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.
Library Journal (Starred Review)
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.
“A fascinating, must-read, groundbreaking book that offers a novel approach to healing America’s long-standing racial trauma.”―Joseph L. White, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Psychiatry at UC Irvine, author of The Psychology of Blacks, Black Man Emerging, Black Fathers, and Building Multicultural Competency: Development, Training, and Practice
"My Grandmother’s Hands is a revolutionary work of beauty, brilliance, compassion and ultimately, hope. With eloquence and grace, Resmaa Menakem masterfully lays out the missing piece in the puzzle of why, despite so many good intentions, we have not achieved racial justice. Yes, we need to understand white supremacy, but as Menakem so skillfully explains, white supremacy is not rational and we won’t end it with our intellect alone. White supremacy is internalized deep into our bodies. We must begin to understand it as white body supremacy and go to the depth of where it is stored, within our collective bones and muscles. To this end, My Grandmother's Hands is an intimate guidebook toward racial healing, one that achieves that rare combination for its readers; it is deeply intellectually stimulating while also providing practical ways to engage in the process of repair, even as we read. I believe this book will change the direction of the movement for racial justice.”―Robin DiAngelo, Racial Justice Educator and author of White Fragility
"Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois put his finger on African American consciousness when he wrote ‘one ever feels his twoness―an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body.’ But even Du Bois never addressed the process of healing the psychological wounds of the ‘two-ness.’ In My Grandmother Hands, Resmaa offers a path of internal reconciliation for a Person enduring the generational trauma of American racism, and gives us all a chance to dream of a healing from it.”―Keith Ellison, Member of Congress and Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee
"Resmaa Menakem cuts to the heart of America’s racial crisis with the precision of a surgeon in ways few have before. Addressing the intergenerational trauma of white supremacy and its effects on all of us―understanding it as a true soul wound―is the first order of business if we hope to pull out of the current morass. As this amazing work shows us, policies alone will not do it, and bold social action, though vital to achieving justice, will require those engaged in it to also take action on the injury, deep and personal, from which we all suffer.”―Tim Wise, bestselling author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son and Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority
“Forget diversity. Forget teaching tolerance. Forget white guilt. With clarity and insight, Resmaa offers a profoundly different approach to healing racism in America.”―John Friel, PhD and Linda Friel, MA, directors of ClearLife Clinic and New York Times bestselling co-authors of nine books including Adult Children: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families
“As a career peace officer I entered this noble profession to serve my community, but I had never received any instruction in the police academy or been issued a piece of equipment that prepared me to recognize or examine community trauma . . . or my own. My Grandmother's Hands gave me a profound and compelling historical map tracing law enforcement’s role as sometimes unknowing contributors to community trauma. The book gives peace officers tools that can help in the healing of their communities and emphasizes self-care so that the men and women entrusted to be guardians and protectors of our communities are taken care of as well.”―Medaria Arradondo, Acting Chief, Minneapolis Police Department
“Offers a well needed paradigm shift on how we think, dream, and strategize against white supremacy in our bodies, cultures, and institutions. A must-have for anyone interested in advancing Racial Justice and healing.”―Chaka A. Mkali, Director of organizing and community building at Hope Community and Hip Hop artist I Self Devine
“Resmaa’s book is an intimate and direct look at the way the Black-white dynamic is held, not only in institutions such as policing, but also in the bodies of all of those involved. Building on Dr. DeGruy’s work in Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, Resmaa looks at how history is held and replayed by the body’s survival responses, specifically focusing on the experience of Blackness and trauma, the history and experience of whiteness and the white body, and the creation of and experience of the police force and the body of the police. In addition to providing theory and analysis, this book also offers concrete practices that are part of the work of shifting the violence of [the] original wound.”―Susan Raffo, shared owner of Integral Somatic Therapy, bodyworker, writer, and community organizer, The People’s Movement Center
“My Grandmother's Hands is full of wisdom and understanding. In it, Resmaa Menakem offers a new way to understand racism and, more importantly, to heal it. This book lays out a path to freedom and peace, first for individual readers, then for our culture as a whole. A must-read for everyone who cares about our country.”―Nancy Van Dyken, LP, LICSW, author of Everyday Narcissism
“My Grandmother’s Hands is a gripping journey through the labyrinths of trauma and its effects on modern life, especially for African Americans. In this important book, Resmaa’s penetrating insight into trauma is profoundly impactful, but even more powerful and useful are his strategies for addressing it―for healing. A brilliant thinker, Resmaa is able to bring a multitude of research and experience together to guide us in our understanding of how trauma affects our lives; how trauma is a part of all of our lives; and of how the history and progression of trauma has produced a culture in which no one is immune. This is essential reading if we are to wrest ourselves from the grips of trauma and discover the tropes in which our bodies and our minds are free of it.”―Alexs Pate, author of Amistad and Losing Absalom
"My Grandmother’s Hands invites each of us to heal the racial trauma that lives in our bodies. As Resmaa Menakem explains, healing this trauma takes courage and a commitment to viscerally feel this racial pain. By skillfully combining therapy expertise with social criticism and practical guidance, he reveals a path forward for individual and collective healing that involves experiencing the sensations of this journey with each step. Are you willing to take the first step?”―Alex Haley, Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota’s Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing
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.
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.