Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to. Make space for another pile of books on your floor because here we go!

Today’s pick is an exploration of friendship coupled with a conversation on the ways in which white supremacy shows up in Western Buddhist practices.

Book cover of Radical Friendship: Seven Ways to Love Yourself and Find Your People in an Unjust World by Kate Johnson

Radical Friendship: Seven Ways to Love Yourself and Find Your People in an Unjust World by Kate Johnson

While I started this book with the expectation that it would be about how to become a better friend, I quickly realized it is so much more. In the exploration of friendship, the author is not limiting the idea or relationship of friendship only to your inner circle and expands the idea of friendship as a way of relating to other people, whether they be people you know or don’t know or maybe even people you don’t like. Thinking of friendship in this way makes room for friendship as a practice to help mitigate and maybe heal some of the ongoing trauma that is life in a white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, as well as act as a catalyst toward collective liberation.

If you are familiar with Buddhism, it can help with relating to this book, but if you are not, I still think there is value for you as well. Johnson writes that oppression is fundamentally fragmenting, and it is the essence of oppression to separate us and tear us apart. She posits that friendship is the way to heal this fracture. The bulk of the book is focused on the Mitta Sutta, a passage from a longer body of the Buddha’s teachings called the Anguttara Nikaya. The Mitta Sutta offers seven qualities of friendship. After some real talk about making friends with ourselves, Johnson then goes through each of these seven qualities, what they mean, how they show up in the world, how they show up in us and in friendships, and the ways we relate to other people, family included. The latter part of each chapter is about how we incorporate these qualities into a meditation practice as we also cultivate these qualities in ourselves.

As I mentioned earlier, there is also a lot of discussion on how white supremacy shows up in Western Buddhist practice. It is notable that a lot of the faces you see of authors writing on Buddhism and speaking at conferences and retreats are white. Because of this, some cultural touchpoints are often left out, such as the importance of connecting to our ancestors. Johnson also talks about many ways white supremacy shows up in Western Buddhist practice that I hadn’t even considered, like ideas of perfection or senses of urgency, two things I often struggle with when meditating — same with the frequent ideas that there is a right way or a perfect way to meditate or that I can bully myself into meditating correctly. This was an unexpected and excellent read.

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That’s it for now, book-lovers!


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