Friday, December 15, 2017

Nonfiction: Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

The full title of today's selection is Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Bren é Brown, author of Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, is once again writing about courage, vulnerability, and shame, and this time she has extended the discussion to include what it means to truly belong and what it looks like when we dare to stand up for ourselves, even if that means we stand alone.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a nonfiction, self-help book and the latest addition to Brown's already impressive and influential body of work. Themes from her previous work, including courage and vulnerability, still make their appearance here, but with the primary focus on the paradox of true belonging while standing alone. Brown asserts that to stand alone, we must brave the wilderness, and that can be hard, even painful. Brown not only pulls from her research, but also her personal experience, the personal experience and stories of others, as well as current events and today's political environment. The tone of this book differs slightly from previous ones in that, at least to me, it seems more direct, but still without being punishing. That is not to say that what she says will not be hard to hear for some (or most), or even cause some hurt feelings or anger, especially when she discusses politics. But like her previous works, Brown is extending the conversation on true courage and how ultimately, vulnerability is still at the root of it.

My Verdict: Opinions on this book seem to be split. It may be Brown's most polarizing work. Some praise it just as they did Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. Others believe Brown phoned this one in, citing how short it is (with only 163 pages of actual narrative content), the somewhat extensive use of quotes and other people's research, and the often seemingly repetitive nature of the message. I suppose that leaves me somewhere in the middle. The shortness of it is what first made me suspect that this book may have been a cash grab, or at least something that was published just to have something to publish, if that makes sense. With a little more time and a bit more research, the book could have been fleshed out to at least make the 200 page mark. Even as it stands, the last ten pages or so felt forced and a repeat of what was already covered. However, everything before that I found to be just as insightful, thought-provoking, and of course, helpful as her previous books. And yes, she does get political, sort of. But with things the way they are in this country currently, it would seem like an act of cowardice to ignore the topic completely, and Brown's research is about showing up and standing up.

Favorite Moment: When Brown tells several short stories about collective joy and pain: those moments we share with strangers during some of the most joyful or the most painful events.

Favorite Quotes: "They tell you to develop a think skin so things don't get to you. What they don't tell you is that your thick skin will keep everything from getting out, too. Love, intimacy, vulnerability. I don't want that. Thick skin doesn't work anymore. I want to be transparent and translucent. For that to work, I won't own other people's shortcomings and criticisms. I won't put what you say about me on my load." - Viola Davis

"There's an unspoken message that the only stories worth telling are the stories that end up in history books. This is not true. Every story matters. My father's story matters. We are all worthy of telling our stories and having them heard. We all need to be seen and honored in the same way that we all need to breathe." - Viola Davis

Recommended Reading: Of the three books I have read by Brown, Rising Strong remains my favorite. I also recommend Susan Cain's Quiet.    

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