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My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of Our Bodies and Hearts

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The body is where our instincts reside and where we fight, flee, or freeze, and it endures the trauma inflicted by the ills that plague society. In this groundbreaking work, therapist Resmaa Menakem examines the damage caused by racism in America from the perspective of body-centered psychology. He argues this destruction will continue until Americans learn to heal the gene The body is where our instincts reside and where we fight, flee, or freeze, and it endures the trauma inflicted by the ills that plague society. In this groundbreaking work, therapist Resmaa Menakem examines the damage caused by racism in America from the perspective of body-centered psychology. He argues this destruction will continue until Americans learn to heal the generational anguish of white supremacy, which is deeply embedded in all our bodies. Our collective agony doesn't just affect African Americans. White Americans suffer their own secondary trauma as well. So do blue Americans—our police. My Grandmother's Hands is a call to action for all of us to recognize that racism is not about the head, but about the body, and introduces an alternative view of what we can do to grow beyond our entrenched racialized divide. This book paves the way for a new, body-centered understanding of white supremacy—how it is literally in our blood and our nervous system. It offers a step-by-step solution—a healing process—in addition to incisive social commentary. Resmaa Menakem, MSW, LICSW, is a therapist with decades of experience currently in private practice in Minneapolis, MN, specializing in trauma, body-centered psychotherapy, and violence prevention. He has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and Dr. Phil as an expert on conflict and violence. Menakem has studied with bestselling authors Dr. David Schnarch (Passionate Marriage) and Dr. Bessel van der Kolk (The Body Keeps the Score). He also trained at Peter Levine's Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute.


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The body is where our instincts reside and where we fight, flee, or freeze, and it endures the trauma inflicted by the ills that plague society. In this groundbreaking work, therapist Resmaa Menakem examines the damage caused by racism in America from the perspective of body-centered psychology. He argues this destruction will continue until Americans learn to heal the gene The body is where our instincts reside and where we fight, flee, or freeze, and it endures the trauma inflicted by the ills that plague society. In this groundbreaking work, therapist Resmaa Menakem examines the damage caused by racism in America from the perspective of body-centered psychology. He argues this destruction will continue until Americans learn to heal the generational anguish of white supremacy, which is deeply embedded in all our bodies. Our collective agony doesn't just affect African Americans. White Americans suffer their own secondary trauma as well. So do blue Americans—our police. My Grandmother's Hands is a call to action for all of us to recognize that racism is not about the head, but about the body, and introduces an alternative view of what we can do to grow beyond our entrenched racialized divide. This book paves the way for a new, body-centered understanding of white supremacy—how it is literally in our blood and our nervous system. It offers a step-by-step solution—a healing process—in addition to incisive social commentary. Resmaa Menakem, MSW, LICSW, is a therapist with decades of experience currently in private practice in Minneapolis, MN, specializing in trauma, body-centered psychotherapy, and violence prevention. He has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and Dr. Phil as an expert on conflict and violence. Menakem has studied with bestselling authors Dr. David Schnarch (Passionate Marriage) and Dr. Bessel van der Kolk (The Body Keeps the Score). He also trained at Peter Levine's Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute.

30 review for My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of Our Bodies and Hearts

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence

    **What are the main ideas?** * white supremacy is more accurately called white-body supremacy. it's got less to do with supremacy of white skin and more to do with supremacy of bodies that are considered white. this could be seen as semantic but is quite helpful. * white-body supremacy lives in our BODIES; it's in our blood, dna, flesh, and the pre-cognitive parts of our brains (aka the lizard brain). * as such, trainings that focus on the mind as the site from which to undo white-body supremacy **What are the main ideas?** * white supremacy is more accurately called white-body supremacy. it's got less to do with supremacy of white skin and more to do with supremacy of bodies that are considered white. this could be seen as semantic but is quite helpful. * white-body supremacy lives in our BODIES; it's in our blood, dna, flesh, and the pre-cognitive parts of our brains (aka the lizard brain). * as such, trainings that focus on the mind as the site from which to undo white-body supremacy will never be enough. * undoing white-body supremacy is first and foremost a somatic endeavor. the cognitive/thinking parts will flow second (because the lizard brain, the part tied to our vegus nerve, is both faster than cognition AND the vegus nerve can override cognition). * clean pain is when you know that a difficult thing needs to be done, you know what that thing is, and you do it because healing/growth are on the other side. dirty pain is all the subsequent pain when clean pain is avoided. * a settled body accepts attempts at healing (clean pain). an unsettled body rejects attempts at healing (and therefore creates dirty pain). * settling your body is not the same as healing, but you will improve your capacity to heal when you can settle your body. * the trauma of american slavery is rooted in the trauma of european bodies through the middle ages. whipping and hangings started in europe because they were brought to the u.s. the people who brought slaves to the u.s. need to heal their ancestral trauma in order for folks on this soil to move forward. **If I implemented one idea from this book right now, which one would it be?** * anti-racism work is somatic. we need to create opportunities for people's actual bodies to learn how to have non-traumatic responses to bodies that they have lizard brain reactions to. those reactions that are based in trauma, are not helpful because they are knee-jerk and not intentional or conscious. **How would I describe the book to a friend?** this is a theoretical guide book and instruction manual for how to actually undo white(-body) supremacy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Leila

    I had been so excited to finally find a book about trauma that talked about the ways that racism and systemic oppression inflict trauma, and this book was a starting point but not fully there. If you can get past the cop apologia (his brother is a cop, and he trains police departments), the offensive language (e.g. “yellow bodies” and “red bodies”), some fatphobia, and the whole concept of “police bodies,” there are a lot of gems in here — particularly in part 2. There are specific breathing exe I had been so excited to finally find a book about trauma that talked about the ways that racism and systemic oppression inflict trauma, and this book was a starting point but not fully there. If you can get past the cop apologia (his brother is a cop, and he trains police departments), the offensive language (e.g. “yellow bodies” and “red bodies”), some fatphobia, and the whole concept of “police bodies,” there are a lot of gems in here — particularly in part 2. There are specific breathing exercises and strategies to help settle your body and, as Menakem writes, act "from the best parts of yourself." I also really appreciated the ideas about how to better protect ourselves from internalizing oppression, not just on a cognitive level but on a somatic level. That said, the gaps in here reinforced for me that we need both cognitive and somatic approaches. For prison and police abolitionists, I recommend skipping the chapters on police entirely, as Menakem believes that cops just need to be trained to heal their trauma in order to end police violence. It felt particularly strange to me that he was able to trace the history of white people's violence, but when it came to policing, he made it seem as though policing in the U.S. was once useful for protecting communities and somehow lost its way, which seemed ahistorical. The first two chapters of part 3 are very good, but the rest of the chapters in that section are redundant. I think I would’ve given the book 4 stars if I had known in advance to skip those chapters.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Erika Sanders

    I've studied racism and been part of anti-racism work for over 25 years, and I have to say, this book is one of the most valuable pieces of work on the topic that I've read. Menakem's teachings don't replace or supplant other racial liberation tactics or philosophies, but instead give us a fresh way to expand how we understand the lived racial experience we ALL have. It gives us another road into this work, a road that seems essential to travel, even as we commit and recommit ourselves to multip I've studied racism and been part of anti-racism work for over 25 years, and I have to say, this book is one of the most valuable pieces of work on the topic that I've read. Menakem's teachings don't replace or supplant other racial liberation tactics or philosophies, but instead give us a fresh way to expand how we understand the lived racial experience we ALL have. It gives us another road into this work, a road that seems essential to travel, even as we commit and recommit ourselves to multiple additional types of racial liberation work. Plus, Menakem's writing style is accessible, clear and blunt - just what this topic needs. It feels hokey and overblown to say, but I'll say it anyway - this should be on the reading list of anyone and everyone who cares about racial justice and liberation in the US.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    "A calm, settled body is the foundation for health, for healing, for helping others, and for changing the world." I’ve been reading this book s-l-o-w-l-y because the author wants the reader to stop and actually do the practices. There is a lot here about dealing with racialized trauma, not only for individuals but within communities. Specific practices are for black people, and others for white people. There are several chapters about rethinking how police are trained to deal with trauma as well. "A calm, settled body is the foundation for health, for healing, for helping others, and for changing the world." I’ve been reading this book s-l-o-w-l-y because the author wants the reader to stop and actually do the practices. There is a lot here about dealing with racialized trauma, not only for individuals but within communities. Specific practices are for black people, and others for white people. There are several chapters about rethinking how police are trained to deal with trauma as well. If you know mindfulness practices, some of the practices here will be familiar if not quite the same. The strategies for settling the body are definitely some I will be working with. He ends the book with a challenge for transforming communities and everyday activism. I read this in Hoopla but need to buy it as it isn’t possible to absorb it all the first time.

  5. 4 out of 5

    cat

    I don't even know where to start with a review of this book. It is such a powerful addition to the conversation about trauma, about white supremacy, about bodily healing of trauma -- and specifically the way that bodies hold the trauma of white body supremacy. The trauma is not only held by bodies of color, and this author actually addresses bodies of color, white bodies, and law enforcement bodies each individually, as well as collective/communal healing of all bodies. There is a lot of unpacki I don't even know where to start with a review of this book. It is such a powerful addition to the conversation about trauma, about white supremacy, about bodily healing of trauma -- and specifically the way that bodies hold the trauma of white body supremacy. The trauma is not only held by bodies of color, and this author actually addresses bodies of color, white bodies, and law enforcement bodies each individually, as well as collective/communal healing of all bodies. There is a lot of unpacking of what types of somatic healing are necessary to help bring about an end to racial violence -- and the ways that we can engage in that work individually and with groups of trusted comrades. Menakem uses a synopsis feature at the end of each chapter that has been so helpful to me as I have gone back and forth between chapters, re-engaging with ideas shared previously, and also has body/breath practice activities throughout the chapters that I found so valuable. There is way more to be said about this book -- and I may return to say some of it later. Until then, this book ranks up there with Bessel Van Der Kolk's 'The Body Keeps the Score' in terms of resources for considering the healing required for trauma -- racial, sexual, war-related, intergenerational, and even genetically coded. All trauma requires healing that uses mind, body, and soul.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tichana (The Book Hobbit)

    **** 2.25 Stars **** My Grandmother's Hands was an interesting book about racialized trauma and its effects on our bodies. While the concept of the book sounds brilliant, I was a bit disappointed with its content. -The book is divided in 3 parts. The first part is pretty much Resmaa Menakem stating the same thing over and over and preparing the reader for what his book is going to be about. I found this to be unnecessary and a waste of time. I just wanted him to get to the point. There was n **** 2.25 Stars **** My Grandmother's Hands was an interesting book about racialized trauma and its effects on our bodies. While the concept of the book sounds brilliant, I was a bit disappointed with its content. -The book is divided in 3 parts. The first part is pretty much Resmaa Menakem stating the same thing over and over and preparing the reader for what his book is going to be about. I found this to be unnecessary and a waste of time. I just wanted him to get to the point. There was no need for him to mention multiple times what books he wrote, what TV shows he's been on, or how his brother is a police officer. It was extremely redundant. -Once you get past part 1, the book becomes interesting. It talks about how racialized trauma can pass from one generation to another and how we are all victims of it and we need to heal in order to move forward. The books also touches on police brutality in the US and how it can improve. I did not agree with this part in particular because it implied that the policing system is a good system found on good intentions and that once it heals, it will get better. I think the problem of police brutality in the US is much bigger than that. -The book also has useful breathing exercises and other strategies to help cope with trauma and heal it. -I found Menakem's use of language to be offensive sometimes. For example, he continuously refers to indigenous people as "red bodies" and Asian people as "yellow bodies" which I think is ignorant and reinforces a stereotype. I found it inappropriate in a book that deals with racialized trauma and systematic racism in general. -I also noticed stereotypical ideas about weight and overweight people. I did not appreciate that and I do not think it was necessary at all. I think I expected a lot more from this book and I went into it with high expectations. But once I started reading it, I was disappointed. The book is not bad, but it is not great either. It has some useful information on racialized trauma and healing and the exercises provided are really useful. But it had many flaws and I couldn't get past them.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Novel Addiction

    What impressed me most about 'My Grandmother's Hands', was how well author Resmaa Menakem tackled the controversial topic that is racism. He was made no accusations, and doesn't lecture the reader. He isn't saying that all white people are racist or all black people are distrustful. What he suggests – rather convincingly – is that racial prejudice can be carried within our bodies, caused by the traumatic experiences of those that came before us. I loved how personal and insightful this book was, What impressed me most about 'My Grandmother's Hands', was how well author Resmaa Menakem tackled the controversial topic that is racism. He was made no accusations, and doesn't lecture the reader. He isn't saying that all white people are racist or all black people are distrustful. What he suggests – rather convincingly – is that racial prejudice can be carried within our bodies, caused by the traumatic experiences of those that came before us. I loved how personal and insightful this book was, it has the capacity to change a lot of lives. The experiences of the generations before us, may have marked our souls, but we don't have to pass that mark onto the next generation.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eli

    I'm real tempted to justify my whole two-star review by simply reporting that the author advocates police officers taking bubble baths as a significant part of the solution to police brutality. But there's more to talk about. So here's the long version. I wanted so badly to like this. The premise of this book is really deeply compelling. Unfortunately the author doesn't elaborate much on his initial ideas, beyond compiling other people's work and not explaining it very well. He indicates concepts I'm real tempted to justify my whole two-star review by simply reporting that the author advocates police officers taking bubble baths as a significant part of the solution to police brutality. But there's more to talk about. So here's the long version. I wanted so badly to like this. The premise of this book is really deeply compelling. Unfortunately the author doesn't elaborate much on his initial ideas, beyond compiling other people's work and not explaining it very well. He indicates concepts instead of teaching them. If you haven't explored white fragility or moral injury or somatic healing in other contexts, this might break some ground for you and be valuable for that reason. But all subjects brought up here have deeper and more competent treatments available elsewhere. And the parts here touching on police violence are just an absolute wreck. The body awareness exercises here include: - entirely intellect-oriented exercises with "and how does your body feel?" added on at the end, which isn't actual body work; - unexpected and untagged visualizations of stressful or traumatic situations, which is a poor decision for a book that purports to work respectfully with trauma; - and some rudimentary, superficial body practices around trauma, vaguely explained and often "supported" by inaccurate neurological explanations. The depth of the embodiment work here is a disappointment, rarely exploring further than insights like 'antiracist leaders should find a signature garment to wear to inspire solidarity'. Phrases like soul nerve, and clean pain vs dirty pain, are introduced as vital concepts but only clumsily and superficially handled. Also included is generalized diet and weight loss advice, which is inappropriate for anyone serious about bodywork. As mentioned above, his analysis of police violence is... woefully inadequate. He does give lip service to the violent history of the system. But he is then overwhelmingly focused on what roles job stress and unintended blunders play in cops killing Black folks, insisting that cops being relaxed enough (he mentions essential oils as well as massage) will impact this juggernaut system stacked against Black folks. The chapter on police body healing involves solutions ranging from cosmetic to invasive in nature, as though cops showing up at Black churches on Sunday morning will fix the carceral state. There's a lack of consistency -- in one chapter, he specifies that police have in fact become an occupying force in Black communities; in another chapter, he shames civilians who see them as that occupying force. It's important that the reader know that the author makes his living in part by training police departments in "self-care" practices - including the Minnneapolis PD where he lives - and he has law enforcement in his immediate family (both of which he is upfront about). This no doubt impacts his working assumptions that policing has fallen away from noble roots it never had, and that the central problem embedded bodily in the system now is just that the job of policing is too stressful. This is a book that vaguely points toward a lot of good ideas. Just saying that bodies CAN heal from racial violence is indeed powerful and important. We need more somatic work done on racialized trauma. But we need it to be actual body work, not mislabelled cognitive self-reflection, and not a hodge-podge of basic relaxation and simple body-scanning techniques. And we need this work to come out of a context that takes police brutality seriously, that doesn't minimize it or advocate police rescuing more cats from trees as a band-aid for it (and yes, that is another actual suggestion from the book).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anne Phyfe

    Trauma is held in the body. And many (including me) believe that all Americans carry in our bodies the incredible trauma of the past four hundred years of American history, whether unconsciously or not. In this generous book, Resmaa Menakem, MSW, gives reader a context for this trauma, and a pathway to mend it, through the body. His background as a practitioner trained in Somatic Experiencing offers a rich layering of understanding that I found immediately helpful. I learned a great deal from th Trauma is held in the body. And many (including me) believe that all Americans carry in our bodies the incredible trauma of the past four hundred years of American history, whether unconsciously or not. In this generous book, Resmaa Menakem, MSW, gives reader a context for this trauma, and a pathway to mend it, through the body. His background as a practitioner trained in Somatic Experiencing offers a rich layering of understanding that I found immediately helpful. I learned a great deal from this book, especially from the practices you are required to do before continuing. In one practice, you simply imagine someone sitting across from you with their arms crossed in front of their body, a scowl on their face. I sat in bed, reading, totally relaxed, and consciously safe. As I visualized this person, I felt as if worms were literally crawling up by shoulders and neck. The creep of tension was completely out of my control. I was left with more of a visceral awareness of my autonomic nervous system and curious about the constant tension in bodies that are perpetually watched, and on the watch, blamed, and blaming, hated, and hating. I strongly recommend this book, and would love to have a discussion with anyone else who wants to talk.

  10. 5 out of 5

    BookChampions

    How are you still doing the work of dismantling racism? . My summer of learning comes to a close, and on Monday, I begin a school year marked by remote teaching. So I couldn't be happier with my last book of the summer. Since this book is on backorder just about everywhere, I had to settle for the audiobook. Ever since hearing Resmaa Menakem in conversation with Krista Tippett for her *on being* podcast (twice!), I knew I had to read this book. Menakem proposes that we'll not achieve racial healing How are you still doing the work of dismantling racism? . My summer of learning comes to a close, and on Monday, I begin a school year marked by remote teaching. So I couldn't be happier with my last book of the summer. Since this book is on backorder just about everywhere, I had to settle for the audiobook. Ever since hearing Resmaa Menakem in conversation with Krista Tippett for her *on being* podcast (twice!), I knew I had to read this book. Menakem proposes that we'll not achieve racial healing and cultural change with solely cognitive understandings or political/activist strategy. It is through achieving a "settling" within our bodies that we can personally and collectively heal/break the cycle of generational trauma. And this has SO MANY implications for teaching; teachers CAN be healers and CAN create classroom culture that is safe, healthy, and inclusive. I've spent my entire life trying to feel comfortable in my body, and I'm still getting there. Fiction books about trauma often get under my skin (in the best possible way)and can be like a balm when couched with depictions of love and healthy relationships. What Menakem offers here that works so well in conjunction with that literature is a reminder that we are bodies as well as minds, *even when we read.* And in most situations, we are bodies first. On Monday I meet my students virtually. But I plan to integrate meditation and mindfulness and some of Menakem's breathing techniques every week--poetry one day, mindfulness the other. If you are able to get your hands on a physical copy of this book, you are in luck! I recommend the print version for all the mindfulness exercises, which I'm bound to return to often. The audiobook was still pretty great and you get instant access, and this is urgent content.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cris

    It’s weird to me that so many activists quote this book that tells us we must be BOTH pro black and pro police. 1/3 of the book is like about how police should do yoga, put black children on their laps, and the like to live up to their potential as community hero’s. At the same time he doesn’t completely skim over our current reality either, but it’s very inconsistent across the book in terms of the view of police officers and culture change that we get. Does anyone really think cops are the prim It’s weird to me that so many activists quote this book that tells us we must be BOTH pro black and pro police. 1/3 of the book is like about how police should do yoga, put black children on their laps, and the like to live up to their potential as community hero’s. At the same time he doesn’t completely skim over our current reality either, but it’s very inconsistent across the book in terms of the view of police officers and culture change that we get. Does anyone really think cops are the primary readers of books on unpacking somatic anti blackness? There are whole chapters on anti racist self care for cops where they could exist for teachers, nurses or literally anyone else....? There’s more in this book about the importance of cops taking bubble baths and applying essential oils than there is a deep explanation of trauma recovery exercises. Im in the minority of finding it much less revelatory or informative as many others. There’s useful breathing and visualizations in here that I intend to work with more regularly to my best ability. None of the self care mechanisms really shocked me, but with more work maybe we’ll see. Ugh.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    While I have to admit that I did not do any of the body exercises, I absolutely loved this book. I listened to Resmaa's interview with Krista Tippett and was blown away by his insights about racial trauma and the body. It seems so right to me and the book was just really good in showing how one might help heal that. It's not a scientific book, but you can read "the body keeps the score" as a background text with some of the more scientific background, but this book is meant to be acted on and I While I have to admit that I did not do any of the body exercises, I absolutely loved this book. I listened to Resmaa's interview with Krista Tippett and was blown away by his insights about racial trauma and the body. It seems so right to me and the book was just really good in showing how one might help heal that. It's not a scientific book, but you can read "the body keeps the score" as a background text with some of the more scientific background, but this book is meant to be acted on and I think it's essential reading for anyone and everyone. At least you should listen to the On Being podcast interview.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ankur Singh

    This book is fine I guess....it raises alot of important questions about how to heal from trauma which are def worthwhile, but also at one point he suggests that white people can fight white supremacy by naming their kids after black Civil rights leaders and idkkkkk about that. Plus it's very police need better training. So read with a grain of salt This book is fine I guess....it raises alot of important questions about how to heal from trauma which are def worthwhile, but also at one point he suggests that white people can fight white supremacy by naming their kids after black Civil rights leaders and idkkkkk about that. Plus it's very police need better training. So read with a grain of salt

  14. 5 out of 5

    C.E. G

    This adds such an important somatic lens for anti-racist conversations and work. I highly recommend this book for white people, as the exercises and suggestions helped me feel out the white supremacy my body holds and figure out regular practices that can help weaken or release it. However, this book only covers anti-Black racism coming from white people and police officers. Anti-indigenous racism is such a central experience for white people in America, it feels incomplete to not address its ro This adds such an important somatic lens for anti-racist conversations and work. I highly recommend this book for white people, as the exercises and suggestions helped me feel out the white supremacy my body holds and figure out regular practices that can help weaken or release it. However, this book only covers anti-Black racism coming from white people and police officers. Anti-indigenous racism is such a central experience for white people in America, it feels incomplete to not address its role in white body supremacy, but since the author is Black, it makes sense that he's speaking to what he knows (though it would have been that much more powerful to co-author with an Indigenous person). And while the book has chapters for Black readers, non-Black POC aren't addressed in this book. Resmaa Menakem is also pretty tight with police in his life, with his brother being an officer and a lot of his own work being with the Minneapolis Police Department. While I sympathize that police officers are also human beings and it's essential that someone does the work of making them less harmful, I'm not as hopeful as the author that the institution of policing can be reformed. One of his tips was to smile and greet police officers at protests and marches, with the reasoning that they'll be less likely to brutalize protesters if we can calm their nervous systems through these interactions. I see that logic, but I also think it's complicated for white people to do that at BLM actions. There were definitely some other suggestions that I found a little odd - like white people renaming themselves after civil rights figures as a way of committing to a healthier white identity. I think if a white person I knew renamed themselves Rosa Parks Smith, I would find it off-putting and performative. But overall, despite our political (and perhaps generational?) differences, I still recommend that white people in particular read this, as I haven't read anything else that looks at whiteness in quite this way.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alma

    Would recommend this book to everyone who reposted that quote on insta about the trauma white people hold in a white supremacist society, therapists, and anyone who liked the body keeps the score (so therapists). Really I would recommend this book to everyone I know, if they were willing to read it. I think this book provided a really nuanced view of racial and intergenerational trauma, and the trauma of living in our unhealthy society for a variety of different populations (white, black, and po Would recommend this book to everyone who reposted that quote on insta about the trauma white people hold in a white supremacist society, therapists, and anyone who liked the body keeps the score (so therapists). Really I would recommend this book to everyone I know, if they were willing to read it. I think this book provided a really nuanced view of racial and intergenerational trauma, and the trauma of living in our unhealthy society for a variety of different populations (white, black, and police). I can definitely see how some people may criticize this book for the frame of white trauma and police trauma, thinking about how this plays into false white fragility. However, I really think that the author speaks on white fragility frequently throughout the book and is just holding space for both and, for nuance, and he does so with accountability for white people and police officers. We all come to each moment with all the moments we’ve experienced in the past, and the experiences we’ve metabolized from our ancestors, so I think that’s a frame we do need to look at. And if it’s too off-putting to read those chapters (I didn’t find it so), I think you could gain a lot by skipping those chapters and reading only the chapters focusing on people of color.

  16. 5 out of 5

    A. Breeze Harper

    Excellent trauma-informed analysis of antiBlack racism & healing This book was a great and informative read. I appreciated the approach of using trauma-informed practices to understand how racial healing is most likely only possible once everyone engages in the process of “clean pain” vs. “dirty pain.”

  17. 5 out of 5

    Liz Castle

    Life changing read, as a white reader (author mostly addresses white and black readers). Several mind-blowing moments, especially the theory that white Americans still carry intergenerational trauma from the Middle Ages in Europe, and that this unhealed trauma fuels racism in America. The root of that trauma is a deep fear of powerful white people, and healing that fear is a necessary step towards liberation for us all. There are body healing practices sprinkled throughout the book that are usef Life changing read, as a white reader (author mostly addresses white and black readers). Several mind-blowing moments, especially the theory that white Americans still carry intergenerational trauma from the Middle Ages in Europe, and that this unhealed trauma fuels racism in America. The root of that trauma is a deep fear of powerful white people, and healing that fear is a necessary step towards liberation for us all. There are body healing practices sprinkled throughout the book that are useful tools to continue healing work. Highly recommend to white readers, especially white liberals. Racism lives in our bodies and we need to heal (in addition to organize, support PoC, etc.) to stop passing embodied racism (our intergenerational trauma) from generation to generation. Can’t speak to the sections on black trauma healing, but am interested to hear more on black readers’ thoughts. Would rate 5 stars, but was disappointed to encounter chapters on police reform through trauma therapy. There’s no doubt that cops need trauma therapy and that it would result in less violence, but the author does not mention prison abolition and the eradication of our criminal justice system altogether as being necessary to fight racism. if you don’t have the interest/energy in considering police trauma, i recommend skipping those chapters altogether. Also, the author focuses almost entirely on black folks and white folks, so I’m guessing this book would not be as useful for readers who don’t fit into either category.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    essential for all somatics practitioners & antiracist organizers & activists! this book is a true gem: beautifully & accessibly organized, clear, and kind but firm. there are many solo & group practices to work with, and some key insights into what makes culture & how culture shifts. i also especially appreciated the ancestral history of whiteness: the reality that settlers arrived on these stolen lands with deep trauma from watching the white ruling class torture the underclasses throughout the essential for all somatics practitioners & antiracist organizers & activists! this book is a true gem: beautifully & accessibly organized, clear, and kind but firm. there are many solo & group practices to work with, and some key insights into what makes culture & how culture shifts. i also especially appreciated the ancestral history of whiteness: the reality that settlers arrived on these stolen lands with deep trauma from watching the white ruling class torture the underclasses throughout the middle ages & beyond. the ties to Empire & colonization here could have been a bit stronger. my main critiques are that it somewhat erases non-Black POC in its white/Black/blue bodies schema, it doesn’t deal with ongoing colonial genocide of indigenous people & theft of indigenous land, and it is firmly in the police reform camp, which was jarring to me as a committed abolitionist & somatics practitioner who otherwise was very aligned with menakem’s project.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Elena

    Ooh, wow, this book is kind of a mess. I can't in good conscience recommend it... there's just so much that felt very "off" to me. I definitely DO NOT recommend reading it if you're in favor of abolishing the police. The author's brother is a cop and the author seems to make a living doing various "trainings" with cops. There are some really wild suggestions in the book... the author suggests community organizers cozy up to cops and actually offer to WASH THEIR FEET. He also talks about how cops Ooh, wow, this book is kind of a mess. I can't in good conscience recommend it... there's just so much that felt very "off" to me. I definitely DO NOT recommend reading it if you're in favor of abolishing the police. The author's brother is a cop and the author seems to make a living doing various "trainings" with cops. There are some really wild suggestions in the book... the author suggests community organizers cozy up to cops and actually offer to WASH THEIR FEET. He also talks about how cops should get kids in the community to sit on their laps... all this stuff about "kinder, gentler, more PC" policing. Sigh. (I'm not going to go into a full abolitionist rant here but please look into it/contact me if you want to learn more.) As much as the author superficially suggests that individuals are responsible for their own actions/healing, I also feel like he absolves a lot of blame here... with regards to both cops and white people. (I also disliked how he kept referring to people as "bodies" like "police bodies" and "red and yellow bodies." Yuck. They’re all people! Humans.) And some of the advice to white people is also very bizarre. He literally says if you're a white woman named Betty you might think of changing your name to "Rosa Parks." WHAT. There's a bit of decent info on trauma and dealing/working through it, but honestly it's pretty superficial and I've read much better (more in depth, more helpful) books on trauma. I did like the parts where the author talks about things people can do in groups to ground or "settle" like group singing, humming, etc. I liked the idea of doing this in groups and am thinking about doing it more with the kids I work with.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    I had trouble rating this, because I don’t think it’s for everyone - I personally had a hard time reconciling the idea of trying to come from a place of a settled body when it comes to the cops in particular. It’s hard to believe that addressing racialized trauma through training and therapy can dismantle the murderous structures and racism ingrained in US policing. But still, as a white person fighting to unlearn generations of racism, I found it extraordinarily helpful and valuable to tap into I had trouble rating this, because I don’t think it’s for everyone - I personally had a hard time reconciling the idea of trying to come from a place of a settled body when it comes to the cops in particular. It’s hard to believe that addressing racialized trauma through training and therapy can dismantle the murderous structures and racism ingrained in US policing. But still, as a white person fighting to unlearn generations of racism, I found it extraordinarily helpful and valuable to tap into many of the techniques Menakem is describing and interrogate the ways in which I’m continuing to perpetuate white body supremacy. If you are a white person interested in learning practical tips for building community, dismantling racism, and investigating the ways in which your body is carrying (and reproducing) trauma, definitely give this one a read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Schroeder

    I like reviews that have pull-out quotes from the book folks have just finished. With this book, I flagged so many quotes, I would've almost been transcribing chapters at a time -- so I'll just share my review! This powerful book is part educational experience, part healing journey. It is written by a Black cis-male therapist, Resmaa Menakem, who has expertise in helping people heal from trauma. The main focus is that the trauma caused by racism goes back generations and lives in our bodies; ther I like reviews that have pull-out quotes from the book folks have just finished. With this book, I flagged so many quotes, I would've almost been transcribing chapters at a time -- so I'll just share my review! This powerful book is part educational experience, part healing journey. It is written by a Black cis-male therapist, Resmaa Menakem, who has expertise in helping people heal from trauma. The main focus is that the trauma caused by racism goes back generations and lives in our bodies; therefore, the only way forward toward healing is to deal with that trauma. (This is a REALLY watered-down summary; he is/does much more than this, and the book is about much more as well). Mr. Menakem specifically addresses people with three types of bodies in this book: Black bodies, white bodies, and police bodies (independent of other characteristics/skin color). Even though he specifies when he is talking to any one of these groups of people, he encourages all readers to read all chapters. This, to me, was an invaluable part of the process of this book. He also includes some activities that I strongly urge anyone who reads this book to do. As a white person, I struggled at first with the concept of how racism would live in my white body, as I have not suffered from it. What became so clear to me, however, is that the trauma of the history of white bodies perpetuating the harshest, most inhumane forms of racism absolutely lives in our bodies -- as does the ways in which our present-day commissions of micro aggressions and reinforcement of white supremacy, and the trauma that our presence as white-bodied people can cause BIPOC just by existing. If we as white-bodied people want to show up more completely and effectively as allies and in proactively working to be anti-racist and pro-equality, we have our own healing to do. This book does not center whiteness; far from it. My review is speaking to the impact of the book on me as a white-bodied person because that is one of my identities and realities. Everyone's experience will be unique to them. For that and so many other reasons, I strongly recommend this book no matter your body or your experiences living in it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carl Williams

    I received a copy of this book, free, through Goodread Giveaways. There is a growing bulk of indications that we hold trauma not only in our brains, our emotions, but it is carried generationally in our bodies. “Contrary to what many people believe, trauma is not primarily an emotion response. Trauma always happens in the body. It is a spontaneous protective mechanism used by the body to stop or thwart further (or future) potential damage. (p 7) This carefully written and sensitive book explores t I received a copy of this book, free, through Goodread Giveaways. There is a growing bulk of indications that we hold trauma not only in our brains, our emotions, but it is carried generationally in our bodies. “Contrary to what many people believe, trauma is not primarily an emotion response. Trauma always happens in the body. It is a spontaneous protective mechanism used by the body to stop or thwart further (or future) potential damage. (p 7) This carefully written and sensitive book explores this around the trauma of race in our culture and offers a wide variety of understanding and possible activities to reclaim a wholeness for both people of color and people of European descent with some particular activities directed toward law enforcement. “You have the power to stop intergenerational and historical trauma in its tracks, and to keep it from spreading from your body to others. Above all, you have the power to hear. But first you have to choose to heal.” (p 212) While I cannot speak directly to the efficacy of the techniques offered, the book offers it ideas gently and with some wonderful quotes—both current and historic. It was a most interesting read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Major disappointment The author knows about trauma and trauma therapy. He has also experienced racism. However, he decided not to research racism and issues surrounding it, but relying only on his personal experience and popular notions. If he had stuck to what he knows, he could have written a shorter and more effective book. As it stands, he wrote a book that excuses white people from their responsibility in white supremacy social systems by individualizing racism as an epigenetic history of bio Major disappointment The author knows about trauma and trauma therapy. He has also experienced racism. However, he decided not to research racism and issues surrounding it, but relying only on his personal experience and popular notions. If he had stuck to what he knows, he could have written a shorter and more effective book. As it stands, he wrote a book that excuses white people from their responsibility in white supremacy social systems by individualizing racism as an epigenetic history of biological trauma. Poor, misunderstood white supremacists are suffering their own trauma that must be healed. Changing laws, systems, policies, and so forth are useless; however, black Americans be patient for a multigenerational, abstract, metaphorical culture change. Perhaps, the author should have consulted some current works on cultural anthropology before making claims about changing the "culture". Of course, it fits his pattern, where he writes about history without consulting actual works by historians, thus writing invented histories based on his imaginative rememberings of stories he's heard. My advice is, if you are interested in learning more about racial issues and overcoming racism, pick up a different book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Tobin

    This is one of those books where you are one person prior to reading it, and another person once you’ve finished reading it. The kind of book that crawls inside you and stays there. Is there anything more important than doing the inner & outer work needed to live in right community on this planet? I don’t think so. Read this book. We all need you to. (Note: not as radical as I’d like / some cop apologizing and fat phobia. Gave it 5 stars because I want folks to read it but pls note those disclaim This is one of those books where you are one person prior to reading it, and another person once you’ve finished reading it. The kind of book that crawls inside you and stays there. Is there anything more important than doing the inner & outer work needed to live in right community on this planet? I don’t think so. Read this book. We all need you to. (Note: not as radical as I’d like / some cop apologizing and fat phobia. Gave it 5 stars because I want folks to read it but pls note those disclaimers.)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Philippe Matthews

    One of the most necessary books written on healing racism! The framework Resmaa has laid out in this book is the best I have seen in relation to healing historical trauma, retention trauma and acute race based trauma. Anyone born in America or planning to live here should have this book right next to their first aid kit! Hotep!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Apollo Grace

    This is a wonderful book. It gave me a rich new way to understand and think about how racism operates, in the world and also in my own body. Menakem is a Black author, and a trauma therapist; but he writes with both clarity and compassion for three distinct audiences in this book - Black Americans, White Americans, and American Police (of whatever ethnicity). I took a while to read the book; he's very emphatic about stopping and taking time to engage in a series of practices he provides. I just w This is a wonderful book. It gave me a rich new way to understand and think about how racism operates, in the world and also in my own body. Menakem is a Black author, and a trauma therapist; but he writes with both clarity and compassion for three distinct audiences in this book - Black Americans, White Americans, and American Police (of whatever ethnicity). I took a while to read the book; he's very emphatic about stopping and taking time to engage in a series of practices he provides. I just wanted to read the ideas, so I skipped the first practice at first - but then I was busted: "If you’ve already skipped the previous activity, stop. Go back and complete it before reading further." A little challenging for my frame of mind, but I was glad that I followed the practices; in addition to their own benefits, they supplied a necessary context for understanding his work. One particular reframe that was useful to me as a white man was a new understanding of fragility in whites. I'm familiar with the concept of "white fragility" as it applies to race itself - the brittleness that we can bring to discussions, how easily we can collapse in shame or raise shields in defensiveness, which basically blocks the racial conversation. But he points out here that just as there is a myth of black resilience, based on the American legacy of using black people for brutal labor in brutal conditions; there's a corresponding myth of white fragility, of a lack of resilience - a tendency for White Americans to believe that they can't handle pain, they can't do things that are hard. I see what a disservice this has been to my own life. I see this in my fellow white men - in the culture - we resist Manning Up, so to speak, we want to remain immature. And that's bad for the world, but also profoundly unsatisfying for our own lives. In some cases, we tend to look to Black Americans to do the hard things for us. Including leading us out of racism - like in me, I'm frustrated with racism, and I'm looking for someone like a new Martin Luther King to tell me what to do about it. But racism is primarily a White problem, and it's up to us to lead ourselves out of it. (While certainly listening to Black voices and criticism, but creating our own new culture around race.) Menakem makes clear in particular that he and other Black Americans cannot lead us White folks to the new culture we need - but what he can do, and expresses very clearly in this work, is point out what hasn't been working. White Americans have not yet created any form of anti-white-supremacy culture. White Americans who seek to undo white-body supremacy have organizations; they have ideas and strategies and goals; they have initiatives; and they have energy, conviction, and hope. But they have little sense of community—and no culture to build and support such community. This needs to change. White allies must build culture, because culture trumps almost everything else. I don't give 5 stars often. This is one of the most important books I've read this century. Wholehearted recommendation.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Stewart

    This is an outstanding exploration of anti-racism and trauma. The author is a trained therapist who dives into discussion of history, historical trauma (including that experienced by our ancestors which is stored in our DNA), and the need to acknowledge both in the path to healing. Both history and trauma must be acknowledged so that racial reckoning may occur. The trauma stored in the body must be faced to prevent continued offloading of trauma. The book discusses experiences for white and blac This is an outstanding exploration of anti-racism and trauma. The author is a trained therapist who dives into discussion of history, historical trauma (including that experienced by our ancestors which is stored in our DNA), and the need to acknowledge both in the path to healing. Both history and trauma must be acknowledged so that racial reckoning may occur. The trauma stored in the body must be faced to prevent continued offloading of trauma. The book discusses experiences for white and black folks (history and historical trauma stores in the bodies of both), as well as police bodies. I highly recommend this read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Manisha

    “In today’s America, we tend to think of healing as something binary: either we’re broken or we’re healed from that brokenness. But that’s not how healing operates, and it’s almost never how human growth works. More often, healing and growth take place on a continuum, with innumerable points between utter brokenness and total health.” Must read book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura (booksnob)

    My Grandmother's Hands is the best book I read in 2020. After George Floyd was killed blocks from the high school where I teach, a group. of teachers decided to read this together and discuss several chapters at a time. This book taught me more than any other book I read this year surrounding racialized violence and trauma. I highly recommend this book. I'm keeping to revisit and reread and to remember all that I've learned and will continue to learn. Resmaa Menakem, thank you for writing this b My Grandmother's Hands is the best book I read in 2020. After George Floyd was killed blocks from the high school where I teach, a group. of teachers decided to read this together and discuss several chapters at a time. This book taught me more than any other book I read this year surrounding racialized violence and trauma. I highly recommend this book. I'm keeping to revisit and reread and to remember all that I've learned and will continue to learn. Resmaa Menakem, thank you for writing this book. As an abuse survivor, your lessons resonated deeply with me.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vinícius

    took me a while to read it because I wasn't ready. Oh but worth it getting back to it. took me a while to read it because I wasn't ready. Oh but worth it getting back to it.

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