed. Would I read more by Malena, I'm not sure but, I did find it interesting and if nothing else, highlights some very interesting points that give the reader and the whole world pause for thought about how we see 'norms' in this world!