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#MomLife: Our House is on Fire

Everyone and their mums need to read this book, but especially if you're a parent
AMCullen-HouseFire
A.M. Cullen: "Everyone and their mums need to read this book, but especially if you're a parent. Not only does it provide a brutally honest peek into what it's like parenting neurodivergent children, delves into permeating issues of feminism, inclusion, and privilege, all while bluntly addressing the realities of the climate crisis with a call to action and hopeful message."

The hunt for this book started with a Google search. I wanted to know what kind of amazing parent raised the infamous Greta Thunberg. I hoped to find information for a MomLife article on how to raise an awesome kid. Instead, I found a fantastic and harrowing memoir of raising a child with complex needs who transformed her family's (and the world's) perspective on the climate crisis. 

My next book recommendation is Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and Planet in Crisis by Malena Ernman (and Beata Ernman, Svante Thunberg, and Greta Thunberg). 

What's it about? 

Our House is on Fire tells the family’s story leading up to Greta's school strike. Of coping with their children's challenging medical diagnosis and a system against them. Through engaging and educational snapshots, it beautifully and bluntly covers an array of complex issues through the intimate lens of the Thunberg family's kitchen table. Against all odds, they come back from the brink of crisis to fight for a planet in a similar state. 

Why I Loved It 

Out of all the reasons I loved this book, one of the most prominent is the way it’s written. Instead of chapters, it's broken into short scenes (only a couple pages long). It keeps the narrative, which covers heavy topics, light and fast paced. It made for an easy and thoughtful read. It's strikingly honest. And it also provides a clear picture of the realities of the climate crisis and what needs to be done. 

What I Didn't Love 

I genuinely don't have a bad thing to say about this book. 

What I Learned 

There are tons of wonderful thoughts for your mind to chew on throughout this read. Here are a few things that stuck with me: 

  1. Psychiatry is a science built on male case studies, which has had huge implications for girls and women. In many disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), girls often present much differently than their boy counterparts, which results in later and fewer diagnoses. 

  2. We need the challenge the way individuals with disability and disorders are viewed. Rather than focusing on what one 'can't' do, celebrating what one can. Some of our greatest minds in history lived with ASD, and alternative way of thinking and processing the world is sometimes the perspective we all need. 

  3. Believe in our children. Support their passions, even if you're not on board. Malena admits that at first, she and Svante were skeptical about Greta's passion for climate activism, but by offering support and encouragement (as opposed to discouraging her and making her go to class), Greta Thunberg went from a 15-year-old girl sitting alone in front of the Swedish parliament buildings to one of the most recognized faces on the planet who has arguably done more for the climate crisis than most politicians, charities, and corporations. 

  4. There is no where on earth where men are equal to women and it boils down to how we, as a society, perceive strength and success. As Ernman states, "the qualities we traditionally associate with success and happiness are strongly linked with male physiology. Higher, better, faster, stronger. More." Women are competing against men on the terms that men have set. Before we can have political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, we need to revaluate what we, as a society, define as success and strength. 

  5. The proximity principle proves that we assign different countries different value. The value of a citizen in one country is more than one in another. We see it in our selective news coverage all the time. In terms of the climate crisis, unless a natural disaster occurs in the US, Europe, or Australia, we're unlikely to hear it reported on our new stations. 

  6. Canada's CO2 emission count doesn’t consider any offshore manufacturing. When wealthy countries move production to low-wage countries, we not only exploit their workforce but also transfer them a huge part of our CO2 emissions. Then we blame China, Vietnam, and India for being 'the problem' in our climate crisis. 

  7. Carbon capture technology is not the magic silver bullet that will solve our problems. It's not the cheapest or the most effective way to fight climate change, especially if we continue the exponential consumption path that we're on. There must be lifestyle changes and sacrifice of 'luxuries' we take for granted. 

  8. We are at a crossroads. Climate scientist, Kevin Anderson, said "according to our calculations, [we] have under ten years left at the current rate of emissions." And as sustainability author, Alex Steffen wrote, "Winning slowly is the same thing as losing." We don't have the time to hum and haw. We need to act now. And one individual can't change a system, but they can spark a chain reaction to set things in motion. 

  9. We need to start treating this crisis as a crisis. 

Where to Find it 

Everyone and their mums need to read this book, but especially if you're a parent. (The day I finished it I ordered a copy on Amazon for my mom!) Not only does it provide a brutally honest peek into what it's like parenting neurodivergent children, delves into permeating issues of feminism, inclusion, and privilege, all while bluntly addressing the realities of the climate crisis with a call to action and hopeful message. 

If you'd like to pick up your own copy, you can order a copy for pick up at Coles in Totem Mall or order it on Amazon. 100% of the money being made in book sales are being directly donated to environmental charities. Also, there are three copies at the Fort St. John Public Library that you can borrow too! 

Happy Reading! 


A.M. Cullen lives and writes in Fort St. John. Are you parenting in the Peace? Send in your questions, topics, or suggestions for #MomLife to cover at momlife.ahnfsj@gmail.com.