“A Pathway to Health” by Alison Harvey

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Subtitle: How Visceral Manipulation Can Help You

Recommended to me by: Bundled with the Visceral Manipulation textbook

An engagingly written introduction to Visceral Manipulation bodywork. Alison Harvey describes the techniques and shares vignettes from her practice. There are drawings and descriptions of the anatomy of each organ.

Recommended for bodyworkers who are interested in learning more about the body and about Visceral Manipulation.

Available at IAHE.

“Turn This World Inside Out” by Nora Samaran

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Subtitle: The Emergence of Nurturance Culture

Recommended to me by: Nora Samaran’s online essay The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture

This book contains three of Nora Samaran’s powerful essays (also available on her blog) and dialogues with other writers that expand on the themes of nurturance, attachment, shame, gaslighting, gendered violence, and repairing harm.

It is a short book that can be read quickly, and at the same time there are a lot of chewy ideas to take in over time. There are also references to more reading on these topics by people who are one or more of trans, Indigenous, and Black who have developed skills of sustainable, relational living. The book holds the question: how do we best move forward from and heal from white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy.

What would it be like to live in a culture where we all could be socially embraced in this way, where we could speak up about harm, could say not to it, without fear, because we know without question that no one in our community will dehumanize another?

I admire Nora Samaran’s insights, and I long for the kinds of communities and relationships she describes. This book brings in more voices to deepen and expand the conversation. Highly recommended.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Visceral Manipulation” by Jean-Pierre Barral & Pierre Mercier

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Recommended to me by: Required for the Visceral Manipulation class

A highly technical textbook for the Visceral Manipulation class. Some anatomical terms are defined, and some aren’t. Some are illustrated, and some aren’t. The book seems directed at medical doctors (“order radiographs when indicated”) and at the same time seems slightly defensive when describes experiments demonstrating results from these techniques.

For each internal organ, anatomy and relationships to other organs are precisely described, along with possible variations and disorders. The mobility (motion with breathing) and motility (intrinsic motion) of each organ is also described, along with manual techniques to improve these motions. I’m assuming the class will make all this clearer – these are not techniques to learn from a book, even with the included photographs.

Available at IAHE.

“The Raven and the Reindeer” by T. Kingfisher

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Recommended to me by: Redbird

A slant-wise retelling of the Snow Queen story originally by Hans Christian Anderson. It’s been a long time since I read the original, but I remember a sense of heavy oppressiveness. The beginning of this book has the same feeling to it, but fortunately veers away from that after the first few (short) chapters.

Young Gerta thinks of Kay as her best friend, and Kay barely notices her. That’s a big part of the oppressiveness. It’s a great depiction of the shame that arises from associating with a narcissist. The book does not use the word narcissist (“frost in his eyes and frost in his heart”), but Gerta does name the shame she feels, and she breathes through it until it passes.

As in the fairy tale, Kay gets taken by the Snow Queen and Gerta goes after him. First thing, she gets caught by a milder kind of narcissist who is kind, but delays Gerta for her own purposes. “Gerta’s desire to be useful was an open road down which nearly any magic could walk.”

After she gets away, she still has difficulties and there is some violence, but she has more agency and less shame and the book is more comfortable to read. Her relationships with the allies she finds are delightful and kind.

Overall the book is engaging and beautifully written and surprising and inclusive. Highly recommended.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“The White Cat and the Monk” by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrations by Sydney Smith

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Subtitle: A Retelling of the Poem “Pangur Bán”

Recommended to me by: The White Cat and the Monk: A Lovely 9th-Century Ode to the Joy of Uncompetitive Purposefulness, Newly Illustrated

A lovely picture book, well-described by the recommending article, about a monk and his white cat. I could see it leading to a lot of questions if read to a small child, about monks, and cats catching mice. The drawings are enchanting.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Unraveling” by Karen Lord

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Recommended to me by: James Davis Nicoll

A murder mystery is being unraveled by supernatural beings with human allies. Not at all my sort of thing, but it’s a followup to Redemption In Indigo so I gave it a try. Unlike that book, which started off slowly for me, this one pulled me in immediately and I read it all in one sitting.

It tackles some serious topics along with the fast-moving plot. A class system that values land owners over everyone else. Paying attention to who matters and who doesn’t. Adjusting to disability, with a lot of support.

I enjoyed the ride! Stepping back, I didn’t quite follow some of the twists and turns of causality in the plot, and I’m not sure I agree with some of the deeper implications.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Bicycle/Race” by Adonia E. Lugo, Phd

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Subtitle: Transportation, Culture, & Resistance

Recommended to me by: Elly Blue

Adonia Lugo gives us both a warm memoir and a carefully researched overview of her anthropological study of racism in bicycling activism. She shares her background as a half-Mexican, half-white girl growing up in San Juan Capistrano in Southern California, her joyful involvement with bicycling as transportation while studying in Portland, and her direct experiences of racism and resistance as she pursued her PhD research. As part of it, she helped create the first cicLAvia in LA, where streets are closed to cars and opened to bicyclists and pedestrians.

Race and mobility are intertwined because we designed segregation into our built environments and how we police them, and racial equity in the distribution of public money isn’t a metaphor or a goal you opt into; it’s a legal obligation, thanks to the civil rights movement. I wasn’t pointing to the culture of white supremacy embedded in bike advocacy, policy, and planning because I wanted to cause trouble; it was about fulfilling the promise of our shared democracy.

She writes about the successive waves of colonization and conquest that shaped Southern California, the role of racism in people’s preference for private cars, selective police enforcement against people of color, and the reinforcement of white supremacy in the networks of people who set public policy. She writes about how her family’s loving support gave her the confidence to try to create change, and how she realized that entrenched systems were resisting her efforts.

Highly recommended! I read it a chapter or two at a time, with pauses to digest the information about the racist underpinnings of US culture and transportation.

Available at Microcosm Publishing.

“Running on Empty” by Jonice Webb, PhD

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Subtitle: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect

Emotional neglect is the whitespace between parental actions, what didn’t happen rather than what did happen. Lack of emotional connection, not paying attention, and not responding competently to the child’s emotional needs. The parent sees the child as an extension of themselves, a possession, or a burden, rather than a separate person.

The book describes twelve kinds of emotionally neglectful parents, with brief vignettes. The twelfth kind is the most common, “Well Meaning But Emotionally Neglected Themselves” parents.

Some effects of emotional neglect:

Some effects of emotional neglect are

  1. Feelings of Emptiness
  2. Counter-dependence (not depending on anyone)
  3. Unrealistic Self-Appraisal (not being mirrored by parents, lack of self-understanding)
  4. No Compassion for Self, Plenty for Others
  5. Guilt and Shame; What is Wrong with Me?
  6. Self-Directed Anger, Self-Blame
  7. The Fatal Flaw (If People Really Know Me They Won’t Like Me)
  8. Difficulty Nurturing Self and Others
  9. Poor Self-Discipline
  10. Alexithymia: Poor Awareness and Understanding of Emotions

There is also a brief, respectful chapter on suicidal feelings.

The second part of the book is “Filling the Tank.” It starts by talking about how change happens, gradually, with some setbacks, requiring ongoing persistence to move through avoidance and discomfort.

The sections on how to fill in missing parenting by acquiring new habits are trying to be helpful, but they feel glib and superficial. “Keep practicing these skills you never learned, you’ll get there eventually!” Topics include boundaries, emotional fluency, self-care, diet and exercise, and kind self-talk.

In the brief section on relationships, there is a useful tip on horizontal and vertical questioning. Horizontal questions ask for information and can be answered quickly. Vertical questions ask the person to turn inward to find and share understanding.

The chapter on parenting encourages stepping away from guilt and filling up yourself to be able to fill up your child.

The final chapter, for therapists, felt more helpful. Here is how to really help someone who was emotionally neglected, by providing what they missed out on, rather than the previous chapters that seem to say, “Figure this out for yourself.”

It is important to name and recognize Emotional Neglect in ourselves and others. The ideas in this book are groundbreaking and crucial. The self-help format does not quite work, but it is still worth reading. It reminds me of The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cori, which covers related ground with more focus on understanding what was missing and less focus on self-help.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“The Arrival” by Shaun Tan

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Recommended to me by: Sarah Pinsker

This book has no words, only illustrations. Whimsical and menacing by turns, the images tell the story of an immigrant’s parting with his family and arrival in a new land where everything is unexpected and askew. It was unclear until the end whether the macabre or the whimsy would win.

This book is far more serious than “picture book” would imply. The sepia-toned art is magnificently expressive.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“The Steerswoman” by Rosemary Kirstein

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Recommended to me by: Sumana Harihareswara

A fun fantasy book, first of a four-book series. The main protagonist is an intelligent, curious, capable woman, and the book easily passes the Bechdel Test. There was more casual violence than I’m comfortable with these days, although it wasn’t enough to make me stop reading.

It reminds me of The Riddle-Master of Hed series by Patricia McKillip, except with more explicit violence than I remember in that series.

You can read the first chapter for free here.

ETA: I have been reading the rest of the series as they become available at the library. The second was even more violent than the first. The third is a little less violent, but there is still mayhem. Nevertheless the world, characters, and relationships pull me through the books.

Available at Amazon.