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The Uncertain Sea: Fear is everywhere. Embrace it.
The Uncertain Sea: Fear is everywhere. Embrace it.
The Uncertain Sea: Fear is everywhere. Embrace it.
Ebook45 pages38 minutes

The Uncertain Sea: Fear is everywhere. Embrace it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



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Bonnie Tsui, the bestselling author of Why We Swim, a Time magazine Must-Read Book of 2020, writes about finding strength in the face of fear and uncertainty. Enlightening and inspiring, The Uncertain Sea is just the story most of us need right now.

Fear and uncertainty—emotions we’ve become all too familiar with this past year. From the pandemic to political upheaval to the recession to lurking environmental disasters, we’ve been battered by one unfathomable event after another, with more to come. How do we handle the emotional fallout from such traumas? How do we bounce back?

Bonnie Tsui tackles these big questions in The Uncertain Sea, her insightful look at fear and the many ways people handle it. Plagued by the anxiety she herself was feeling in 2020, she looked for guidance from an old friend whose very career would make most of us shudder. Ron Elliott is an underwater photographer specializing in sharks—in particular, the great whites of the Farallon Islands, off San Francisco, notorious for being one of the sharkiest spots on earth. Over the years, Elliott has had numerous close calls and was even attacked by a great white in 2018, nearly losing a hand. Yet still he returns to the water. Tsui wondered how Elliott managed risk and fear and what his resilience might teach the rest of us.

In her 2020 bestseller Why We Swim, Tsui—an accomplished swimmer and surfer—examines the cultural and biological aspects of our relationship to water. In The Uncertain Sea, she uses open water—and what lurks beneath the surface—as a metaphor to explore our psychological responses to the unknown. She draws on scientific research to better understand how and why fear manifests itself in humans, and frankly discusses her own deep-seated anxieties. She takes a thoughtful look at the movie Jaws, the blockbuster that cemented sharks in our collective unconscious as the symbol of all that is dangerous and scary. As a result, sharks—animals that are crucial to the food chain and present a statistically insignificant threat to people—have been threatened by overhunting. The fact that shark-liver oil is being used in developmental COVID vaccines that could save millions of lives adds to the dark irony of our shark mythology.

Throughout her narrative, Tsui turns back to her friend Ron Elliott, who, Buddha-like, finds his quiet center in the sharks’ cold, forbidding “living room.” He is comfortable with being uncomfortable; in fact, that’s how he finds his strength. It’s a lesson we all should learn.

“We are imperfect beings, teetering on a razor’s edge between reason and emotion,” Tsui writes. “What does resilience look like? Why do we embrace risk? My very human answer: We risk, sometimes a lot, so that we can seek joy.”

Release dateMar 2, 2021
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Bonnie Tsui

Bonnie Tsui is a longtime contributor to The New York Times and the author of American Chinatown, a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller that won the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. Her most recent book, Why We Swim, was published in April 2020; it was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, a Time magazine Must-Read Book of 2020, an NPR Best Book of 2020, and is currently being translated into five languages. Her first children’s book, Sarah and the Big Wave, about the first woman to surf Northern California’s renowned Mavericks, will be published in May 2021. She lives, surfs, and swims in the Bay Area.

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Rating: 4.09433962264151 out of 5 stars

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