My Grandmother's Hands Book Summary - My Grandmother's Hands Book explained in key points
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My Grandmother's Hands summary

Resmaa Menakem

Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies

4.6 (46 ratings)
25 mins

Brief summary

My Grandmother's Hands by Resmaa Menakem explores the impact of trauma on black, white, and police bodies. Menakem offers pathways for healing the body and relationships with others, taking readers on a journey towards collective liberation.

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    My Grandmother's Hands
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    Racism lives in our bodies.

    When the author was a child, he spent a lot of time with his grandmother. She would often ask him to massage her aching hands while they were watching TV. One day, he asked her why her fingers were so swollen and thick. She explained that it was from picking cotton. She had started working on a plantation when she was only four years old, and the sharp burrs of the plant had torn up her hands. 

    This is just one powerful example of the marks that racism leaves on the body. But not all of the bodily trauma that racism causes is visible. One of the most pernicious things about racism is that its roots and consequences are often hidden. In fact, with the exception of white supremacists, most people don't consciously engage in racism – but they often perpetuate it nonetheless.

    The key message here is: Racism lives in our bodies. 

    The author’s wife once observed a Walmart employee whose job entailed randomly selecting customers after check-out to see if their receipts matched the items in their shopping carts. Except her selection was not at all random – she seemed to exclusively target Black customers. The author’s wife alerted a supervisor to this racial profiling. When the supervisor talked to the employee, she seemed genuinely sorry and surprised. It hadn’t even occurred to her that she was only checking Black people. 

    For many white Americans, racism is so deeply ingrained into their nervous systems that they don’t even register how they contribute to it. For Black Americans, on the other hand, racial injustice is so quotidian that they can’t even afford to pay much attention to how it affects their bodies. 

    But it does. In a country in which white bodies are routinely valued higher than Black bodies, Black people suffer disproportionately from physical and mental distress. They are more often subject to direct violence, such as police brutality, and they experience higher rates of stress, depression, and anxiety. As a result, they more often suffer from stress-related diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and alcoholism. 

    Racism in the US is always a bodily experience – both for its victims and its perpetrators. It’s a trauma caused by the cumulative effect of American history, the country’s social systems, and daily injustices. And it’s buried deep in the body of every American. 

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    What is My Grandmother's Hands about?

    My Grandmother’s Hands (2017) explores how racism affects Black, white, and police bodies in the United States – and what individuals and communities can do to heal them. Trauma therapist Resmaa Menakem explains why historic, familial, and personal trauma relating to racism is often stored deep in our nervous system, and teaches body-based practices to overcome it.

    My Grandmother's Hands Review

    My Grandmother's Hands (2017) is a powerful exploration of racialized trauma and its impact on our bodies and society. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offers a unique perspective on healing racial trauma, bridging the gap between personal, interpersonal, and systemic healing.
    • Interweaving personal stories, science, and cultural analysis, it provides a comprehensive understanding of the effects of racial trauma on individuals and communities.
    • By providing practical exercises and tools, it empowers readers to engage in healing practices and work towards racial justice.

    Best quote from My Grandmother's Hands

    [W]hen you have regard for your own body, it is easier to have regard for other bodies.

    —Resmaa Menakem
    example alt text

    Who should read My Grandmother's Hands?

    • Black people who want to begin to heal their bodies from the trauma of racism 
    • White folks who want to become better allies through a body-centered practice of anti-racism
    • Police officers and public safety officials who want to learn how to avoid violence

    About the Author

    Resmaa Menakem, MSW, LICSW, is a therapist specializing in body-centered trauma therapy. He has worked as a consultant for the Minneapolis Police Department, Minneapolis Public Schools, and the US military, focusing on issues relating to trauma processing and violence prevention. He has also appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and Dr. Phil

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    My Grandmother's Hands FAQs 

    What is the main message of My Grandmother's Hands?

    The main message of My Grandmother's Hands is about healing ancestral and racial trauma.

    How long does it take to read My Grandmother's Hands?

    The reading time for My Grandmother's Hands varies, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is My Grandmother's Hands a good book? Is it worth reading?

    My Grandmother's Hands is a powerful and insightful book that explores trauma and provides tools for healing. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of My Grandmother's Hands?

    Resmaa Menakem is the author of My Grandmother's Hands.

    What to read after My Grandmother's Hands?

    If you're wondering what to read next after My Grandmother's Hands, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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