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

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  1,206 ratings  ·  141 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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.
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).
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.
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
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An absolute must-read, especially for people wanting to understand more about how we can create a new non-white supremacist culture. This book moves the conversation from the intellectual to the body lived experience. There are so many good exercises throughout, and practices for noticing when the body is activated and how to settle it in the moment, so that our knee-jerk fears from historic trauma don't take over.
May 14, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jillian Berberidaceae
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book aimed at uniquely processing racialized trauma for Black folks, white folks, and police officers. As a bodywork therapist & someone who has followed Peter Levine's books and techniques (from which Menakem draws heavily) I was grateful for the focused approach of healing trauma on a physical level. This book is full of techniques for moving through personal relationships with racial tension, as well as prompts for becoming more aware of how the reader is effected by race implications an ...more
Kara Coe
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This book translates into everyday language, and further develops the research-based ideas of "The Body Keeps the Score." It is full of suggestions for exercises in body awareness and mindfulness.

But equally important is the framework of American racial trauma. This is not just for people of color. Chapters are devoted to describing generational trauma and healing practices for each of three groups: African American, white American and police officers. The author has applicable experien
Rabid Reads
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies
by Resmaa Menakem is a new look and a new approach to healing from what has become known as "white supremacy". This book proposes a wholly new approach to healing the divide in our society, where racism is rampant, black young men are routinely gunned down by police, and hurt prevails. A groundbreaking book that endeavors to heal generational racism, that which actually becomes inherited from one generation
Nose In A Book
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Racism is a hot button topic of the moment. Despite half a century separating us from the Civil Rights movement, racism is still such a volatile subject. White police officers are seemingly gunning down unarmed black individuals, and there is a black model sacked from her high profile contract for saying 'all white people are racist'. With so much information thrown at you from TV screens, the internet and print media, it can be so hard to know what to think or believe.

So, I was definitely intri
Drew Weis
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is important! As a white male psychologist, I have a responsibility to attend not only to the individuals I accompany through adversity and growth but also to the larger forces of influence. And in this land, with its history of immigrants seeking refuge from oppression and its legacy of genocide of the indigenous peoples and its hundreds of years of enslavement and subsequent oppressions, historical trauma continues as a pervasive influence. To fail to understand this and address this ...more
Thomas DeWolf
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've studied Trauma Awareness & Resilience, read widely on the topic, and have been involved for more than a decade with an organization focused on the historic trauma of the legacy and aftermath of slavery in the United States: Coming to the Table. This book is the best I've read on confronting racism by recognizing it as inter-generational and systemic trauma. Key is understanding that "white-body supremacy doesn't live in our thinking brains. It lives and breathes in our bodies." This is a po ...more
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: therapy
This may be the most important therapy book I've read this year. It's a beautiful discussion of the cultural trauma that we all carry and how to combat further racial trauma in this country. There are countless exercises to help you get in touch with you body, evaluate and process your own experiences, and cope with your own cultural trauma. There's also several lists of ideas for combating racial difficulties in your own life. I especially loved the discussions of police officers - the trauma t ...more
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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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In these strange days of quarantine and isolation, books can be a mode of transport. We may have to stay home and stay still, but through t...
37 likes · 26 comments
“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.” 6 likes
“Years as a healer and trauma therapist have taught me that trauma isn’t destiny. The body, not the thinking brain, is where we experience most of our pain, pleasure, and joy, and where we process most of what happens to us. It is also where we do most of our healing, including our emotional and psychological healing. And it is where we experience resilience and a sense of flow.” 4 likes
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