In the past week, I’ve struggled to finish a book, any book. I have half-read books all over the place, but they have too much plot or not enough, or I need more attention to learn from them, or I just can’t bring myself to care about the people or characters in the book. This is not my usual style. In fact, it is a sign of depression that I have learned to recognize.
However, I did manage to RE-READ something this week. Actually, I listened to the audiobook of I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi. I already read this book. (In fact, I was so hyper in my pre-ordering that I bought it twice. Whoops.) Listening to the book as I flew across the country, crocheting my feelings like I do, brought home all the things that I like about this book. Which I had already read two times since it came out in September.
I am terrible at beginning a sermon with a joke. I don’t like to do it and I don’t often enjoy it when other people do it. However, that is Luvvie’s forte. The book begins with hilarious judgments about friendship, social media, and how the world works. It is observational humor- tightened up and with an edge that leaves you recognizing yourself and laughing at the same time. Yet, as you laugh, Luvvie pulls you into deeper and deeper subjects. You are reflecting on ridiculous places that you have seen the Comic Sans (the font) used and then you are in the middle of her well-paced and trenchant commentary on racism, privilege, or feminism.
Frankly, the chapter on feminism is a MUST read for all white women. It is embarrassing to consider the ways in which white women have seized feminism as their own cause, defined on their terms- without ever acknowledging how black women and other women of color have contributed to the realities of this country and the women’s movement. This book describes this reality (and its aftereffects) in one of most concise ways you will ever read. If you don’t think you can bear hearing Luvvie’s voice convict you with the audio, read the book (especially that chapter) yourself, but prepare for self-examination. If you didn’t or don’t think this divide is a real thing, please break here and read Luvvie’s post on how women of different races voted in the presidential election. Then come back.
The whole book is like being in a confessional with a witty and charming priestess. She already knows your sins and she will tell them to you. You will realize where you have erred and will long to do better. And she believes that you can.
In the epilogue, Luvvie writes:
Sometimes, we feel the pressure and self-imposed expectation that when we do something, it needs to be big and perfect. That can render us useless and ensure that we do nothing because we’re so afraid of not doing enough. That’s tapping out before we begin. Damb [sic] that. I am here to tell us all to drop that. Small acts can go far, so you thinking you cannot do enough is not okay. You can, and I am asking you to at least try.
In the wake of recent world events (wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, etc.), it can be overwhelming to try to figure out what to teach, where to start, and how to tackle the painful realities of our present situation. The thing is, racism is real. Sexism is real. Body shaming is real. Online bullying is real. Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-immigrant words and actions are real.
Our stands against these things cannot be metaphorical. They must be solidly anchored not only in our intentions, but from our cores where we seek bind and heal, not wound and warp. I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual is a book for such a time as this. You can laugh until you weep and then weep until you laugh. Then you wipe your nose, straighten your shirt, and figure out which part of your act needs cleaning up.
And, trust me, as Luvvie will assure you, some part of it surely does.
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