Terry Tempest Williams
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Finding Beauty in a Broken World

Finding Beauty in a Broken World

Finding Beauty in a Broken World
Pantheon Books
Format : Hardcover (Cloth) , pages 432
ISBN-10 : 0375420789
ISBN-13 : 9780375420788

Listen to Terry Tempest Williams read an excerpt from the book, Twibuke: beauty and healing amid the shards of Rwanda, on the Orion Society web site. (This excerpt was published in the September/October 2008 issue of Orion Magazine.)

Listen to an interview with Terry Tempest Williams with Mary-Charlotte, host of Santa Fe Radio Cafe, broadcast on Tuesday, October 7, 2008. Listen online or download a podcast.

Listen to a National Public Radio (NPR) piece by Caitlin Shetterly entitled Author Pieces Together Natural Mosaic that aired on Weekend Edition Saturday, November 22, 2008.

Chris Watson wrote an article entitled "A million pieces of light," published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on December 7, 2008. Read it online here.

Listen to NPR: On Point, for an interview by Tom Ashbrook with Terry Tempest Williams, about "Finding Beauty in a Broken World", which aired on November 17, 2008. You can listen to it online here. (After you click on the link, click on Listen to this Show, near the top of the page.)

A Conversation between Terry Tempest Williams and Betsy Burton, owner of The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, about Finding Beauty in a Broken World.


In her most original, provocative, and eloquently moving book since "Refuge," Terry Tempest Williams gives us a luminous chronicle of finding beauty in a broken world. Always an impassioned and far-sighted advocate for a just relationship between the natural world and humankind, Williams has broadened her concerns over the past several years to include a reconfiguration of family and community in her search for a deeper understanding of what it means to be human in an era of physical and spiritual fragmentation.

Williams begins in Ravenna, Italy, where "jeweled ceilings became lavish tales" through the art of mosaic. She discovers that mosaic is not just an art form but a form of integration, and when she returns to the American Southwest, her physical and spiritual home, and observes a clan of prairie dogs on the brink of extinction, she apprehends an ecological mosaic created by a remarkable species in the sagebrush steppes of the Colorado Plateau. And, finally, Williams travels to a small village in Rwanda, where, along with fellow artists, she joins survivors of the 1994 genocide and builds a memorial literally from the rubble of war, an act that becomes a spark for social change and healing.

A singular meditation on how the natural and human worlds both collide and connect in violence and beauty, this is a work of uncommon perceptions that dares to find intersections between arrogance and empathy, tumult and peace, constructing a narrative of hopeful acts by taking that which is broken and creating something whole.


Williams (The Open Space of Democracy) travels to Ravenna, Italy, a town famous for its ancient mosaics, to "learn a new language with my hands." Back home in Utah, Williams views the lives of a clan of endangered prairie dogs—a species essential to the ecological mosaic of the grasslands and the creators of “the most sophisticated animal language decoded so far”—through the rules of Italian mosaics. After intimate study of a prairie dog town at Bryce Canyon, her visit to 19th-century prairie dog specimens at the American Museum of Natural History segues, dreamlike, to a glass case of bones from the genocide in Rwanda, where Williams, overwhelmed by the death of her brother but knowing that her “own spiritual evolution depended upon it,” travels with artist Lily Yeh, who “understands mosaic as taking that which is broken and creating something whole,” to build a memorial with genocide survivors. The book, itself a skillful, nuanced mosaic (“a conversation between what is broken... a conversation with light, with color, with form”) uses this “way of thinking about the world” to convincingly “make the connection between racism and specism” and sensitively argues for respect for life in all its myriad forms. (Oct.)
--Publishers Weekly, 8/18/08

Beholding the mosaic of art and savagery--Terry Tempest Williams muses on people's disparate capacities, by William Porter, published in The Denver Post, October 3, 2008.

Finding Beauty in a Broken World, review by Susan Salter Reynolds, published in the Los Angeles Times, November 30, 2008.

Related Links

Associated links and references relevant to "FINDING BEAUTY"


Mosaic School in Ravenna

Prairie Dogs

Prairie Dog Coalition

WildEarth Guardians

Center for Native Ecosystems which is now Rocky Mountain Wild

John Hoogland

Endangered Species Act


Barefoot Artists

The Rwanda Healing Project

Ex;it Foundation: The Open Book Project

Partners in Health

How you can help

WildEarth Guardians

Center for Native Ecosystems which is now Rocky Mountain Wild

Barefoot Artists

Ex;it Foundation (building libraries in Rwanda)

The Hour of Land The Story of My Heart When Women Were Birds Finding Beauty in a Broken World Illuminated Desert The Open Space of Democracy Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert LEAP New Genesis: a Mormon Reader on Land and Community Testimony: Writers of the West Speak on Behalf of Utah Wilderness Great and Peculiar Beauty: A Utah Centennial Reader Desert Quartet: An Erotic Landscape An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place Coyote's Canyon Between Cattails Pieces of White Shell Secret Language of Snow