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How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community

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An Invitation to Community and Models for Connection After almost every presentation activist and writer Mia Birdsong gives to executives, think tanks, and policy makers, one of those leaders quietly confesses how much they long for the profound community she describes. They have family, friends, and colleagues, yet they still feel like they're standing alone. They're " An Invitation to Community and Models for Connection After almost every presentation activist and writer Mia Birdsong gives to executives, think tanks, and policy makers, one of those leaders quietly confesses how much they long for the profound community she describes. They have family, friends, and colleagues, yet they still feel like they're standing alone. They're "winning" at the American Dream, but they're lonely, disconnected, and unsatisfied. It seems counterintuitive that living the "good life"--the well-paying job, the nuclear family, the upward mobility--can make us feel isolated and unhappy. But in a divided America, where only a quarter of us know our neighbors and everyone is either a winner or a loser, we've forgotten the key element that helped us make progress in the first place: community. In this provocative, groundbreaking work, Mia Birdsong shows that what separates us isn't only the ever-present injustices built around race, class, gender, values, and beliefs, but also our denial of our interdependence and need for belonging. In response to the fear and discomfort we feel, we've built walls, and instead of leaning on each other, we find ourselves leaning on concrete. Through research, interviews, and stories of lived experience, How We Show Up returns us to our inherent connectedness where we find strength, safety, and support in vulnerability and generosity, in asking for help, and in being accountable. Showing up--literally and figuratively--points us toward the promise of our collective vitality and leads us to the liberated well-being we all want.


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An Invitation to Community and Models for Connection After almost every presentation activist and writer Mia Birdsong gives to executives, think tanks, and policy makers, one of those leaders quietly confesses how much they long for the profound community she describes. They have family, friends, and colleagues, yet they still feel like they're standing alone. They're " An Invitation to Community and Models for Connection After almost every presentation activist and writer Mia Birdsong gives to executives, think tanks, and policy makers, one of those leaders quietly confesses how much they long for the profound community she describes. They have family, friends, and colleagues, yet they still feel like they're standing alone. They're "winning" at the American Dream, but they're lonely, disconnected, and unsatisfied. It seems counterintuitive that living the "good life"--the well-paying job, the nuclear family, the upward mobility--can make us feel isolated and unhappy. But in a divided America, where only a quarter of us know our neighbors and everyone is either a winner or a loser, we've forgotten the key element that helped us make progress in the first place: community. In this provocative, groundbreaking work, Mia Birdsong shows that what separates us isn't only the ever-present injustices built around race, class, gender, values, and beliefs, but also our denial of our interdependence and need for belonging. In response to the fear and discomfort we feel, we've built walls, and instead of leaning on each other, we find ourselves leaning on concrete. Through research, interviews, and stories of lived experience, How We Show Up returns us to our inherent connectedness where we find strength, safety, and support in vulnerability and generosity, in asking for help, and in being accountable. Showing up--literally and figuratively--points us toward the promise of our collective vitality and leads us to the liberated well-being we all want.

30 review for How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community

  1. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    After hearing the podcast episode "Community as a Verb" on Everything Happens with Kate Bowler, I knew I had to read Mia Birdsong's new book! (Also, her TEDTalk "The story we tell about poverty isn't true" is fantastic and I'm looking forward to her podcast miniseries on guaranteed income.) I loved this book for its critical honesty, hope, and intersectional approaches to stories and solutions. It challenged how I conceive of family, friendships, and community. Through this book, I'm growing my After hearing the podcast episode "Community as a Verb" on Everything Happens with Kate Bowler, I knew I had to read Mia Birdsong's new book! (Also, her TEDTalk "The story we tell about poverty isn't true" is fantastic and I'm looking forward to her podcast miniseries on guaranteed income.) I loved this book for its critical honesty, hope, and intersectional approaches to stories and solutions. It challenged how I conceive of family, friendships, and community. Through this book, I'm growing my awareness of how ingrained and problematic the American Dream in regard to relationships is for many people. We, as a society, need to normalize new ways of being, but that also goes with a great expansion in understanding & acceptance of the myriad identities among us. From her website, this book "returns us to our inherent connectedness where we find strength, safety, and support in vulnerability and generosity, in asking for help, and in being accountable." Birdsong is one of my favorite thinkers, storytellers, and activists for these times.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Judith von Kirchbach

    Inspiring Read ! A very insightful book about an inclusive community and how to build it. It highlights how far from true community many of us have come following the American Dream and it‘s stereotypical goals of two parent family, two kids, two cars and a fence around this nuclear family. It highlights action pints through personal stories while also informing in a more academic way on societal matters. Very inspiring !

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    What a joy. I long for everyone I know to read this, for us to collectively be this. I love this book for making a part of the liberation we want juicy and here for us in the present.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Esther | lifebyesther

    #gifted This book taught me a lot about community, safety, and chosen families. Birdsong's charge that the American Dream is a false promise that encourages toxic individualism and "remains defined by whiteness and masculinity" in particular really stood out to me, because it makes so much sense. She also goes on to say that self-care shouldn't be about spending money and that self-care is actually revolution, especially for people who occupy the margins because "I can be more present for my com #gifted This book taught me a lot about community, safety, and chosen families. Birdsong's charge that the American Dream is a false promise that encourages toxic individualism and "remains defined by whiteness and masculinity" in particular really stood out to me, because it makes so much sense. She also goes on to say that self-care shouldn't be about spending money and that self-care is actually revolution, especially for people who occupy the margins because "I can be more present for my community when I'm well rested and caring for my body." Reading both these points feel particularly poignant in this pandemic. The number of cases keep rising in the US because people refuse to let go of their individualism, and businesses reopen earlier than is safe because we can more about profits than lives. In addition, as we stay at home, many of us (myself included) have turned to online shopping, hoping to buy our ways to happiness. But quarantine is actually giving us the time and place to practice mindfulness, rest, and reflection. The book started out really strong for me, but I wish there were fewer anecdotes about Birdsong's friends and more expositions on concepts.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emily Gray

    This book is both one activist’s thoughts on how vital community is and how they have cultivated it in their life, and also a collection of case studies. These case studies, illustrated through interviews, show the various ways in which community can powerfully exist outside of church and the nuclear family — or at least free from the oppressive expectations that these societal ideals often inflict. Mia Birdsong’s advice and ruminations helped me reflect on what I want and need to work on in mys This book is both one activist’s thoughts on how vital community is and how they have cultivated it in their life, and also a collection of case studies. These case studies, illustrated through interviews, show the various ways in which community can powerfully exist outside of church and the nuclear family — or at least free from the oppressive expectations that these societal ideals often inflict. Mia Birdsong’s advice and ruminations helped me reflect on what I want and need to work on in myself. I think I’ll read this again in a few years when I have my own home and children - there were some parts of this which are not yet quite relevant for me, but I still appreciate her honesty and eye opening examination of what community means and why it matters so much.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    I'm massively inspired by this book, and I may end up recategorizing it to five stars over time. Right now, I wish it would have addressed the way we sometimes lose our stamina for the inherent challenges of community when we move towards communities of choice rather than inherited communities and communities of circumstance. This is not a bad thing, but something that must be acknowledged and confronted. Since this is such a big theme for me right now in work and life, it sticks out for me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I only wish this book had hit with time to hear about this community connection and activism in the time of a global pandemic. A great listen.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Durand

    This book is amazing. Inspiring and practical. The author paints a vivid picture of what community is and can be. And how we can be part of creating and maintaining it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brooke

    So much to think about in this book! I’m inspired to reflect on how to invest more deeply in building connection, support, and accountability in my community. I particularly liked the honest questioning and pushing against personal assumptions the author included as a transparent example of how to learn from the examples in the book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jalisa

    "How We Show Up" affirmed the spaces I currently have to be in nourishing community w/ chosen family, gave me ideas for how to deepen relationships, and made me envious and excited for the possibilities of non-normative car. There are great concrete examples of ways of doing love, family, and community differently which are needed more than ever as we are in a time when connection is needed now more than ever,

  11. 4 out of 5

    Agatoni

    This book is an argument for community -- building it; reimagining it. It was a slow read for me & this felt unwelcome at times but How We Show Up is probably the most interesting book I've read this year, so far. The central ideas include: the interplay between individual self-care & communal care; family beyond blood & legal ties & beyond the nuclear kind; committed relationships beyond romantic coupledom (‘queerplatonic’ relationships); boundaries and intimacy; gathering; and accountability. Th This book is an argument for community -- building it; reimagining it. It was a slow read for me & this felt unwelcome at times but How We Show Up is probably the most interesting book I've read this year, so far. The central ideas include: the interplay between individual self-care & communal care; family beyond blood & legal ties & beyond the nuclear kind; committed relationships beyond romantic coupledom (‘queerplatonic’ relationships); boundaries and intimacy; gathering; and accountability. They have been many books written about each of those individual topics; How We Show Up is a view from the top that connects these seemingly disparate subjects that in some shape or form attempt to answer, “How does one reconcile the autonomy, agency, responsibility, and mutuality? What’s mine to carry, what’s someone else’s to carry, and what do we hold collectively?” I recommend this to anyone curious about community, even, and especially, the sceptic. This book may not change your mind about what kind of community you wish to participate in but it will probably orient you to the possibilities.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anders Brabaek

    This is about the value and importance of community, and how community and building connections can help us in creating better life's and a better society. This is described in a semiautobiographical way with with the stories of friends and other people. The book is very US centric. This is both with regard to the community building where the church is consistently a part. It is also shows in the stereotypical gender roles that permutates the book. This is interesting because while the author, M This is about the value and importance of community, and how community and building connections can help us in creating better life's and a better society. This is described in a semiautobiographical way with with the stories of friends and other people. The book is very US centric. This is both with regard to the community building where the church is consistently a part. It is also shows in the stereotypical gender roles that permutates the book. This is interesting because while the author, Mia, doesn't want or support the US stereotypical gender roles, she has clearly internalized them. Mia never steps out of the American "cocoon"/the American perspective, and in that she loses out on a lot of perspectives on her own culture - she misses valuable perspectives. And that is actually sad because otherwise I loves what it is she is trying to convey here. In short, this book is written for an American audience, and will unfortunately appeal much more to (resourceful) women than men.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jansyn

    It was reassuring to feel resonance and familiarity with all of Mia Birdsong’s suggestions for how to build community. I’ve already heard about a lot of these practices and participated in them too. I particularly resonated with page 222 about being in proximity to community in a small town and not being able to be anonymous or have multiple realities: “Being relentlessly known terrifies us, but I think we also crave the freedom of it. If you can’t hide yourself, at some point you just have to be It was reassuring to feel resonance and familiarity with all of Mia Birdsong’s suggestions for how to build community. I’ve already heard about a lot of these practices and participated in them too. I particularly resonated with page 222 about being in proximity to community in a small town and not being able to be anonymous or have multiple realities: “Being relentlessly known terrifies us, but I think we also crave the freedom of it. If you can’t hide yourself, at some point you just have to be, like, “Fuck it.” It’s treatment for the existential loneliness we all experience no matter where we live.”

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    We were given this book as a gift from our school district and I am SO GLAD! I may not have otherwise stumbled upon this gem. Full of thought provoking ideas, ideals, anecdotes, research, stories and more, this book offers something important for EVERYONE.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Yeomelakis

    Recommended by Aminatou Sow

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Wonderful meditation and stories about how people find, build, and benefit from building communities.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mo Young

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tara Humphries

  20. 4 out of 5

    Allison b

  21. 5 out of 5

    Yara

  22. 5 out of 5

    Erin Lavender-stott

  23. 5 out of 5

    Melinda Payne

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amber

  25. 4 out of 5

    Angie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Luther

  27. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bukky Adebayo

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shanon

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matt

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