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

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  1,791 ratings  ·  233 reviews
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 gen ...more
Paperback, 300 pages
Published September 12th 2017 by Central Recovery Press (first published August 21st 2017)
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Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
**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
Erika Sanders
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
2.5 stars

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 some gems in here — particularly in part 2. There are specific breathin
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"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.
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
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 ...more
Novel Addiction
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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, ...more
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
Anne Phyfe
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfic
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
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.”
C.E. G
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Liz Castle
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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
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!
Apollo Grace
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“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.
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
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
Haven Wright
For some reason it doesn’t feel right to rate this book. It was a self-help book I didn’t know I needed. The premise is how trauma doesn’t live just in our minds but also in our bodies. Along with historical and psychological information there are activities for practice to help settle your body as the author calls it.

One in particular really got to me. It required you to think of your ancestry (something I don’t know a lot about the further out it gets) and the trauma they faced. I ended up ma
Jeffrey Berger
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This ground-breaking book begins with a warning:

If the persistence of white supremacy in America surprises you, this book will give you a startlingly different understanding of why ...

If you are not surprised that widespread white supremacy continues to injure America, but have little hope for overcoming it, keep reading ...

If you see white supremacy as a belief system or ideology, in this book you will discover only a fraction of it exists in our cognitive brains ...

If you are convinced

Lauren Siegel
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I happened to read "White Fragility" before reading this book and that was really the best thing to do (for myself at least). Resmaa references White Fragility in his book quite a bit and it gets at racism the from first some cognitive/"things to know" and then Resmaa's book takes into a "body practice" how to feel out racialized trauma and work through it. I would seriously recommend this book for anyone. It has practical things you can do to identify and work through your own racialized trauma ...more
Filled with insights from years of social work, this must-read empowers folks to address racialized trauma in their own bodies and work with others in meeting racism in society. Challenging and life-changing work. Recommended for small group study, congregational study, and community work as well as individual and family reading (with teens and older as there is frank language and reflections on violence).
Raechel Jolie
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I rarely say things are a "must-read," but this really is. For anyone invested in anti-racism, for anyone who wants to know how we will truly heal from the legacy (& contemporary work of) white supremacy, please read this. ...more
Maggie Ayau
Shoutout to the Show Up cohort for holding space for this immensely valuable read. Adding to the syllabus!

Menakem offers a different approach to antiracism through the lens of trauma psychology, breaking down “hero-villain” dichotomies and teaching practical self-soothing tools to help us settle into our bodies. Racism, he argues, is first and foremost an embodied experience—felt and perpetuated primarily in the physical world rather than the abstract. By addressing racial oppressions in this wa
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powerful and helpful

This is a great book. I have not found any other book that adressesthe issue of race and white body supremacy, not from a cognitive perspective, but through the body. Trauma therapists know that you can't just think your way out of amygdala responses. You have to become attuned to your body in real time. This book is compassionate and non judgemental, yet it challenges people to take responsibility for their emotions and reactions- like adult. I'm so glad I found this gem.
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: therapy-trauma
Great beginning book for the layperson who is just starting to explore racialized trauma and how to take steps to create change and become aware of their white privilege. Great somatic and thought provoking exercises throughout the book.

I did feel like the book could of been shorter; chapters could of been added together and condensed, that he repeated himself a lot.

As a therapist myself I was hoping for a bit more in depth exploration of what this would look like in session with clients, with
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Resmaa brought up a new subject for me: inherited trauma. His book was very thoughtful and full of suggestions how to ground oneself and come together and grow community. White people have to grow up and face the challenge of how to dismantle systemic racism so that white bodies, black bodies and police bodies can heal from their inherited trauma.
Jessica Kenny
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book furthered my understanding of some of the fundamental pillars that white supremacy is built on. It explained a lot and filled in a lot of gaps. It joined a lot of dots for me with regards to anti-racism work. It gave me a good indication of how to proceed with anti-racism work and also proved the importance of including the body as part of that work.
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: personal-reading
While many books deal with trauma, and many books deal with racism, too few address the intersection of the two. My Grandmother's Hands does so beautifully.
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For over twenty years, Resmaa Menakem MSW LICSW SEP has worked with people facing difficult life circumstances. Resmaa has demonstrated that working within a ecological systemic paradigm to aid people in addressing issues is the most productive way to help challenge,resolve and confront important problems in our relationships and ourselves.

With this in mind, Resmaa created RESMAA ROCKS. As a natio

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