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2020 Chautauqua Prize Finalist
2020 NAACP Image Award Nominee - Outstanding Literary Work (Nonfiction)
Best-of Lists: Best Nonfiction Books of 2019 (Kirkus Reviews); 25 Can't-Miss Books of 2019 (The Undefeated)
Explores the terror, grace, and beauty of coming of age as a black person in contemporary America and what it means to parent our children in a persistently unjust world.
Emotionally raw and deeply reflective, Imani Perry issues an unflinching challenge to society to see black children as deserving of humanity. She admits fear and frustration for her African-American sons in a society that is increasingly racist and at times seems irredeemable. However, as a mother, feminist, writer, and intellectual, Perry offers an unfettered expression of love - finding beauty and possibility in life - and she exhorts her children and their peers to find the courage to chart their own paths and find steady footing and inspiration in black tradition.
Perry draws upon the ideas of figures such as James Baldwin, W. E. B. DuBois, Emily Dickinson, Toni Morrison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Ida B. Wells. She shares vulnerabilities and insight from her own life and from encounters in places as varied as the West Side of Chicago; Birmingham, Alabama; and New England prep schools.
With original art for the cover by Ekua Holmes, Breathe offers a broader meditation on race, gender, and the meaning of a life well-lived and is also an unforgettable lesson in black resistance and resilience.
"This mother’s striking and generous admonition to thrive even in the face of white mendacity also is a meditation on parenting. Reflective insights about injustice adjoin a few visceral apologies about every responsible parent’s regrets, which might remind parents of the divide between ‘the deed of giving life’ and ‘the social consequence of the deed.’ For Black boys and their parents who struggle to get childhood and mothering-along or fathering-along correct: ‘Just always remember: even if you tumble...you must move towards freedom.’” (Booklist, starred review)
“There are moments when a piece of writing is so honest, so personal, that it crawls into us....Breathe is that. Perry gives us a look into what it means to love her children - her Black sons - in a world that may not. What it means to arm them with information, history, culture, spirit, pride, and joy. What it means to celebrate with them the vastness of their lineage and the tight network of community, which affords them an impenetrable freedom to be. To just...be. And as Perry gives this to her sons - her family - with such candor and respect, I couldn’t help but hear my own mother speaking her truth, our truth, to me.” (Jason Reynolds, author of the Track series: Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu)
“Breathe is a masterpiece. With an approach that is at once vulnerable and brave, scholarly and artistic, critical and hopeful, Imani Perry has written the book that we desperately need. Breathe arms us with the wisdom, courage, and hope necessary to parent Black children within a White supremacist world. Breathe not only demonstrates Perry’s deep love of her sons but also her profound and abiding faith in the rich traditions, ambitious freedom dreams, and boundless possibilities of Black people. This is an offering of profound beauty and brilliance that marks Imani Perry’s emergence as the leading writer and thinker of this generation.” (Marc Lamont Hill)
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Delightful peek into the heart & soul of a mother
It felt as if I had stumbled upon a private journal left open for my prying eyes. I found a quiet corner & listened. I lost myself a few times as I reflected on my own experiences and I went on a little bit of an emotional roller coaster but in the end I felt lifted and so full of love. A beautiful letter written from the heart & soul of a mother to every child. Thanks for sharing.
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- Imani Cheers
Such a beautifully written and narrated book. Imani Perry is superb in her analysis and commentary. A must read.
sometimes hard to focus on subject as narrator jumped around often in her train of thought