The Dandelion Insurrection: A Must-Read for These Times by Kate Brunner

dandelioninsurrectionI don’t know about you, but I am fried. These last two years proved personally & professionally exhausting. And yet, another year looms ahead unavoidably — another incredibly demanding year which will require more than I can fathom I actually have to give at this moment. So, during these strange, liminal, hazy, waning days between my culture’s frenetic celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I decided I could not digest one more morsel of non-fiction. Not one more triple vetted, actually fact-checked, or at least mostly properly journalistic news article. Not one more diligently researched treatise on the world’s sorry state of affairs. Not one more book-length analysis of humanity’s determined spiral into self-destruction.

Instead, I set out a stack of backlogged novels I’d told myself I’d get around to later when things calmed down and decided that even if things were far from calm, humanity’s creativity was what I desperately needed a large dose of this week. I boiled the kettle, brewed a strong cup of tea, and in working my way through that stack of novels, I found and joined The Dandelion Insurrection.

Published three years ago, The Dandelion Insurrection: love and revolution is a work of fiction exploring the country we are swiftly becoming in the wake of a compromised election, a meteoric rise in homegrown fascism, and the relentless destruction of corporate hegemony. As author, Rivera Sun, writes in her epilogue:

The Dandelion Insurrection is a prophetic mirror, both foretelling and reflecting the story of our times. Between the first pencil-scratched draft and the publishing of this edition, many details of the novel have shifted from this author’s wild imagining into a stark and sobering reality. As a result, the story resides in a foggy realm between fact and fiction.

Reading the first few chapters was disconcerting, as I could see now how very, very, very close we are to the world in which this story takes place. But as I kept reading, I got to know a cast of wonderful characters like Charlie Rider, the young writer with a passionate voice for nonviolent action, and Zadie Byrd Gray, the spirit of the Dandelion Insurrection and the dedicated midwife to love & revolution. They, along with their friends, family, & communities commit themselves to the rebirth of a nation — one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

It is an enormous task. Almost an impossible one.

But Charlie, Zadie, and the Dandelion Insurrection don’t ask us or their families or friends or communities to do it at one fell swoop. Nor do they ask us to do more than what we can in this moment, right now. Throughout their adventures, their striving, they continually remind us that the Dandelion Insurrection is “as small as baking bread in the oven and as large as bringing down dictators.” They encourage us to join them in a movement that is “as big as restoring democracy and as small as saying hello to your neighbors,” that is “as vast as the planet and as microscopic as infectious disease.” In a particularly powerful moment, Zadie reminds us all that the nonviolent revolution that is the Dandelion Insurrection isn’t simply “a handful of radicals. It’s all of Life itself!” — life that self-organizes within the framework of creation and persists in the face of countless attempts to destroy it.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were written into our founding as a nation. While life and liberty always ring true to me, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with that last bit. The pursuit of happiness. Not happiness, itself. Not joy. Not peace. Not love. The pursuit. It is this unceasing obsession with the pursuit that allows us to accept abuse and oppression within our culture. We’re entitled to this pursuit, our Declaration of Independence promises it to us. Therefore, whatever obstacles we face, whoever appears to prevent our pursuit of this elusive notion of American happiness (read: turning a profit) must be pushed out of the way, must be stepped on, must be beaten. And above all must not be allowed to get their hands on our happiness. The pursuit of happiness is the scarcity mentality and all the social injustice that comes with it woven into the very fabric of our nation’s being.

The Dandelion Insurrection challenges this paradigm and offers a potential revisioning of the American Dream. What if we replace the unceasingly merciless grind of the pursuit of happiness with love? What if our unalienable rights were to life, liberty, & love?

The Dandelion Insurrection is a novel about two young people in love in turbulent times, but it is also the story of a nation learning to love again. To love their neighbor as themselves. To love the divine creation that is the earth we inhabit. To love the vision of a truly just and egalitarian nation into being.

If you are fried, beat down & exhausted, if you are watching your hope slip away, then give yourself the gift of a few days curled up with a hot cup of tea and The Dandelion Insurrection. Your heart will thank you for it.

And if you’re the organizing type, I also highly recommend you snag a copy of The Dandelion Insurrection Study Guide: making change through nonviolent action! for when you start your own Dandelion Book Club and begin to seed the Insurrection in the hearts of your own community. 2017, here we come!

The past two years revealed to us the truth of who we are in this moment — a truth many of us were unprepared to see in such a raw manner. What will come of this truth in the years to come, I do not pretend to know. But for now, in light of a waxing moon and a dying year, there are at least three things we can all do — three things Rivera, Zadie, & Charlie and the whole of The Dandelion Insurrection assure us we are all capable of doing. Right here. Right now.

Be kind.
Be connected.
Be unafraid.


Kate M. Brunner is a writer, healer, ritualist, & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon. She is also a current resident of Heartwood Cohousing in Colorado & a homeschooling mother of three. Kate hosts seasonal women’s gatherings, priestesses labyrinth rituals, and facilitates workshops on an assortment of women’s spirituality topics. During 2017, she will present at the SOA’s annual online conference, AvaCon, & at the second annual Ninefold Festival next autumn. Kate is a contributing writer at One World Herbal Community and is also published in Flower Face: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Blodeuwedd and The Goddess in America: The Divine Feminine in Cultural Context.

Categories: Activism, Books, civil rights, Climate Change, Community, Ecojustice, Fiction, Nonviolent Action, pacifism, Resistance, Social Justice, Symbols

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15 replies

  1. Thanks for letting us know about this novel, Kate. I hope you will keep reading fiction. As a lifelong reader and writer of same, novels are what keep me sane (or saner than I would be otherwise). They are often more truthful and balanced than non-fiction or at least than the news. The novelist has to be able to express the complexity of experience. Beauty, paradox, heartbreak. When an author can express these, I feel less alone. Lately I have been re-reading beloved books by authors who are now long dead. It is amazing and comforting how keenly their work still illumines the challenges of this time. Oh and, can’t resist, if you haven’t read them yet, do check out The Maeve Chronicles.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you, Elizabeth, that novels “are often more truthful and balanced than non-fiction.” Pablo Picasso said, “Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” Give me fiction any day ;-)


  3. Kate, you’re becoming a better and better writer every month. Good for you! And good for you for reading fiction. Novels teach us things in ways nonfiction cannot, and they often teach with a more memorable style than nonfiction. With unforgettable characters. Yes, read the Maeve Chronicles, too. They’re amazing.

    I always keep a stack of books at the other end of the couch (under my iPad). They’re mostly novels. I can recommend the book I’m rereading now, The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. It’s about two artificial people in New York in 1899. They==and we–learn some interesting lessons about humanity. I think I’ll go look for your recommended book now……


  4. Thanks Kate, interesting book review, wow. A comment here on fiction and the need for it, and where you say: “I decided I could not digest one more morsel of non-fiction.”

    Evelyn Underhill wrote that “mysticism is the science or art of the spiritual life.” When we think of mysticism as art, it can certainly be similar let’s say to St. Teresa’s “Interior Castle.” The imaginative power of St. Teresa’s story is all in the imagery, although the landscapes themselves are actually spiritual — the first “dwelling places” are prayer and meditation. In Buddhism prayer and meditation are also what open the self to enlightenment.


  5. I am historically an avid reader of all things, including huge heaps of fiction. But this year, I got bogged down in the heaviness of everything going on and in research and writing nonfiction. I got so serious and felt like there were so many things I needed to be educated about via nonfiction that the works of fiction my soul needs me to dance within piled up, forgotten.

    Much of my personal spiritual practice got forgotten in the grind of life this year. I’m making an effort to course correct now. Goddess often speaks directly into my soul through the work of fiction writers. As someone whose spiritual roots lie in the Celtic archetype, I need to remember that spending time immersed in the bardic work of my age is an important piece of my practice. This book helped bring me back to that.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much Kate. For me as well, sometimes fiction is passed by on the shelf for the others, but I noticed something long ago for myself when I realized I hadn’t read a Book (a fiction book) in years and years: something creative in me was lost. So I picked them up again as I was finishing up my dissertation, but I’m a recovering non-fiction addict. I’m always looking out for wonderful reads, and this sounds like one of them. Also those Maeve Chronicles everyone seems to be talking about. :) Thank you for your book suggestion, your raw sharing, and your dictates: be kind, be connected, be unafraid. For someone who is scared of everything in vast moments of my life and sometimes isolated, this will be my mantra. I wonder where I can get a tattoo of it. Ha. :) Much gratitude.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dandelions are awesome plants. It so wasteful when we try to kill them just to have a “perfect lawn”. A good image of our society?
    The dandelion root and leaves are edible and full of nutrition. The flowers can be made into wine “to rejoice our hearts”. It’s a sturdy, insistent plant, pushing even through the cracks in cement to soak in the sun. It’s seeds are abundant and travel with exuberance, even providing some fun as we help blow them on their way.
    They are the perfect mascot for life, especially life lived in troublesome times. Thank you for recalling them for us Kate.


    • It’s actually incredibly interesting to look into Dandelion as a symbol and ally of assorted social justice causes & movements.

      Back in August, I became aware of the work of Dana Woodruff, the owner of Dandelioness Herbals, a community herbalist who sees plant medicine and social justice as inseparably intertwined. I read an interesting interview with her. In the interview, she refered to a story about Dandelion making a memorable appearance on her path while she was engaged in prison ministry work – attempting to get information, resources, & supplies about herbal medicine and medicinal foods into prisons in her area. She had this to say about Dandelion and the pursuit of social justice: “The powers that be may try to keep us separated by systematic divisions like racism and classism – or with literal concrete walls and barbed wire, but they can’t keep fierce, persistent, and abundant dandelion seeds from blowing right through those fences.”

      More Dandelion research turned up all sorts of references to Dandelion in association with food scarcity, food deserts, food justice, & assorted urban foraging education efforts.

      Also in August, Marie Cartier wrote here on FAR about her own powerful connection between Dandelion & empowering incest survivors, which you can read here:

      And Dandelions are also intimately connected to the Black Lives Matter movement:

      So many ways Dandelion is standing up for healing and justice!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderful! I need to read this book also. BTW, my son who is a singer/songwriter has a beautiful song called “Dandelion Wine”- inspired by a line from a Kurt Vonnegut novel. I adore reading fiction. It’s a wonderful way to feel the soul connection to our everyday world.


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