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My Grandmother's Hands

My Grandmother's Hands

Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies

Book - 2017
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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 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."
Publisher: Las Vegas, NV :, Central Recovery Press,, 2017
ISBN: 9781942094470
Branch Call Number: 305.8 M534m 2017
Characteristics: xx, 309 pages ; 23 cm


From Library Staff

Trauma can live in our bodies, from the calloused hands of those who work in the fields, to the aching bodies of those who never saw the light of freedom, we are capable of mending what has been broken in the past.

A somatic approach to healing the trauma of white supremacy, with sections addressing that trauma as experienced by Blacks, by whites, and by law enforcement.

From the critics

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JCLChrisK Mar 29, 2021

This is unlike any other book I've read on racism, and it's a good, refreshing thing.

Menakem is a therapist, and his perspective starts with the body. He sees the trauma induced by racism as a physical thing and posits that we need to address as such. Specifically, in the vagus nerve, "which oversees a vast array of crucial bodily functions, including control of mood, immune response, digestion, and heart rate. It establishes one of the connections between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract and sends information about the state of the inner organs to the brain via afferent fibers."* The vagus nerve activates what Menakem calls the lizard brain, the automatic, instinctive part of our brain that precedes and can override the cognitive brain. The distinction, I believe, that Daniel Kahneman prominently makes between fast thinking and slow thinking. It's where things like implicit bias take place. Unthinking reactions. Gut reactions. So to heal the trauma of racism we don't need to address our slow, cognitive brain so much as we need to get at the lizard brain and the parts of our body in dialogue with it.

When I saw the words "racialized trauma" in the subtitle I assumed this would be mostly addressed to a Black audience. It's not. Menakem explicitly speaks to three audiences in turn: Black, white, and police. Each holds onto a different type of trauma associated with racism, and each has different needs to heal it. He gives a good overview of the history of racism through to the present moment, made all the more interesting for his body-centric perspective; he not only covers familiar ground, he adds to it. He has some wonderfully powerful anecdotes from his experiences and finds ways to make everything personal. And the core of his book is the "body practice," simple steps each audience can take to calm and heal their bodies.

Menakem is a therapist first and writer second, and I see many ways a good editor could have made this book stronger, but he always communicates clearly and effectively, and the content is invaluable. This is a fascinating book that I recommend to anyone who spends any time reading about and working on racism.



Mar 27, 2021

Need more copies please

Feb 11, 2021

D/l audio

Jul 25, 2020

Looks like more copies are needed.

Jun 04, 2020

Rec by Djuna June 2020

Apr 10, 2020

I read this book because I was intrigued by the premise that the body remembers trauma and is ever ready to surface its effects across time and generations. However, the book took me to unexpected places. As I see it, the basic premise is that violence is the result of hidden trauma and that in the case of racial violence it is essential that we understand what drives a human being to hurt another human being, be it physical, emotional, or psychological hurt.

The book focuses on Americans, but I think that its premise and conclusions are far reaching to other countries and cultures. The author addresses three American groups: those of European descent, African Americans, and police officers from each of these groups. The author explores the incidences of violence deeply.

I wish that the focus would have been broader and explored violence in all cultures over the ages.

This is a recommended read for all who seek to understand and heal racial strife in the US. Actually, it has such potential to influence the future of the US that it should be included in educational curricula, probably as early as high school. It is written with compassion and provides practical recommendations to help heal the nation. It is to be read slowly to allow its message to seep in as well as to allow the reader to experiment with the recommended exercises.

Aug 18, 2019

More copies please

Dec 04, 2018

Yes, more copies. This is a ground breaking book, meant to be studied in affinity groups. I'd also like to suggest that it be available for check-out to book groups. And, since Menakem is local to the Twin Cities, I'd love for him to be a speaker about the book in a forum, perhaps.

Dec 03, 2018

We need more copies I believe.


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