If I were to recommend a single book that has profoundly impacted my perspective, “My Grandmother’s Hands” by Resmaa Menakem would undoubtedly be it. This book has opened my eyes to a level of understanding regarding body-based trauma that I was new to me. In this review, I aim to capture the essence of this book, as it presents a groundbreaking approach to comprehending the complex relationship between trauma, race, and healing.
◖A New Lens on Trauma and Instincts
Resmaa Menakem’s work delves into a deeply unexplored aspect of trauma – its manifestation in our bodies. Drawing from personal experiences, historical context, and scientific research, the author unveils the ways in which our bodies house the residues of ancestral and intergenerational traumas. By doing so, Menakem challenges us to shift our perspective from a solely intellectual understanding of trauma to a somatic awareness, where emotions, pain, and resilience are stored and expressed physically.
◖Shifting the Focus from Politics to Trauma
For me the excellence of “My Grandmother’s Hands” lies in its ability to guide readers away from the often polarizing discussions surrounding race and instead encourages a reflection on trauma’s role in shaping racial dynamics. Menakem invites us to examine the inherent physiological responses – fight, flight, or freeze – that influence our reactions to racial stressors. By exploring how these responses are deeply linked with historical traumas, the book unveils the complex interplay between individuals, communities, and systemic racism.
◖The Three Sections of the Book
The book is divided into three sections, each focusing on a specific group: Black, White, and Police bodies. Menakem unpacks the trauma that each group carries, offering insights into the origins of their pain, fear, and mistrust. By fostering empathy for all parties involved, the author lays the foundation for healing and reconciliation.
◖Healing for Black Bodies
In the Black body section, Menakem discusses the legacy of racial trauma that has been carried forward through generations, manifesting in the form of historical trauma and cultural tension. He guides us through practices that can help Black individuals and communities reclaim their bodies from the grip of intergenerational trauma.
◖Confronting Trauma in White Bodies
In the White body section, the author addresses the often unconscious ways in which White bodies perpetuate racism due to their unresolved trauma. Menakem urges White readers to confront their own discomfort and recognize the need for healing in order to break the cycle of racial oppression.
◖Understanding Police Bodies
In conclusion, “My Grandmother’s Hands” is a profound and enlightening exploration of trauma, race, and healing. Resmaa Menakem’s approach, deeply rooted in somatic experiencing and historical analysis, challenges us to examine our bodies as vessels of memory, pain, and potential transformation. This book serves as a bridge towards understanding, compassion, and a more inclusive future.
About the Author: Resmaa Menakem studied and trained at Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute. He currently teaches workshops on Cultural Somatics with a remarkable ability to connect with diverse audiences, including African Americans, European Americans, and police officers. Beyond his teaching efforts, Resmaa Menakem is also a therapist in private practice.
Thank you for reading!