This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us (Paperback)
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In her stunning debut, the creator of Black Liturgies weaves stories from three generations of her family alongside contemplative reflections to discover the “necessary rituals” that connect us with our belonging, dignity, and liberation.
“This is the kind of book that makes you different when you’re done.”—Ashley C. Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter
“Reaches deep beneath the surface of words unspoken, wounds unhealed, and secrets untempered to break them open in order for fresh light to break through.”—Morgan Jerkins, New York Times bestselling author of This Will Be My Undoing and Caul Baby
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Root, Library Journal
“From the womb, we must repeat with regularity that to love ourselves is to survive. I believe that is what my father wanted for me and knew I would so desperately need: a tool for survival, the truth of my dignity named like a mercy new each morning.”
So writes Cole Arthur Riley in her unforgettable book of stories and reflections on discovering the sacred in her skin. In these deeply transporting pages, Arthur Riley reflects on the stories of her grandmother and father, and how they revealed to her an embodied, dignity-affirming spirituality, not only in what they believed but in the act of living itself. Writing memorably of her own childhood and coming to self, Arthur Riley boldly explores some of the most urgent questions of life and faith: How can spirituality not silence the body, but instead allow it to come alive? How do we honor, lament, and heal from the stories we inherit? How can we find peace in a world overtaken with dislocation, noise, and unrest? In this indelible work of contemplative storytelling, Arthur Riley invites us to descend into our own stories, examine our capacity to rest, wonder, joy, rage, and repair, and find that our humanity is not an enemy to faith but evidence of it.
At once a compelling spiritual meditation, a powerful intergenerational account, and a tender coming-of-age narrative, This Here Flesh speaks potently to anyone who suspects that our stories might have something to say to us.
About the Author
Cole Arthur Riley is the creator of Black Liturgies, a space for Black spiritual words of liberation, lament, rage, and rest; and a project of The Center for Dignity and Contemplation where she serves as Executive Curator. Born and for the most part raised in Pittsburgh, Cole studied Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. She once took a professor’s advice very seriously to begin writing a little every day, and has followed it for nearly a decade.
“Arthur Riley’s quest to discover the ‘necessary rituals’ connecting us to a sense of belonging, dignity, liberation, and faith prompts her to plumb the stories of her grandmother and father to reveal an affirming spirituality rooted in kindness, love, and deep holiness.”—Oprah Daily
“This book is an invitation into the delicate weavings of family, inheritance, and pain, how they mark a bloodline and connect a people. Cole Arthur Riley writes with grace and gravity. And somehow she teaches us to think of ourselves as deserving of such grace along the way. This is the kind of book that makes you different when you’re done.”—Ashley C. Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter
“Welcome the rising of Arthur Riley’s astonishing voice. This is a gorgeous and muscular work.”—Krista Tippett, host of On Being and New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Wise
“Timeless . . . This is a book I know I will return to again and again. Through this work, I am reminded I am seen. I am reminded I am free.”—Morgan Harper Nichols, artist and poet
“Exquisite . . . Arthur Riley’s writing is both transporting and hauntingly intimate as she narrates this important account of generational inheritance. The stories and meditations in this book are sure to stay with you forever.”—Ayọ Tometi, human rights advocate and co-founder of Black Lives Matter
“Through a narrative of family and generation, Arthur Riley speaks of a Blackness so beautiful it can’t be contained and a liberation that is present and possible. This Here Flesh is an invitation to hold space, return home, and rediscover joy.”—Amena Brown, poet, author, and host of the podcast HER with Amena Brown
“In this beautiful, soul-stirring book, we rediscover a sense of awe for the bodies that make us, the stories that ground us, and the delicate grace that enlivens our spirits.”—Kate Bowler, New York Times bestselling author of No Cure for Being Human
“This Here Flesh is a gospel to what we remember. This book is rigorous, joyous, complex, and honest, and tells the story of how we get free. It is a story that would not let me go.”—Danté Stewart, author of Shoutin’ in the Fire
“In This Here Flesh, Cole Arthur Riley reaches deep beneath the surface of words unspoken, wounds unhealed, and secrets untempered, breaking them open to let fresh light through. Her personal anecdotes alongside Biblical anchors are serene vehicles through which any reader will remember the preciousness of their body, their humanity, and most of all, their dignity.”—Morgan Jerkins, New York Times bestselling author of Caul Baby
“A wonderfully winsome, heartbreakingly honest, and ever-poetic work of spiritual biography and theological reflection . . .”—Library Journal (starred review)