I am a true bibliophile. I could live in a bookstore or a library – just create a little cozy space for me among the stacks and I will settle in. I love the smell of books, I love the feel of the pages, I love the weight of a book in my hands. I welcome fall and these cooler, damp days, because I don’t feel as guilty for staying inside and reading.
As we move through this time – difficult in many ways – I have again and again turned to reading books. Books to both soothe and escape, but also books to learn, to challenge myself, to open me to new ways of seeing.
Lately, I have been trying to ask myself some questions about what I am reading and what I take in through other media – how does my conditioning dictate what I choose to read, listen to, and learn from? How has my conditioning shaped my assumptions, biases, and views? In other words, what appears “normal” because of my experience as a white woman in the culture in which we live?
I can watch movies, TV, look to almost anything in the entertainment industry or much media and see myself reflected. I can peruse my bookshelf and see many stories where a woman that looks like me is the protagonist. I can look to my yoga and mindfulness teachers, many brilliant, compassionate, and generous teachers, writers, and thinkers, and see that they are mostly white.
With this inquiry, I have been questioning what it might be like to have a different lived experience. To walk into a space and not see myself automatically reflected. To watch mainstream movies and other media, to read books where my experience is not the default.
To see anything other than the default takes awareness. It takes intentionality to seek out a diversity of voices – authors, artists, filmmakers, musicians, teachers, thinkers.
With this in mind, I curated a fall book list for myself to read, and to share with the Source community highlighting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) authors. Some are meditation and yoga teachers, some contemplative thinkers, some in academia. On this list, I have included some books I have already read, some I am currently reading, and some still on my to-read list. This list is all non-fiction – perhaps with your suggestions we can create a fiction list together? Send me your suggestions!
Included on this list is our October book club selection written by our very own community member Tamiko Nimura, about Tacoma local Rosa Franklin, the first African American woman elected to the Washington State Senate. In Tamiko’s lovely retelling of Senator Franklin’s story, you get not only an inspiring story of politics (!) and service, but a snapshot of Tacoma through the decades, and a view of how so many in our town have been actively working toward justice for many years. Join us for a book club discussion with author and Source student Tamiko Nimura on October 20th. This event is offered freely, but with the invitation to donate the support an antiracist library at local high school SOTA (Tacoma School of the Arts).
I know that reading a few books or being a part of a book club isn’t all that is needed right now. This is only a part of the work to be done to bring greater awareness and healing of issues of systemic racism in our culture. Transforming a culture takes action – donating, educating, voting, supporting antiracist policies – it takes action to create a world where everyone is reflected and cared for.
I also know that the power of reading is to open minds, expand our perspective, and be able to see views other than our own. Reading is no small thing.
For me, this is the beginning of a long journey of un-conditioning myself – unraveling biases and assumptions, seeing the world through new lenses. You might ask – what does this have to do with your yoga classes or practice? The good news is, the awareness that we cultivate in yoga and mindfulness practice is the same awareness that has us be able to see ourselves and our culture clearly, and can help us expand our views, possibilities, compassion, and thoughtful action.
In the words of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for defying their laws against educating girls, later to become the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, “Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.”
Let’s pick up our books, let’s be together in conversation, reflection, and action, and especially relevant right now – let’s pick up our ballots. Vote for the world you believe is possible.
And keep reading.
May we keep growing and learning together,
PS: Please also check out our fall offerings. Let’s keep studying, exploring and deepening our practices together. Note in October: Anti Racism as Spiritual Practice (6 week series), American Sanskrit Institute’s Level 1 Immersion, and in November, Arriving Home – An At-Home Online Retreat. Also, for those that are expecting, check out our Prenatal Yoga 6 Week Series starting next week!
Erin’s Recommended Fall Book List
(Note, please shop local! I recommend King’s Books in Tacoma, they deliver!)
Yoga for Everyone by Diane Bondy
You Belong by Sebene Selassie
Rosa Franklin – A Life in Health Care, Public Service and Social Justice by Tamiko Nimura
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Love and Rage by Lama Rod Owens
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
A Fierce Heart by Spring Washam
Mindful of Race by Ruth King
Radical Dharma by angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens, Jasmine Syedullah
Skill in Action by Michelle Cassandra Johnson