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See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love

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How do we love in a time of rage? How do we fix a broken world while not breaking ourselves? Valarie Kaur—renowned Sikh activist, filmmaker, and civil rights lawyer—describes revolutionary love as the call of our time, a radical, joyful practice that extends in three directions: to others, to our opponents, and to ourselves. It enjoins us to see no stranger but instead look at others and say: You are part of me I do not yet know. Starting from that place of wonder, the world begins to change: It is a practice that can transform a relationship, a community, a culture, even a nation.

Kaur takes readers through her own riveting journey—as a brown girl growing up in California farmland finding her place in the world; as a young adult galvanized by the murders of Sikhs after 9/11; as a law student fighting injustices in American prisons and on Guantánamo Bay; as an activist working with communities recovering from xenophobic attacks; and as a woman trying to heal from her own experiences with police violence and sexual assault. Drawing from the wisdom of sages, scientists, and activists, Kaur reclaims love as an active, public, and revolutionary force that creates new possibilities for ourselves, our communities, and our world. See No Stranger helps us imagine new ways of being with each other—and with ourselves—so that together we can begin to build the world we want to see.

389 pages, Hardcover

First published June 16, 2020

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About the author

Valarie Kaur

3 books103 followers
Valarie Kaur is an American activist, documentary filmmaker, lawyer, educator, and faith leader.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 521 reviews
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 5 books13.5k followers
September 29, 2020
"We can have all the empathy in the world for a group of people and still participate in the structures and systems that oppress them."

Stars cannot express the power of this book.
Profile Image for Raymond.
330 reviews238 followers
June 9, 2020
One of the hardest things we can do as humans is to love our enemies. It’s one of those precepts that is easier said than done, but civil rights lawyer, activist, and filmmaker Valarie Kaur has given us a book that can help us to do this work.

In See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, Kaur provides us a book that is part memoir and part how to manual on how to practice what she describes as “revolutionary love”. She defines revolutionary love as the active decisions humans make to wonder about others, our opponents, and ourselves. This act of wonder, she says, will help make the world a better place. Failing to wonder ultimately leads to violence against people who we consider the other.

In her book, Kaur describes in vivid detail how many men in her own Sikh community were killed after 9/11 because ignorant, racist people assumed they were Muslim terrorists. She chronicles a must read account of the 2012 Oak Creek massacre, which was the most violent hate crime against Sikhs in American history. She is also frank about the verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse that was inflicted on her by the hands of men in her Sikh community. In this book she describes the steps she and the families of hate crime victims took to wonder about their transgressors. Ultimately she finds that there are no monsters in this world only wounded humans.

Kaur’s writing is beautiful, there are so many quotes in here that are gems.

I learned alot from this book especially as it relates to Sikhism, its origins, the significance of the turban, and even some shabads, sacred Sikh songs.

This is a perfect book to read in our current moment. Many Americans are racially segregated by neighborhoods, houses of worship, politics, etc. This segregation results in alot of people being fearful of the other, which leads to the senseless killings of many people, especially people of color. Reading this book will help readers live out the words of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, who stated “I see no stranger. I see no enemy.” Kaur’s book gives us the tools to become warrior-sages in the never ending fight for equality for all people.

Thanks to NetGalley, One World, and Valarie Kaur for a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

This review was first published here: https://medium.com/ballasts-for-the-m...
Profile Image for Lorilin.
756 reviews242 followers
September 26, 2020
I had never heard of Valarie Kaur before reading this memoir, but she is a renowned Sikh activist, filmmaker, and civil rights lawyer. She’s also incredibly thoughtful, insightful, and impressively understanding toward people who are different from her. It took me a while to finish See No Stranger because it is heavy—beautifully written and straight up breathtaking, no exaggeration—but, good grief, she covers some tough subjects. Not only does she discuss her personal experiences with racism and sexual assault (she grew up with her Sikh family in the farmland of white-washed central California). But she also describes her years as a law student observing “life” at Guantánamo Bay and later fighting for prison reform, as well as her years as an activist helping communities recover from brutal acts of violence fueled by xenophobic prejudice.

The deep level of hate she describes in this book is damn near unbearable to read, especially given our current political climate. But her message to stay open, to commit to an attitude of “wonder,” especially when interacting with people who are (often extremely) different from us is powerful. When she describes speaking to the guards at Guantánamo Bay, specifically to one guard who inconceivably complains that the prisoners have more freedom than he does, and then forcing herself to not shut down and judge, but instead ask questions to understand his point of view, was incredible. Inspirational.

“You are a part of me that I don’t yet know” is a common refrain in this book. It’s a powerful reminder that hate only breeds more hate, but love and understanding are what make us feel light, connected, and free. With 38 days until the election, this is exactly what I needed to read right now.

Thank you to One World and Net Galley for the ARC!
Profile Image for Romany Arrowsmith.
355 reviews32 followers
November 24, 2021
I may be the only person who doesn't like Valarie Kaur. What's not to like? She just wants us to love each other and expand our tribal circles to encompass the whole world. I wholeheartedly agree with this overall message. But I could not stand her writing, which came across as prissy, self-righteous, and overwrought. Above all, the book, and her demeanor in her TED talks, with her white teeth and Stanford diction, smells of money in a way that enrages me. It communicates tone-deafly as a call for forgiveness and love for the wealthy, where we readers go to the women's marches and tearfully hug other college-educated women and rededicate ourselves to "the struggle".

The thing is: I see the world as much worse than the one Kaur writes about needing to forgive here. It's much worse than sexism and white nationalism. The depths of cruelty and horror that exist in our world boggle the imagination and are generally pushed to the fringes of art if they are addressed at all. If we were to stare into the full scope of pain experienced by many outside of the first world we would crumble under the burden. They cannot be written about in these almost flowery (by comparison) terms.

I am haunted by a passage from Varlam Shalamov, who was imprisoned in the arctic Kolyma gulag for decades:

"Literary fairy tales tell of ‘difficult’ conditions which are an essential element in forming any friendship, but such conditions are simply not difficult enough. If tragedy and need brought people together and gave birth to their friendship, then the need was not extreme and the tragedy not great. Tragedy is not deep and sharp if it can be shared with friends.”

Cringing my way through her TED talk, I realized who she reminded me of - Elizabeth Holmes!
Profile Image for Christine.
6,551 reviews473 followers
April 30, 2020
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

There times when this book feels like it cannot decide what It wants to be, like it is trying to do too much. One level, it functions as a memoir, a very good one. On another level, it functions as a guide to dealing with those people – ones who disagree with you or who exhibit racism. On a third level, it is a discussion of Sikh belief and philosophy. Again, like the memoir, interesting. But there are times when the two book types mesh and times when they do not.

For the most part, the memoir and philosophy work well together. In detailing the influence of her family and belief, of her experiences growing up and as an activist, the book is extremely good and enjoyable. It is especially moving when Kaur details the interactions with her cousin.

The problems come when the philosophy and memoir go beyond family, when Kaur talks about her work with activist. The book would have benefited with more detail her movement, the finding of her, and even her decision to start one. There is also a strangeness about her descriptions of her interactions with soldiers at Gutanemo Bay and prison guards. Let me be clear, considering what Kaur was exposed to, her sense of distrust and wariness make sense. And she seems to be very honest in her accounts. But there is a sense of dismissal or of superiority in her reporting of the conversations. This sense does not occur when she engages a group of men who are voicing racist comments. It occurs when she wonders if a prison guard feels love, when the reporting of a prison guard who has PTSD is downplayed, when she realizes that the guard is just part of a system that he does not fully realized. If this was a more developed book about the movement or even a memoir there would have been self-actualization in these passages, there would have been something at least in addition to that superiority and dismissal feeling.

That reservation aside, the book is engrossing. It is something you should read. Kaur’s philosophy and idea, the need to think with reaction other than anger is something that we need more of today. In particular, the sections on the coming to terms with the expectations of family and what the heart wants are good.

233 reviews6 followers
September 5, 2020
Rarely does a book come along that makes an impression on me as See No Stranger has.

In the 1990s, several of M Scott Peck's books, including Different Drum (about building community) enabled me to re-imagine my life and begin a healing of my soul. Just a few years ago, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari presented a revolutionary overview of human history that enabled me to re-imagine humanity.

Now in 2020 comes Valarie Kaur with See No Stranger to empower me to re-imagine my life as an activist (and writer) who can make an immense difference to bring progressive change to the world. Well, my tiny corner of the world, anyway.

Ms Kaur fearlessly makes herself vulnerable in the pages of her revealing and powerful memoir while simultaneously setting forth a new archetype of activist facing down every challenge with Revolutionary Love.

I truly loved reading See No Stranger and can't wait to read it again on my Kindle for PC app so I can highlight the many passages I found deeply profound and immensely inspiring.
Profile Image for Konrad Mueller.
103 reviews1 follower
January 10, 2021
Read this, everybody.

This book was balm for my soul. Over the last 4 years I’ve watched myself steadily turn inwards in the face of trauma and brokenness. Reading this book returned me to a part of myself that had been muted and numbed. Kaur calls us to cultivate wonder and empathy, to listen and grieve with our neighbor, to lean into love as a sweet labor. Reading this was an entirely restorative experience, and I cannot recommend it enough.
Profile Image for Liz.
112 reviews
December 11, 2022
Edit 2022: Read this again and loved it again. Everyone should read this.

Wow! I do not usually read books with a heavy philosophical bent, but I really loved this book. I was given an ARC by Random House One World and received it about a week or two into the my state's stay at home order but didn't immediately pick it up. I finally started it yesterday and got about 50 pages to the end before I finally tore myself away to go to sleep - I didn't anticipate it being so hard to put down! Kaur's synthesis of her own traumatic experiences and those she has witnessed through her healing process of coming to revolutionary love was really thought-provoking and accessible. As my professional work is with people who are trauma survivors, it's given me a new lens to think about my own approach, what I hope for, and how I can talk to people about how we process what has happened to them. In the broader context of living in the USA, I'm also feeling reinvigorated about fighting for the things I believe in and connecting with others to do so.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
1,621 reviews36 followers
June 15, 2020
Some books are so perfectly in tune with their time that reading them feels almost spooky. As though the author has moved beyond our earthly struggles and found solutions from sources we have overlooked amidst our solitary pursuits. We were too busy not listening. Author Valarie Kaur took time off very intentionally and composed this book from myriad sources, her own lifelong journals and philosophy and religious texts. That her book will be published in the midst of COVID-19 and racial demonstrations that span the globe makes it unbelievably timely. I was moved, bothered, provoked, challenged and inspired by so much of her writing; I was also comforted beyond belief. I found hope within it when I needed it most. This is a book that should travel from reader to reader with love. I received my copy from from the publisher through NetGalley. Many thanks.
Profile Image for Blythe.
361 reviews1 follower
September 25, 2020
Restorative and transformative. Enlightening and comforting. I wish every American who strives to love in this broken world could absorb the wisdom in these pages.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
933 reviews63 followers
April 12, 2022
A friend and I have been "arguing" about Kaur's book: Do we really want to listen to people who insist Biden has a brain injury and someone else is controlling him? That college professors are liberal plants to indoctrinate America's youth?

I think both she and I agree that the answer to this question is No. We disagree with the next step, though: What do we do when talking with someone whose perspective is very different from our own? She says that she wants nothing to do with such people. On the other hand, I think it's harmful for me to bury my head in the sand, avoid them, or let my stomach get a big knot in it.

I want to listen for them, but also for me.

One of the hardest things we can do is to love our enemies. Perhaps this is the reason that this tenet of the New Testament is often observed in the breach. Valarie Kaur, activist, filmmaker, lawyer, educator, and faith leader, has written a book that can help us begin to do this important and difficult work: "I could feel a sense of alarm rise inside me, not for what might happen to me if I acted but what might happen to me if I did nothing" (p. 82).

See No Stranger is part memoir and part how to manual for practicing “revolutionary love.” Illustrated with difficult episodes from Kaur's life (e.g., being molested, emotionally abused, responding to violence and hate crimes within and outside of her family and faith community), Kaur describes her short-circuited attempts to love her "enemies" caused by self-blame, premature forgiveness, failures in self-love, and more.

And, although I have read at least one novel with Sikhs in a central role, I knew very little about them. Kaur's philosophy is well-seeped in her grandfather's version of Sikh philosophies

The Sikh ideal was the sant-sipahi, the warrior-sage. The warrior fights. The sage loves. It was a path of revolutionary love. Papa Ji was my warrior-sage: He went into the fires of this world with the eyes of a sage and the heart of a warrior. He was teaching me how to reclaim our warrior tradition for courageous nonviolent action, here and now (p. 15).
Profile Image for Jacquelyn Fusco.
422 reviews13 followers
May 29, 2020
I can't say enough good things about this book. I want everyone to read it. It is so good on so many levels: activism manual, history of the years since 2000, memoir, primer on the sikh religion, self-help book.
Valarie Kaur is an inspiration and she shows me that it is possible to be powerful and make change even if you have suffered from panic attacks and impostor syndrome.
Maybe I should have gone to law school too. I'm 31, but I still want to be like Valarie Kaur when I grow up.
Profile Image for Anne.
101 reviews1 follower
January 27, 2021
This excellent, worth-reading book helps us gain understanding of the two diametrically opposed camps within our country. It also suggests reasons and avenues to open dialogue. The underlying theme is we cannot begin to repair and move on unless we mitigate our individual dislike, anger or hate toward others...and even add empathy and respect for those we don’t understand. And we all need to remember to take care of ourselves. I’m so glad Ms. Kaur wrote this book!
Profile Image for Magdelanye.
1,623 reviews198 followers
December 15, 2021

Love is dangerous....If you choose to see no stranger, then you must love people, even when they do not love you. p13

There you have it. Valerie Kaur does not mess around but reaches deep in to the heart of the matters that concern us all. If war is not the answer, why is it that peace is so difficult to establish and maintain? What can we do? "We become what we practice" Valerie has observed, and as it happens she has done plenty. "The norms and institutions of this world are not inevitable but constructed- and therefore can be changed."

This huge task cannot be accomplished without massive co-operation and at least a basic agreement as to how we can reorder the world in time to slow down and perhaps even avert the total collapse of our morally bankrupt nations. It has to start now, with each of us.

So read this and go online to find numerous videos that will allow VK to explain for herself the revolutionary simplicity of her love project and all the ways we can take action.

The purpose of listening across lines of difference is not agreement nor compromise. It is understanding. p148

But it will take ALL OF US to remake the culture and institutions that authorize hate. to reimagine a society where no human being is disposable. p246

Profile Image for Alissa.
98 reviews
July 16, 2020
I was on maternity leave in Hong Kong bonding with my newly adopted toddler daughter during the winter of 2016 when I first encountered the work of civil rights activist Valarie Kaur. This period of time, you may recall, was a particularly interesting one to be an American diplomat overseas, as our presidential election results had just shocked the world; it was also an interesting time to find my footing as the single mother of a child of a different ethnicity - and U.S. immigration status - than my own. Prior to this time in my life, I’d fleetingly recognized my own privilege, but now I felt an overwhelming surge of love for someone who would never know some of the privileges I’d been raised to carelessly expect and enjoy.

I felt breathless with anxiety for my small family’s future as I clicked on a video clip virally circulating on my Facebook page that winter. In the six-minute clip, Kaur spoke eloquently to a Protestant church’s packed congregation of the challenges faced when raising brown bodies in a country where racism continues to thrive. I felt suddenly renewed with energy as she asked her audience to ponder, “Is this the darkness of the tomb, or of the womb?... What if our America has yet to be born?” Kaur’s central hypothesis was - rather than watching the end of our nation’s history unfold, as so many feared at that unsettling time - perhaps we were living in a transitory period where Americans could utilize the tools of revolutionary love to manifest an America truly capable of providing hope and prosperity for all its inhabitants.

Valarie Kaur’s See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (416 pp. One World, $28.00) begins with a dedication: “This book is for anyone who feels breathless. Maybe moving through this world, in your body, is enough to make you feel constriction in your chest… Your breathlessness is a sign of your bravery. It means you are awake to what’s happening right now: The World is in transition.” She goes on to describe her philosophy of Revolutionary Love as “the choice to enter into wonder and labor for others, for opponents, and for ourselves in order to transform the world around us. It is not a formal code or prescription but an orientation to life that is personal and political and rooted in joy. Loving only ourselves is escapism; loving only our opponents is self-loathing; loving only others is ineffective. All three practices together make love revolutionary, and revolutionary love can only be practiced in community.”

See No Stranger is, on its face, a memoir, describing Kaur’s background steeped in the Sikh faith on her family’s farm in California. Her world, along with so many others’, was rocked on September 11th, 2001, and she found a path towards healing through her study of U.S. constitutional law and her work with Guantanamo Bay detainees. But it is her descriptions of motherhood and its impact on her worldview that resonate most deeply with me. While describing her pregnancies, she raises infinitely larger questions regarding our society’s founding principles. “If we see the story of America as one long labor, then we have… a series of expansions and contractions, and each turn through the cycle brings us closer to what is being born… Transition is the most painful and dangerous stage, but it’s also where we begin to see what comes into the space we open up.” I cannot recommend this book enough for those struggling to find their voice and role in confronting both the challenges and opportunities facing our country in this moment. One of the great joys of my summer has been helping folks find the right book to begin their antiracism work. I hope this title speaks to you and other members of your family, and that after reading it, you strive to work to strengthen our community in any positive direction you are capable of as we move towards a brighter future for all our neighbors.

This title is available at Salisbury’s independent bookstore, South Main Book Company, located at 110 S. Main St. Call 704-630-9788 or email southmainbookcompany@gmail.com to confirm store hours and events. Alissa Redmond is the owner of this store.

You may purchase a copy from the store buy clicking on this link: https://bookshop.org/a/36/9780525509097
Profile Image for Abigail Bok.
Author 4 books190 followers
September 4, 2021
This memoir-cum-call to action is extraordinarily timely but I have mixed feelings about it.

Valarie Kaur is a Sikh American who grew up on a farm in California’s Central Valley, went to divinity school, went to law school, and has devoted much of her life to serving social justice causes in a variety of ways. Her memoir tells a lot about practitioners of this little-known (in America) religion as well as illuminating what day-to-day life is like for a misunderstood minority group. It kept me both intellectually and emotionally engaged.

On the positive side: Kaur writes cleanly and clearly, depicting in eloquent terms the harms both small and large that shaped her worldview and waxing equally eloquent about how to rebuild one’s sense of self after trauma. She is equally strong on how communities of people, whole societies, can undertake a process of truth and reconciliation, and why it is important for them to do so. In our victimization-focused, polarized American society, these are valuable insights and practices to aspire to. She has been personally exposed to considerable hate and, while suffering herself, has leaned in to the sufferings of other victims, bearing witness and trying to effect change. It was inspiring to learn how she used her wounds as a source of strength and purpose.

On the other hand, she has a tendency to stray into a self-help, New-Agey-spiritual-exercise mode that I see as peculiarly Californian and could have done without. This side of the book is not dominant enough to invalidate the pluses but it did make me squirm from time to time. The back of the book has a handy-dandy chart and step-by-step instructions outlining her path to practicing “revolutionary love,” and her Web site is entirely devoted to teaching others how to follow this spiritual path, which for me cheapened her memoir and risked turning it into a come-on to a money-making scheme. In this I may be deeply wronging her; I didn’t linger on the Web site long enough to discover whether she was charging for seminars or anything. In fact she seems very earnest about wanting to help others, but I would have preferred she simply write the memoir and leave others to make what they wished of it.

Those who have suffered trauma in their lives (and who has not?) will find much to think about and inspiration for their journeys in this book; if the spiritual-path element appeals to some, that could be seen as a bonus for them, not a detriment.
203 reviews
February 16, 2021
I feel almost silly giving this book 5 stars, how could I possibly express the worth of this book with such a simple rating system?

I loved every page of this book. The author has truly discovered something amazing in her process of revolutionary love. "You are a part of me that I do not yet know". For so much of my life, I have been oblivious to parts of the world that I do not yet know. I am grateful to the author for opening her world to me and introducing a new perspective. This book has been one of many that have inspired my "wonder". What a wonderful thing to wonder.

And of course I have to mention the analogy of love as a sweet labor. This resonated with me and gave me hope, especially the hope that maybe one day our country can finally live up to what it's always meant to have been.
Profile Image for Jewyamarie.
33 reviews107 followers
August 7, 2020
I would highly recommend this book. The only reason it is not 5 is due every so often I would lose connection to her writing style. However, that does not really affect that this book really stretched me by giving me ideas to think about that I had not previously considered, a glimpse into a faith that I knew nothing about, and a wake up to historical events in our country and their ramifications.

Valarie Kaur is smart, impressive, bold, brave, and unbelievably kind and loving. I have been greatly challenged by her book.
Profile Image for Natalie Park.
556 reviews
August 15, 2020
A powerful read, part memoir and part guide of how to deal with hurt, trauma, anger and rage along with finding the way to seeing others who have harmed us with love, understanding and as part of our own family. Definitely a tough idea in this heated time of social justice issues taking center stage and seeing all the ugliness that still exists. It’s work that will last a lifetime.
Profile Image for Emily.
98 reviews28 followers
November 11, 2020
Essential reading. What do I say? The country is a mess. But some of us know we have to be part of the healing. If this sounds like you, read this book!
Profile Image for Ash.
29 reviews
July 9, 2022
I loved this book. Valerie Kaur weaves together politics, spirituality, personal development, healing work in what feels like a "self help" (for lack of a better term) book for those fighting for liberation. Her marking of political moments alongside personal milestones really moved me to trace my path alongside hers as someone who experienced similar formative moments in my politicization. She shares the ways her faith guided her and she made meaning of her experiences (from personal trauma to romantic relationships to mass protests), coming back to core beliefs and touchstones throughout. Her call to "see no stranger" and move from a place of wonder is a dare/challenge I'm willing to accept. I'd recommend this book to anyone trying to figure out how to sustain your spirit in the long road to freedom and justice.
Profile Image for Esme Kemp.
187 reviews13 followers
April 14, 2022
Points for content, and for overall theme. Found the writing a little naive in parts and also a copy edit wouldn’t go amiss cos I have little to no patience with books that return to a point and introduce it as a new concept when they’ve already told us about it 40 pages ago. Apart from that loved it HARDDD.
Profile Image for Erin.
258 reviews2 followers
November 4, 2020
“The future is dark. But what if this darkness is not our tomb, but our womb?”

I absolutely loved this book. I had no idea what or who it was about when I started it, but Valarie Kaur’s story covers so much. Sikh-American communities, 9/11, the anti-war movement, intergenerational trauma, divine rage, hate violence and state violence, self-doubt and love for self, naming white supremacy, reimagining the criminal justice system, healing from sexual assault, the injustice of Guantanamo Bay, the role of faith traditions in social justice movements, connecting with your body, building solidarity, gun violence and the Oak Creek shooting, understanding the circle of listening, breathing through labor. There are hundreds of truths in this book that I would like to incorporate into my own life. And while I wish I took better notes, I needed this message so desperately today that I just couldn’t stop. I will definitely read this again, with a pen and paper for sure.

But here is one quote that gives me hope and helps me feel grounded:
“If we take a linear view of history, then we are sliding backward. But if we see the story of America as one long labor, then we have a different view. Progress during birthing labor is cyclical, not linear. It is a series of expansions and contractions and each turn through the cycle brings us closer to what is being born. I see this pattern through US history. .... The labor is ongoing, the injustice relentless. But each time people organized, each turn through the cycle, opened a little more space for equality and justice. It also created ancestral memory. We carry the memory of movements that came before us. Like the body in labor, we have gained more embodied knowledge about what to do when the crises come, even when the crises are unprecedented. We can still turn to the wisdom of our ancestors for how to labor, to wonder, to grieve, to fight, to rage, to listen, to reimagine, to breathe, and to push, and to find the bravery we need for transition. It is our task to innovate and apply these practices in the new reality we find ourselves in.”

The wisdom in this book is astounding, and it gives me hope and determination to build patterns in my own life for sustainable activism and revolutionary love.
Profile Image for Trevor Gardner.
37 reviews1 follower
July 7, 2020
I am a person who leads with my head; I find comfort in the intellectual and academic realms of the struggle for justice. To a fault.

But in See No Stranger, Valarie Kaur cuts straight to the heart and the body – specifically, the womb – as the foundation for her framework of revolutionary love as the sword and the shield needed to stay in the work of fighting for a better world. Through her deeply honest and beautiful storytelling, I found myself letting go of what I was thinking and effortlessly tuning into my breath and my feelings.

I felt a quiet tear on my cheek as she described her relationship with her grandfather in his final days or her love for her son in his first days - and I breathed and pushed through the pages when she related the many battles for justice that have been a part of her journey, from healing and reckoning in the wake of the murder of six Sikh men and women in 2012 at the Oak Creek gurdwara to the fight for police and prison accountability in New Haven. From chapter to chapter, I felt like I was on the journey with her, watching from afar. Building inspiration along the way.

Kaur shares about the Sikh concept of chardi kala, which she explains is translated as “relentless optimism,” a central aspect of Sikh faith. She deepens our understanding by describing it as “a state of joyfulness inside the struggle – an energy that keeps us in motion, a breathing that keeps us laboring, even inside the pain of labor… Sometimes we receive the gift of our labor. Sometimes we do not. But it does not matter. Because when we labor in love, labor is not only a means but an end in itself.”

Labor in love. This, for me, was probably the most powerful gift I took away from this cornucopia of spiritual, emotional, and practical wisdom in our struggle for justice.

As a teacher and school leader, I have continually struggled to achieve a balance between the energy I give to teaching and the space I hold for self and wellness. But these forces do not have to be in opposition. There can be integration. This is what it means to labor in love.

This current moment weights heavily on our shoulders. At any moment, it feels like I could crumple and surrender. But the idea of laboring in love gives strength and hope.

Kaur poses the question, “Is this the darkness of the tomb or the darkness of the womb?” I don’t think we know yet. But See No Stranger is like a bright star that illuminates the direction I believe we want to walk in.
15 reviews
August 14, 2021
Beautiful book, stories, and messages. I recommend listening to the audio version for the full experience. My main takeaways are that love will always be stronger than hate and wondering about others will shorten the divide between us and them. Only if we wonder will we be able to ‘see no stranger’.
Profile Image for Dana DesJardins.
254 reviews34 followers
January 7, 2021
Famous for asking if the darkness under the Trump administration was that of the tomb or the womb, Valarie Kaur anchors her activism in the Sikh faith and daily acts of kindness like deep listening. "In any given moment, each of us has a role in the labor of revolutionary love." Kaur created a healing approach to advocacy through personal pain and immense witness. She is equally adept at showing up with a megaphone or a legal precedent, having prosecuted a case at Guantanamo, pioneered policing and carceral reform, and made films documenting both victims and perpetrators of hate crimes. Yet she brings love and joy to the struggle, asserting, "Loving ourselves is frontline social justice work."
Her chapter titles outline her imperatives: "Wonder, Grieve, Fight, Rage," etc., reminding us that in any birth process, first we have to breathe, and then we push. About a mass shooting of worshippers, she writes damningly, "After Oak Creek in 2012, our nation could have named white nationalist violence a national and global threat and poured resources into fighting to protect our communities. We could have held tech companies accountable for the rapid spread of hate and misinformation on social media platforms. We could have passed strong laws that prohibited racial profiling and created task forces ..." Reading this one day after insurrectionists breached the Capitol with Confederate flags, it is hard to remain hopeful.
Nonetheless, Kaur believes we can "reimagine the institutions of power that [order] the world." She concludes, "If we do this right, [our children] will inherit not our fear but bravery born of joy."
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15 reviews1 follower
August 5, 2020
I wrote her a love letter on my medium page - Sabina Writes. She’s incredible. This manifesto is beautiful and it makes me proud to be Punjabi. To think of love as an act of defiance in times of abject hate reclaims the value and healing that is so desperate to be stolen. What can they do if you choose not to hate in return, but instead wonder about them? Not just telling, Valarie shows how this is possible and provides examples of her own life. I’ve admired her for years, and now I will forever.
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