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Hungry Hearts: Essays on Courage, Desire, and Belonging

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Sixteen innovators, creatives, and thought leaders--Austin Channing Brown, Sue Monk Kidd, and Luvvie Ajayi Jones, among others--share intimate stories of uncovering beauty and potential through moments of fear, loss, heartbreak, and uncertainty.

"If you are looking for a little bit of gentleness, a warm word from writers you can trust, well, here it is."--Glamour

Over the course of four years, the traveling love rally called Together Live brought together diverse storytellers for epic evenings of laughter, music, and hard-won wisdom to huge audiences across the country. Well-known womxn (and the occasional man) from all walks of life shared their most vulnerable truths in a radical act of love, paving the way for healing in the face of adversity.

Now, off the stage and on the pages of Hungry Hearts, sixteen of these beloved speakers offer moving, inspiring, deeply personal essays as a reminder that we can heal from grief and that divisions can be repaired. Bozoma Saint John opens herself up to love after loss; Cameron Esposito confronts the limits of self-reliance in the wake of divorce; Ashley C. Ford learns to trust herself for the first time. A heartfelt anthology of transformation, self-discovery, and courage that also includes essays by Luvvie Ajayi Jones, Amena Brown, Austin Channing Brown, Natalie Guerrero, Sue Monk Kidd, Connie Lim (MILCK), Nkosingiphile Mabaso, Jillian Mercado, Priya Parker, Geena Rocero, Michael Trotter and Tanya-Blount Trotter of The War and Treaty, and Maysoon Zayid, Hungry Hearts shows how reconnecting with our own burning, undeniable intuition points us toward our unique purpose and the communities where we most belong.

208 pages, Hardcover

First published March 9, 2021

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Jennifer Rudolph Walsh

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5 stars
218 (30%)
4 stars
258 (36%)
3 stars
196 (27%)
2 stars
35 (4%)
1 star
9 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 93 reviews
Profile Image for Genevieve Trono.
594 reviews95 followers
February 9, 2021
{Thank you to Dial Press for my gifted copy}

Hungry Hearts is a powerful collection of essay-style writing from some of the most well-known names in writing and storytelling - ultimately sharing their journeys through times of uncertainty. Outside of the pandemic, this diverse group has shared these types of narratives live and in front of an audience for a number of years now.

This written Hungry Hearts format, while different, still feels like an evening with close friends, sharing vulnerabilities, times of struggles, and the power of community. We need stories and connections like this and now many of us are feeling this more than ever.

Whether you are looking for a book to escape into or to read one story at a time, this collection has something for everyone. Thank you to Dial Press for my gifted copy in exchange for my honest review. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
168 reviews
April 21, 2021
I received a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Hungry Hearts is a collection of essays by mostly female writers/entertainers. There are a few stand outs, such as Sue Monk Kidd's (she could make a warning label on a bottle of aspirin interesting, though) and Maysoon Zayid's. However, for the most part, I didn't find them memorable, even only a week later. While all were technically well written, the topics of a few of them were strange and few didn't seem to fit the topic, including one about menstruating. A quick read, but not one of my favorite essay collections of recent years. The Moth Presents essay collections are much better at turning live stories into compelling and poignant essays.
Profile Image for Becky Knutson.
71 reviews1 follower
May 4, 2021
I wanted to love this. I added it to my library wish list as soon as I saw the endorsement from Brene Brown. It is packed with amazing leaders and influencers.

My favorite essays were the Period Playlist by Amena Brown, The View by Michael Trotter Jr, The Wisdom of the Group by Priya Parker and On Silence by Natalie Guerrero.

I am giving it only 3 stars because 1) ultimately this came across more of a magazine with quick little blurbs when I was in the mood to settle in on ideas of courage and belonging and 2) I don’t know who I would run to and say “you have to read this book.”
Profile Image for Megan.
342 reviews39 followers
March 15, 2021
I bought this book on the strength of the list of contributors, and I wish I'd saved the money. The writing seemed lazy and rushed, each chapter felt like an undergrad admissions essay written by someone who already had their MBA. Yuck.
Profile Image for Katiun Attarpour.
20 reviews3 followers
October 15, 2021
Wanted to love this because a list of contributors I admire or have heard speak and felt moved. However, this collection of essays seemed a little rushed in its writing and release to print. A few of the essays were not personally compelling, even though I’m always curious to hear someone’s story. I enjoyed Ashley C Ford, Sue Monk Kidd, Maysoon Zayid essays in particular.

It is a quick read. I read 1-2 every day before work with my coffee.
5,870 reviews131 followers
April 20, 2021
Hungry Hearts: Essays on Courage, Desire, and Belonging is an anthology of sixteen personal essays collected and edited by Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. It is a collection of personals essays from diverse storytellers.

For the most part, this collection of personal essays was written rather well. Hungry Hearts: Essays on Courage, Desire, and Belonging is a wonderful collection of personal essays. The anthology stems from Together Live – an on-stage event that ran from 2016–2020, bringing together storytellers to share their most vulnerable moments with the audience. The goal of the program was to encourage others to share their stories and pave the way for healing. Unable to continue during the pandemic, Together Live evolved into this book, in which sixteen contributors open their hearts on the page.

Like most anthologies there are weaker contributions and Hungry Hearts: Essays on Courage, Desire, and Belonging is not an exception. While there are some essays written better than others, those that seem weaker – comparatively speaking were outliers due to personal taste. Each essay is infused with sincerity and introspection, creating a connection with readers as the contributors reveals their vulnerabilities with candor and emotion.

All in all, Hungry Hearts: Essays on Courage, Desire, and Belonging is a cathartic collection with broad appeal.
Profile Image for Poonam.
145 reviews27 followers
March 4, 2021
This is a delightful read! These essays examine ways the contributors had to step up, face themselves, and recover back to themselves.

The essays are short, light reads, relatively speaking. I could see this book being gifted to friends/family.

Thanks to Random House for the review copy.
Profile Image for Bailey Frederking.
109 reviews5 followers
March 11, 2021
Some really incredible writers. I’ve been in the middle of a lot of books recently. This felt accessible and refreshing and reminds me of the power of story-telling.
Profile Image for M.
239 reviews2 followers
March 7, 2021
This was exactly the book I needed to read at this point in the pandemic, when I am feeling isolated, lonely, disconnected and...sad. This was a beautiful, beautiful collection of stories of people sharing their most vulnerable, open, brave, heartbroken selves. It made me feel connected, understood, seen. I loved how diverse the storytellers were, in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, able-bodied, etc, but also in terms of story. It really reminded me, everybody is going through something really fucking hard, all the time, and we just don't know each other's pain. But when we share and are vulnerable and tell our stories, we invite others to be brave and courageous, and that's where we feel love and connection. I really empathized with so many powerful stories in here, but my favorite was Bozoma Saint John's, about waking up with unspeakable grief after the death of her husband. Her writing is so beautiful and so painful, the pain and sadness is palpable, it truly moved me:

"The air is as cool as the other side of the bed, and it's a visceral reminder that I am alone. Alone. Alone though I don't wish to be. Alone though my heart aches in these small hours of the day when no one else moves...My spirit starts to fight against my rib cage because holding my breath hurts almost more than breathing. I have no peace in my nothingness. So I breathe in my singular breaths, calming my racing heart, which threatens to explode under the pressure of its sadness" (105). But I loved that this story, as painful as it was, ends on a note of choosing love. So many of these stories do. People brought together by feelings of lack of belonging, of being different, of staying silent, CHOOSE to love and carry on. I also loved the hilarious piece by Amena Brown, on period playlists. Reading "ATENCHUN" and hearing Bone Crusher's jam *sent me* in the best way possible. I definitely need to create my own playlist now.
Profile Image for Bookslut.
603 reviews
November 16, 2022
Okay, this was not what I thought it was. I laugh out loud even as I type this. So, when I see 'book of essays', I think 'clever, subtle pieces to make you think, usually by approaching something by going around the edges and then (hopefully, if successful) darting to the heart by the end'. Their style is intentionally subversive, almost, so as not to appear to be trying too hard. These essays are gaudy, hang-right-out-in-the-open inspiration pieces that sound almost like transcribed motivational speeches--it is like reading the Oprah show. I came to find the book is even affiliated with some kind of travelling Oprah show whose entire point is to inspire and uplift. I thought about quitting, because I was looking for clever and subversively emotional, and these are laughably sincere...but I couldn't deny that they were working for me. So many of the things echoed experiences I had had, almost eerily so! It made me feel like being a person, maybe particularly being an American woman, is a very universal experience. Anyway, I kept wanting to pick it up, kept being touched, kept feeling truly inspired by what these [mostly] women were not afraid to say frankly. So I thought, okay then, read and live frankly. And I think there were some snippets in there that will lastingly sit with me, and that there might be for just about anybody who picked it up. So if you can get over yourself enough to read Oprah Live, it can be really helpful and uplifting, just as it is intended.
Profile Image for Dorie.
675 reviews
May 20, 2022
These essays are about courage, desire and belonging, but they are mostly about healing. These essays were gathered from inspirational speakers, who over the course of four years, brought together and developed a group of storytellers with very different backgrounds. They called themselves the Together Forever and held meetings to bring together women to share their stories, their loves and their lives.
This is a very heart felt collection and every essay was relatable and vulnerable, as well as honest and give the women a sense of community and understanding. I completely enjoyed this collection.
Essays I most related to:
The Freedom of Me by Tanya Blout-Trotter
The View by Michael Trotter, Jr.
Profile Image for Carlina Scalf.
145 reviews1 follower
June 14, 2021
This collection found me at the perfect time - reading these essays, I felt the same feelings I had after attending Together Live, the event series that inspired the collection (energized, inspired). It's impossible to pick favorites (they're all amazing!) but pieces by Ashley C. Ford, Priya Parker, Luvvie Ajayi Jones, and Nkosingiphile Mabaso have lots of underlines. I'll definitely be investigating further work from all of the authors, and recording some notes from the book to keep!
Profile Image for Nissa Fuller.
52 reviews
January 1, 2022
At first, I was going to give this book 3 stars but the second half of it really changed my mind. The later essays really warmed and inspired me which is a perfect way to start the new year.

My favorite essays:

1. On the Horrors of Fitting In
2. Wake Up, Love
3. Lucy, Full of Life
4. Choosing Love
5. When Sisterhood Ends
6. The Wisdom of a Group and the Wisdom of the Self
Profile Image for Malissa.
429 reviews13 followers
March 16, 2021
Quick listen. A great collection of women (and one man) telling their stories.
6 reviews
March 23, 2021
Some of the essays in this were unforgettable, others I wish I hadn’t read...inconsistent quality overall, but Sue Monk Kidd and Natalie Guerrero made it worth it for me.
Profile Image for Rachel | All the RAD Reads.
979 reviews1,009 followers
April 9, 2021
Thanks to @randomhouse for this one! I was excited to pick up this collection from a few authors I know and love, and so many new voices, too. They are innovators, storytellers, thought leaders, and warm, wise womxn, and each essay was beautiful and heartfelt in its own way. The description read that this collection “shows how reconnecting with our own burning, undeniable intuition points us toward our unique purpose and the communities where we most belong” which sums it up well.
Profile Image for Karin Künnapas.
212 reviews2 followers
June 4, 2021
This is a beautiful book of short essays by a number of different women and men. They have different backgrounds, life experiences, and relationships, but each of them has found something important in their life that they want to share.

I really enjoyed reading them. The main thought that came through in the stories was that the person usually in our way of achieving our goals, trying something new, or letting go of things and people not giving us positive value anymore is ourselves. And that's the person we need to work with as that's your most important relationship. You can find support either through therapy, finding a supportive group of friends, or just by yourself.
Profile Image for Melanie.
62 reviews
March 23, 2021
A collection of personal essays, written mostly by women, sharing stories of the moments that have shaped them into the people they are now.

I enoyed the second half of this collection much more than the first. The writing in those last 9 essays felt more pointed/cohesive/purposeful and thus came across as more compelling to me. They had a thrust that carried/pushed me along. The writing of the essays of the first half of the collection didn't feel as strong to me; I struggled to push through them but am glad I did.

Profile Image for Arianne Padilla.
238 reviews
October 18, 2021
I heard about this collection of Essays on Brene Brown's podcast. Many of the authors I'm familiar with and many not, but I enjoyed every single story. Sometimes you just need to read people's stories to remember you're not alone.
Profile Image for brin.
49 reviews
April 26, 2022
I wish I'd liked more of it and I wish a lot of these didn't read like long winded IG captions. Yeah
Profile Image for Michelle McGrane.
285 reviews5 followers
April 14, 2021
“Sharing our authentic stories can be transformational. Someone may look very different from us on the outside, but what our true stories reveal is that, on the inside, we have all experienced similar feelings of heartbreak, failure, betrayal, longing, triumph, and joy. We all want the same things—to be loved, to be seen, and to belong. We all have dreams that our lives will make a difference. Our stories illustrate that.”
— Jennifer Rudolph Walsh

For four years, a speaking tour featuring the storytelling of writers, poets, musicians, and performers of all sorts, Together Live, focused on sharing stories from a stage. These inspirational women (and men) across diverse backgrounds and generations sat onstage to tell their powerful, unique stories to audiences around the United States. Their stories were the magic medicine to cure the void where loneliness, anxiety, and depression often grow.

Due to Covid-19, the storytellers were unable to gather in theatres around the country in 2020, so many of the participants decided to share their stories in book form, this anthology.

As a group, the brilliant contributors of these essays are wildly diverse, yet they all have a brave and compassionate open heart. This anthology is to be savoured, not sped through. It is for anyone who has a desire to find purpose, community, and resilience in the face of desolation, discomfort, and fear. Authentic storytelling is a radical act of love that can connect and heal our fractured world. I shall be returning to these incredible essays whenever I feel a disconnect between my perception and reality.

‘Hungry Heart’ features essays by: Luvvie Ajayi Jones; Amena Brown; Austin Channing Brown; Cameron Esposito; Ashley C. Ford; Natalie Guerrero; Sue Monk Kidd; Connie alum (Milck); Nkosingiphile Mabaso; Jillian Mercado; Priya Parker; Geena Rocero; Bozoma Saint John; Tanya Blount-Trotter; Michael Trotter Jr., and Maysoon Zayid.

A huge thank you to @NetGalley and @thedialpress for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Rachel.
411 reviews28 followers
May 11, 2021
3.75 stars. These are personal essays from an incredibly diverse group of humans that show strength, vulnerability, love, and so much more. About half of these essays were just brilliant in their execution. The other half were essays that shared something powerful and equally important, but the writing style made them far less impactful for me. I felt like those were stories meant to be shared through voice rather than pen (which, I guess is where the idea for this book originated). This may be the first such collection I have read where each chapter is from a different contributor. Quite unlike a book of short stories where even if some of the stories are better than others, you can get into a rhythm with the author's style. Here the differences in writing styles across chapters made the reading experience quite jarring. I don't think this is an editorial problem because unlike maybe other collaborative writing, here you need the personal voice and style to come through. And yet as a reader, that made the book challenging. It's interesting that recently an avid reader I follow mentioned having a greater appreciation for collections written by one person rather than many. This struck me as an interesting observation and one at first I didn't necessarily agree with (though I had no basis to agree or disagree). Now I can I better appreciate that sentiment (with the caveat I am making that statement with a sample size of 1).

An explanation of my rating...There were chapters I would easily rate a 5. There were chapters I would rate a 2 or 3 just for the reading experience (NOT the story). The book introduced me to a number of women that I am eager to learn more about so high ratings for that aspect as well. I finally settled on 3.75 stars.
Profile Image for Zibby Owens.
Author 5 books14k followers
March 16, 2021
This is a compilation of essays from great authors that focus on perseverance. In the introduction, the author says she couldn't find a more receptive audience for her stories. She said, "If I told you that my parents got divorced when I was nine years old, it would communicate a fact, but it wouldn't help you know me better. What if instead, I told this?" Then she goes on to tell the story of what exactly happened. Immediately, I was engaged because she's proven her point that the story isn't in the facts; it's in the details. Advice has a powerful role, but storytelling is more profound because it's more about the show, not tell. It's only when we show ourselves that we can really be seen.

Sue Monk Kidd's essay stood out to me because it was so inspirational, not just for writers but for women. She said (paraphrase), "Every day, I would pause and read a quote by Emile Zola and try to take the words in where she says, 'If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you, I am here to live out loud." Then Sue asked herself the question, "What if I substitute 'artist' with the word 'woman' instead?" Sue talked about how she had to get through her fear and "face down insidious voices in my head that told me I shouldn't write because it was too big a risk. I didn't have an MFA. The sinister twins don't and can't..." I loved it. "Hungry Hearts" is absolutely gorgeous, and I'm so glad I read it.

To listen to my interview with the author, go to my podcast at:
Profile Image for Debra.
31 reviews5 followers
September 26, 2022
Jennifer Rudolph Walsh’s introduction to this book of essays is both surprising and stunning. As is the first essay by Sue Monk Kidd, that begins, “I ONCE STENCILED SOME WORDS on a wall in my house. At the top of the stairs, where you couldn’t possibly miss it, I painted a quotation by French novelist Emile Zola: “If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you, ‘I am here to live out loud.’ ”

This book of essays, by writers telling “authentic stories” in voices that are not always heard, run the gamut, as essay collections often do. After reading the first one with great excitement, I skipped a bunch because the writing failed to resonate with me. I admit I almost put the book down (I have so little patience for a book that doesn’t suck me in…) But I picked it up again only to find several more essays that were thoughtful, honest, raw, and even inspiring: Carmen Esposito’s, “On the horrors of fitting in,” and Natalie Geurerro’s “On silence,” a reflection on Audre Lorde’s famous words that I’ve interpreted and re-interpreted dozens of times since first reading them 20+ ago. So admittedly, there are several essays I passed over altogether here. But I’m recommending the book with 4 stars because those I read to completion were exceptionally worthy. The stories are not arcane or academic, as essay collections can often be- these authentic stories are close enough to life that you can reach out and touch them. I recommend you consider giving it a try.
Profile Image for Lisa W.
132 reviews2 followers
January 15, 2022
Three stars because of the uneven level of relevance to me. My favorite essays were from writers about the process of writing e.g. Sue Monk Kidd. Less relevant were essays about menstruation and the plights of dating.

With all due respect to the super success of these women - many of whom come from marginalized or stigmatized backgrounds- I did feel awe and wonder at how they turned their lives around.

Most of them are TED Talk celebrities, authors, founders of fascinating non-profits or have accomplished great achievements despite their handicap, the racial bias, cultural invalidation and more.

Gentle suggestion…listen to the last chapter first, “About the Contributors” to better frame their essay. I wish their bios were at the top of each essay, would have been helpful.

IN SUM, there are enough gems in here to warrant listening to this audio book. Since the essays were short I listened in the car while running errands and doing simple tasks such as folding laundry and watering plants. Yes, this is a good book for quick literary snacking!
Profile Image for MMill.
646 reviews5 followers
April 18, 2021
I loved this short collection of essays from such an eclectic and compelling combination of authors. They recognize and share traumas, grief and heartbreaks, while encouraging bravery, most especially in the form of being vulnerable and listening to the voices inside that lead you to who you really are. This book was a way for these authors and speakers to tell their stories on the page in lieu of on stage when the Together Rising tour was canceled in 2020. Smart, funny, proud and strong, these voices tell stories that vary widely but also have a lot in common in terms of calling out to readers to use their own and follow their hungry hearts to uncover what they have to offer the world and set it free.
129 reviews
April 13, 2022
I was so excited to read this collection of essays by various writers because I’ve heard great things about a few of the writers. However, when I first started reading this book, it didn’t really catch my attention. I decided to read the entire book rather than to give up on it because it didn’t feel fair to not read the other essays just because a few didn’t keep my interest or “wow” me. Ultimately, I’m glad that I stuck it out because there were quite a few great essays in the collection.

My favorite essays are Period Playlist by Amena Brown, Wake Up Love by Bozoma Saint John, When Sisterhood Ends by Luvvie Ajayi Jones, and On Silence by Natalie Guerrero.

*Thank you Netgalley for providing an arc in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Susie Dumond.
Author 2 books102 followers
March 5, 2021
In 2021, many are feeling disconnected, lonely, and uncertain of the future. This essay collection comes at just the right time, featuring stories of when these writers and inspirational figures took the difficult things that were thrown at them and used them as an opportunity to grow and learn. The vulnerability and realness in these essays really stands out, showing how connecting with our truest selves and the people who love us can propel us forward. Reading this book felt like the warm hugs and coffees with friends that have been so hard to come by during the pandemic. If you're feeling alone or in need of a pep talk, Hungry Hearts is the perfect medicine!
Profile Image for Natalie.
10 reviews
April 14, 2021
Really loved this book. Reading it was energizing.
I need to go back through and pick the specific essays that stood out, but to be honest, out of the 16 essays there was maybe only 1 or 2 that didn't strike a chord in me. Each time I finished a section I thought "that's going to be the one with the greatest impact" but then the next story would do it to me all over again.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised with such an all-star group list of authors, activists, and overall badass storytellers.
Listening to the audiobook was fun too because most stories were read by the authors themselves.
An excellent collection of honest stories of grief, division, repair, and so much more.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 93 reviews

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