A prismatic collection of essays from a young queer science writer about some of the ocean's strangest creatures and what they can teach us about human empathy and survival.
As a mixed Chinese and white non-binary writer working in a largely white, male field, science journalist Sabrina Imbler has always been drawn to the mystery of life in the sea, and particularly to creatures living in hostile or remote environments.
Each essay in their debut collection profiles one such creature: the mother octopus who starves herself while watching over her eggs, the Chinese sturgeon whose migration route has been decimated by pollution and dams, the bizarre Bobbitt worm (named after Lorena) and other uncanny creatures lurking in the deep ocean, far below where the light reaches. Fusing genres to create a new kind of essay, Imbler's debut weaves the wonders of marine biology with stories of their own family and coming of age, implicitly connecting endangered sea life to marginalised human communities and asking how they and we adapt, survive and care for each other.
This far-reaching, unique collection shatters our preconceptions about the sea and what it means to survive.
Sabrina Imbler is a writer and science journalist living in Brooklyn. Their first chapbook, Dyke (geology) was published by Black Lawrence Press, and they have received numerous fellowships and scholarships in the US, including from the Asian American Writers' Workshop and Tin House. They are the recipient of the Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for young science journalists, and their essays and reporting have appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Catapult, and Sierra, among other publications.
"This is a miraculous, transcendental book. Across these essays, Imbler has choreographed a dance of metaphor between the wonders of the ocean's creatures and the poignancy of human experience, each enriching the other in surprising and profound ways. To write with such grace, skill, and wisdom would be impressive enough; to have done so in their first major work is truly breathtaking. Sabrina Imbler is a generational talent, and this book is a gift to us all"
– Ed Yong, New York Times bestselling author of I Contain Multitudes
"How do we place our selves in the natural world? What are the costs and gains of our attachment to it? Where would you put Sabrina Imbler's astounding book on the shelf? In a separate section, marked: Awe and Wonder"
– Philip Hoare, author of New Statesman Book of the Year Albert & the Whale
"It's a marvel – a beautiful, stirring exploration of the human condition, and the webs and patterns of life that miraculously resonate with it, all the way from the ocean. To find the conundrums of human sexuality and identity reflected back at you by a jellyfish is nothing short of a revelation. Reading this book was an entrancing, provocative, unforgettable experience"
– Isabella Tree, author of Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm
"A delicious balance of the zoological and the personal. Imbler manages to gaze both inward to the self and outward to the strange selves of the creatures in the world's waters"
– Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, prize-winning author of Starling Days and Harmless Like You
"Compulsively readable, beautifully lyric, and wildly tender [...] A breathtaking, mesmerizing debut from a tremendous talent"
– Kristen Arnett, New York Times bestselling author of Mostly Dead Things and With Teeth
"[This book] marks the arrival of a phenomenal writer creating an intellectual channel entirely their own, within which whales and feral goldfish swim by the enchantment, ache, and ecstasy of human life"
– Megha Majumdar, New York Times bestselling author of A Burning
"Sabrina Imbler writes with incredible curiosity, compassion, and wit. This is a book that asks us to care not simply for one another, but for creatures far distant from us – for the sea, the land, and the worlds we make together"
– Jessica J. Lee, author of Two Trees Make A Forest
"Imbler's ability to balance illuminating science journalism with candid personal revelation is impressive, and the mesmerizing glints of lyricism are a treat. This intimate deep dive will leave readers eager to see where Imbler goes next"
– Publishers Weekly
"Compelling, distinctive and enthralling, Sabrina Imbler has found a whole new way to help us think about and care about the deep and interweaving curiosities of human life and sea life. Popsci meets queer memoire, with brave, illuminating and unexpected results"
– Helen Scales, author of The Brilliant Abyss
"A pinwheel of awe spinning one 'wow' after another"
– Souvankham Thammavongsa, author of How to Pronounce Knife
"Working at the nexus of nature writing and memoir, Sabrina Imbler is beautifully reinventing both genres"
– Angela Chen, author of Ace
"[It] is a creature unlike any other – one that grips you with its tentacles and pulls you down into new depths. It is impossible to read this book and not be transformed"
– Rachel E. Gross, author of Vagina Obscura