My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies
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About the Author
Sensitive and probing, this book from therapist Menakem delves into the complex effects of racism and white privilege. Departing from standard academic approaches, he speaks from the wisdom of his grandmother and his own expertise in somatic therapy, a field that emphasizes the mind-body connection. Trauma, both present-day and historical, forms the cornerstone of Menakem's analysis. He writes that race is a "myth--something made up in the 17th century," with the concepts of whiteness and racial superiority nonetheless now "essential facts of life, like birth, death and gravity." The result is that both black and white people are traumatized with fear of the racial other and with the "dirty pain of avoidance, blame, and denial." At the outset, Menakem implores readers to "experience" his book in their bodies. To this end, bodycentric activities, such as breath exercises, are described throughout. Menakem emphasizes body mindfulness, helping readers move from unhealthy reflexive responses to traumatic emotions to the conscious experience of "clean pain," which involves directly facing such emotions and thereby getting past them. Menakem is specific when directing his messages. "To all my white readers," he says, "welcome... let's get to work." To law-enforcement officers he gives the same welcome. And to African-Americans, he offers counsel and highlights the value of their experiences. (Sept.)
Reviewed on 07/14/2017
Library Journal (Starred Review), Sept. 2017
Community Care Counselor Menakem, MSW, LICSW, SEP, posits that racism is embedded in the hearts, souls, and reflexes of both blacks and whites in American society, and that the trauma (as he describes in depth) inflicted on many as a result of this fact is harmful to all. Menakem then helps readers get inside the black experience to encounter everyday threats and the responses of fighting, fleeing, or freezing in order to begin the healing process. The guided exercises and social commentary help to pave the way for understanding one another and building a stronger community that benefits everyone. VERDICT An exceptionally thought-provoking and important account that looks at race in a radical new way. For all readers.
The Harlem Dispatch
Review by Kam Williams, October 9, 2017
Though the highly-charged subject-matter might ordinarily be controversial in nature, this text is written in a non-confrontational style apt to disarm, engage and enlighten readers, regardless of color or political persuasion. Kudos to Resmaa Menakem for such a sorely-needed seminal work which couldn't be more practical or more timely, given this bitterly-divided country's current state of race relations.
NY Journal of Books
Review by Jane Haile, October 23, 2017
An extremely interesting approach and a much-needed paradigm shift in the treatment of racialized trauma.