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OUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE by Greta Thunberg


Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis

by Greta Thunberg & Svante Thunberg & Malena Ernman & Beata Ernman

Pub Date: March 24th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-14-313357-5
Publisher: Penguin

A collective portrait of activist Greta Thunberg's family, encompassing not only climate change, but also issues of mental health.

In this moving text, Swedish opera singer Malena Ernman, her husband, Svante Thunberg, and their daughters, Greta and Beata, stitch together vignettes about "burned-out people on a burned out planet.” Before Greta stepped into the public eye with her 2018 strike outside the Swedish Parliament, she had fallen into depression. Ernman details the end of her music career, when Greta refused to eat or speak. Through distilled recollections, she elucidates how autism and selective mutism unfolded in her household, with all its initial hardship, and how Swedish society views spectrum disorders in general. When Greta was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s and OCD, and Beata with ADHD and other conditions, the family found a measure of solace. But they still struggled: “We scream. We kick down doors. We scratch. We pound walls. We wrestle. We cry. We ask for help and we somehow endure.” The narrative delivers a potent, challenging, and heartening portrayal of a family's struggle to hold it all together. The text is more problematic when it conflates environmental issues—such as sustainability and the climate crisis—with mental health problems, positing that society’s prioritization of economy over ecology has led to increasing isolation and desperation. While provocative, the argument feels grounded in simplified conviction. Passages about carbon emissions, damage wrought by air travel, the failure of world leaders to take charge, and related issues are unabashedly alarmist and valuable. Because these elements echo Greta's many speeches, they come off as repetitive in the book. The buildup to Greta's strike—and the strike itself—is an inspiring depiction of the teen who has become a leader on the world stage and of the family who supports her behind the scenes. It also represents a courageous triumph over many of her demons.

An impassioned call to action and a vulnerable family portrait of neurodiversity.