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This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us

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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 Da 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 "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.


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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 Da 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 "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.

30 review for This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us

  1. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    THIS HERE FLESH by Cole Arthur Reilly is a stunning achievement. Her words are a gift that, time and again, wrecked me in the most beautiful ways. The fifteen chapters are framed around insights on dignity, place, belonging, fear, lament, liberation, and more. Arthur Reilly's vulnerability in sharing insights gained from physical limitations, from being a Black woman of faith, and her transparency when discussing her Gramma and her father, lead to deep reflections. Time and again, I found myself THIS HERE FLESH by Cole Arthur Reilly is a stunning achievement. Her words are a gift that, time and again, wrecked me in the most beautiful ways. The fifteen chapters are framed around insights on dignity, place, belonging, fear, lament, liberation, and more. Arthur Reilly's vulnerability in sharing insights gained from physical limitations, from being a Black woman of faith, and her transparency when discussing her Gramma and her father, lead to deep reflections. Time and again, I found myself near tears, or openly crying (not a familiar response). As I reflected on this reaction, occurring across different days and weeks, I think it's due to how refreshing such honesty is, how welcoming to read the hope, to have her name truths. The phrase "defiant rootedness," for example, so perfectly captures the idea of perseverance and hope in spite of all, the insistence of one's worth and determination to remain. Some books you meet at the right moment, and at a time when I've been more introspective and reflective, this has been a perfect companion, a welcome balm when things have felt fragile and uncertain in the world. (I received a digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Martinez

    This book is one that I read in a day but that will leave me pondering over its contents for a long, long while. I started following the author, Cole Arthur Riley (@blackliturgies) on Instagram a while ago, and when I saw she had written a book, I knew I had to read it. The way Riley shares her reflections on spirituality intertwined with the stories of her life and the lives of those who have shaped her is just poignant, thought-provoking, courageous, beautiful, and much needed. Absolutely will This book is one that I read in a day but that will leave me pondering over its contents for a long, long while. I started following the author, Cole Arthur Riley (@blackliturgies) on Instagram a while ago, and when I saw she had written a book, I knew I had to read it. The way Riley shares her reflections on spirituality intertwined with the stories of her life and the lives of those who have shaped her is just poignant, thought-provoking, courageous, beautiful, and much needed. Absolutely will be buying a physical copy of this one, because it deserves a highlighter and tiny notes written in the margins. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ethan

    The ruminations and meditations of the author about life in America as a Black person, a woman, and a person who suffers from chronic illness, as well as the lives of her father and grandmother. The work is very powerfully and compellingly written. As a reviewer I cannot do justice to the raw power and vulnerability of her prose. It is a work to be read and experienced; one feels as if one is receiving power and energy from that vulnerability and the setting forth of the story, and one can unders The ruminations and meditations of the author about life in America as a Black person, a woman, and a person who suffers from chronic illness, as well as the lives of her father and grandmother. The work is very powerfully and compellingly written. As a reviewer I cannot do justice to the raw power and vulnerability of her prose. It is a work to be read and experienced; one feels as if one is receiving power and energy from that vulnerability and the setting forth of the story, and one can understand the reason for faith, yet doubt, and yet faith the author experiences. Go read and experience. **--galley received as part of early review program.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Felix Hommy Gonzalez

    This is a top contender to be my favorite book OF ALL TIME. To be sure if it is, I have to think a little more. But right now I can say that this book is the most beautifully written, with the most unique writing style that I have ever read. I’m an avid reader. I have read a lot. And I have never read anyone who writes like Cole Arthur Riley does. She’s the most brilliant writer I’ve had the pleasure to read and every single one of the sentences she writes is a complete and perfect poem. You don’t This is a top contender to be my favorite book OF ALL TIME. To be sure if it is, I have to think a little more. But right now I can say that this book is the most beautifully written, with the most unique writing style that I have ever read. I’m an avid reader. I have read a lot. And I have never read anyone who writes like Cole Arthur Riley does. She’s the most brilliant writer I’ve had the pleasure to read and every single one of the sentences she writes is a complete and perfect poem. You don’t even need to care about the topics she discuss (while I cared a lot, and I believe everyone should care): even if it wasn’t for you, if you read this book, you will not be able to dispute that this is one of the most gifted writers of this generation. And many generations from now, her books will be considered classics and be studied all over the world. Mark my words. So, while it’s probable, I’m not completely sure if it’s my all time favorite book (but it’s definitely in my top five). But without a single doubt, I can say that Cole Arthur Riley is my favorite author. And this book was her debut. That’s how good she is at this. And I can’t conceive how any person would rate this book with any other rating than 5 impressive stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cathy Kolwey

    Imagine if Toni Morrison and Anne Lamott were one person and wrote a book. It would be This Here Flesh. Beautiful prose. Deep vulnerability. Profound theology. This is a book that will change your worldview, and your perspective on God. And you will savor every line along the way. This should be on every person’s summer reading list.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michaelann

    If I could give this book 10 out of 5 stars, I would. I have never had such a visceral reading experience as I have with THIS HERE FLESH. Her words make me physically groan, whimper, shout, sigh. It's almost more than my body can take in. It's fitting for a book about the body. I don't know how she did it. The stories are sometimes shocking and deeply sad, but more shocking is the power she has to turn my worldview upside down with a sentence. Her writing is simply gorgeous. Her thinking is crisp If I could give this book 10 out of 5 stars, I would. I have never had such a visceral reading experience as I have with THIS HERE FLESH. Her words make me physically groan, whimper, shout, sigh. It's almost more than my body can take in. It's fitting for a book about the body. I don't know how she did it. The stories are sometimes shocking and deeply sad, but more shocking is the power she has to turn my worldview upside down with a sentence. Her writing is simply gorgeous. Her thinking is crisp. Read this book. It is stunning.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    This is an absolute stand out. This left me at times feeling like I’d never read anything like it & other times feeling like these were truths I’ve always known said in ways to make them new again. Arthur Riley has a beautiful way with words, & she brings her contemplative spirit into her storytelling seamlessly. This is a spiritual book with something for everyone. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. “I don’t have many certainties about God. I do have many hopes. Chief among them is that it’s true This is an absolute stand out. This left me at times feeling like I’d never read anything like it & other times feeling like these were truths I’ve always known said in ways to make them new again. Arthur Riley has a beautiful way with words, & she brings her contemplative spirit into her storytelling seamlessly. This is a spiritual book with something for everyone. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. “I don’t have many certainties about God. I do have many hopes. Chief among them is that it’s true what they say: that God is love, is made of love, and looks at the faces of you and me and my gramma and, without hesitation or demand, delights.”

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    Deeply moving, beautiful truth-telling. I read it slowly because I wanted to savor every word. It is contemplative and thought-provoking. Some chapters I will probably sit with for a while (Place, Lament). I feel seen and inspired. Truly, this is a work of art. Added to my “absolute favorites” and “left convicted” shelves.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kayla

    Beautiful, moving, complex, compelling, telling, illusive, memorable… and so much more. One I’ll be discussing and considering and recommending for a long time.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Amethyst

    I once visited a Black women-owned, independent bookstore specializing in non-fiction, Source Booksellers, and I asked one of the owners what a book she hoped everyone would read would be. She refused to answer with a single book, saying that everyone is on their own reading journey and that people should follow their interests and what they feel led to read. This Here Flesh feels like that - a book that I was led to read. It was not on my radar at all until I saw Andre Henry plug it; then I fee I once visited a Black women-owned, independent bookstore specializing in non-fiction, Source Booksellers, and I asked one of the owners what a book she hoped everyone would read would be. She refused to answer with a single book, saying that everyone is on their own reading journey and that people should follow their interests and what they feel led to read. This Here Flesh feels like that - a book that I was led to read. It was not on my radar at all until I saw Andre Henry plug it; then I feel like I kept seeing it everywhere. When I finally listened to the audiobook sample, I felt compelled to buy and download it. Within the first 20-minutes of listening, tears were welling up in my eyes. I wasn't searching for a book on contemplative spirituality, but I'm glad I read this. It feels like healing, like acceptance. This is a book I would want to listen to on a long hike, taking moments to pause, write, and reflect. She begins with a preface, stating that she is not writing new things or ideas; "it's more remembrance than revelation, more maybes than certainty". Instead, this is how she has found meaning in the old and perhaps familiar. In the following 15 chapters, she tackles a variety of topics including affirming others' dignity (not giving it), the delusion of positivity, and the necessity of activism. She weaves in intimate, sometimes traumatic details from her personal life and of her family's lives and their interconnectedness. There are many quotable moments in this book, but here are just a couple of my favorites: "There will always be people more threatened by freedom in another person, who have something to gain from our bondage, and there are also voices who deeply love us but are unable to exist in the tension of who we are and what we believe and who they desire us to be and what they desire for our beliefs. This is the life of a human, particularly a human with any concern for belonging or survival." "I think we can be fully free yet still have the capacity to become more free." Cole Arthur Riley is best known as the creator of Black Liturgies, a space for Black spiritual words of liberation, lament, rage, and rest. She and the spaces she has created are a gift. While I won't go against the wisdom of not recommending everyone read any single book (including this one), if your reading journey leads you to this or any of Riley's offerings, I believe you will be better because of it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    This book is a rare find. Normally I seek to devour these types of books in short sessions. This book had so much to unpack, so much beauty in the pages that I forced myself to read slowly and let it soak in. Every word, every chapter was worth it. This book is both inviting and challenging. Familiar and new. I’ve been following @blackliturgies for years now but somehow the writing in this book is even more breathtaking than I could imagine. Whatever you think this book is, I encourage you to com This book is a rare find. Normally I seek to devour these types of books in short sessions. This book had so much to unpack, so much beauty in the pages that I forced myself to read slowly and let it soak in. Every word, every chapter was worth it. This book is both inviting and challenging. Familiar and new. I’ve been following @blackliturgies for years now but somehow the writing in this book is even more breathtaking than I could imagine. Whatever you think this book is, I encourage you to come in with an open mind. It’s genre-defying and so much more than what I thought going into it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Leita Williams

    I'll say this, this might be my favorite book of all time. I carried this around for weeks like a security blanket I was given at birth. I'm certain it's the most impactful book on spirituality that I've read, but it also opened a window into understanding things like body, dignity, community, wonder, and rage in ways I have never considered below. It's not just for the spiritual reader. It's for anyone who wants to learn how to pay attention, how to live inside their body, and who enjoys a fasci I'll say this, this might be my favorite book of all time. I carried this around for weeks like a security blanket I was given at birth. I'm certain it's the most impactful book on spirituality that I've read, but it also opened a window into understanding things like body, dignity, community, wonder, and rage in ways I have never considered below. It's not just for the spiritual reader. It's for anyone who wants to learn how to pay attention, how to live inside their body, and who enjoys a fascinating intergenerational story. Think: Toni Morrison meets Ocean Vuong meets Mary Oliver meets Henri Nouwen, meets Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, and James Baldwin. Oh, and maybe Wendell Berry as well. Just think of the most lyrical, piercing writers, and people you trust with your whole heart, and then you will start getting close to Cole Arthur Riley's storytelling. If you're an audiobook person, this is also a wonderful listen. Lastly, I dare you to find any bad reviews of this book. Every single person I know who has read it sees stainglass where windows once were. Loads of beautiful, aching truth here folks.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Rowland

    Like many people, I found Cole Arthur Riley through her brilliant Instagram account, @blackliturgies. I was familiar with her work there, but still was blown away by the depth and beauty of her words here. I wanted to include a quote (or 9), but my book is so littered with underlines and notations, I couldn’t possibly choose just one. Her reflections on work and awe, dignity and justice, fear and rest and liberation are so effortlessly profound. Phrases like, “a slow and excruciating miracle” sto Like many people, I found Cole Arthur Riley through her brilliant Instagram account, @blackliturgies. I was familiar with her work there, but still was blown away by the depth and beauty of her words here. I wanted to include a quote (or 9), but my book is so littered with underlines and notations, I couldn’t possibly choose just one. Her reflections on work and awe, dignity and justice, fear and rest and liberation are so effortlessly profound. Phrases like, “a slow and excruciating miracle” stopped me in my tracks. I enjoyed reading this slowly, a chapter at a time, and letting her words marinate. I know I’ll be revisiting this book over and over. It is such a beautiful affirmation of our dignity as image bearers. She doesn’t shy away from the horrors and injustices of this world, but there is a thread of stubborn belief in the goodness of creation woven throughout this book. As she says, “True lament is not born from the trite sentiment that the world is bad but rather from a deep conviction that is worthy of goodness.” I simply could not recommend this book enough. Her words are a balm and a fire, all at once.

  14. 5 out of 5

    William Cheung

    "Our liberation begins with the irrevocable belief that we are worthy to be liberated, that we are worthy of a life that does NOT degrade us but honors our whole selves." Cole Arthur Riley speaks with great wisdom through lived experience - I'm grateful for her words reminding us of our fullness in humanity and an invitation to return to ourselves, noticing our bodies, and breathing as an act of resistance. So much of my life I was taught to remove myself from the "flesh," but I'm learning that l "Our liberation begins with the irrevocable belief that we are worthy to be liberated, that we are worthy of a life that does NOT degrade us but honors our whole selves." Cole Arthur Riley speaks with great wisdom through lived experience - I'm grateful for her words reminding us of our fullness in humanity and an invitation to return to ourselves, noticing our bodies, and breathing as an act of resistance. So much of my life I was taught to remove myself from the "flesh," but I'm learning that leaning into my body in my vulnerability is exactly to be human! To recognize the need for rest, to be able to cry, to see someone else is to see ourselves first. "Wonder requires a person not to forget themselves but to feel themselves so acutely that their connectedness to every created thing comes into focus." To remind ourselves that God, the creator of the cosmos, relies on embodied creation. I'm thankful for Riley's reminder that the spiritual realm is so enmeshed with the physical that it is imperceptible. That healing makes us better perceivers of what is still hurting. There's a lot to sit with after reading this book, and I'm encouraged to practice more embodied ways of living.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amandanoel

    I probably should have taken my time a bit more with this book. (After all it is about contemplative thought.) But it was so beautiful and hard and there are so many images and phrases that will stick with me. This book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it was what I needed right now and feels like a very appropriate one for the Lenten season

  16. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Trovato

    Couldn’t love this book more. Her writing is intoxicating, her stories haunting, and her reflections are nothing short of prophetic. Favorite book of the year so far. The wisdom in This Here Flesh is universal, raw, unflinching, compelling, and altering. I will read this one again, I will gift it, and recommend it for years to come. Thank you, Cole.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Hunt

    Wow! What a remarkable debut. I checked this out from the library, but if I had bought my own copy, it would be highlighted and marked up in the margins. Do yourself a favor and read it and let some of her words just sit with you.

  18. 4 out of 5

    K.E.

    Wow. This book is filled to the brim with so many beautiful words that describe feelings I can't articulate. It made me cry and rested so close to my heart. Wow. This book is filled to the brim with so many beautiful words that describe feelings I can't articulate. It made me cry and rested so close to my heart.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Diana B.

    My review absolutely wont do this justice. This book is amazing. Its written like poetry and was such a joy to read. The author is so deeply in touch with spirituality and humanity. The way she writes completely draws you in.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Thanks to Convergent Books and Netgalley fo the opportunity to read and review this title prior to publication. I don't remember how I heard about this book, and I was a little unsure about it as I began, since this is a debut. Wow. I plan to purchase this for my own shelves and maybe a few extra copies to give away. This book also landed in one of my top books of 2021! The author's writing was exquisite, and the organization of chapters and ideas was perfect. I found myself waking in the middle Thanks to Convergent Books and Netgalley fo the opportunity to read and review this title prior to publication. I don't remember how I heard about this book, and I was a little unsure about it as I began, since this is a debut. Wow. I plan to purchase this for my own shelves and maybe a few extra copies to give away. This book also landed in one of my top books of 2021! The author's writing was exquisite, and the organization of chapters and ideas was perfect. I found myself waking in the middle of the night to read this and then not being able to sleep because she made me think and feel. This was a perfect meditative book to close out 2021, and I look forward to dipping back in and out in the coming years. Grateful for the way she weaves her narrative and meditation on topics such as fear, lament, joy, and memory, among others. Highly, highly recommend!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andree Miller

    The local library is one of my happy places. As I walked through the library, absorbing its calm and quietness, I saw This Here Flesh on a pedestal as a featured book. I sighed audibly as I grabbed it. I follow the author on IG on her Black Liturgies page. Her writing often encourages me that I add her posts to my stories. So when I heard she wrote a book, it was only a matter of time before I got my hands on a copy. Where do I begin? We are sacred human beings, flawed and all. From this space of The local library is one of my happy places. As I walked through the library, absorbing its calm and quietness, I saw This Here Flesh on a pedestal as a featured book. I sighed audibly as I grabbed it. I follow the author on IG on her Black Liturgies page. Her writing often encourages me that I add her posts to my stories. So when I heard she wrote a book, it was only a matter of time before I got my hands on a copy. Where do I begin? We are sacred human beings, flawed and all. From this space of holy humanity, with stories from her elders, particularly her gramma and father, we are serenaded with words that heal. Hers is not an easy story to tell, yet the Divine is woven through her story. There is deep trauma in her family in the form of racism, poverty, abandonment, and abuse. She also wrestles with unexplained health challenges. These moments bring out a depth of thought, reckoning with our circumstances, and still having joy in endeavoring to live life the best we can. This book invites us to descend into our own mythologies; examine our capacity to rest, wonder, rejoice, rage and repair; and find that our humanity is not an enemy to faith but evidence of it (Excerpt from the inside flap). There's an abundance of riches in this book. Here are a few of my favorites: How can anyone who is made to bear the likeness to the maker of the cosmos be anything less than glory? This is inherent dignity. Do you know the promised land? Tasted the milk and honey on a sagging tongue? I know a place. Children are made of awe. We have much to learn from them but we seldom do. Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalms 34:8). The Bible talks about knowing God as though its closer to dinner and a movie than any three-point sermon. What does it mean that our knowledge of the spiritual is deeply entwined with the sensory? That it is bodily? I'm not convinced I will ever hear from God in the way others have. Some callings come to you in memory. Some come only from the mouth of someone you trust. Some don't need to be heard in order to be lived. And not all calls come from outside of you. At the intersection of belonging and choice, you'll often find friendship. Durable friendship is a bond that is able to endure both truth-telling and conflict. Bonds without these things become brittle. I am suspicious of anyone who can observe colonization, genocide and decay in the world and not be stirred to lament in some way. True lament is not born from that trite sentiment that the world is bad but rather from a deep conviction that it is worthy of goodness. I've highlighted pictures of paragraphs from the book which resonated with me. I'll have to purchase my own copy for referring to these thoughts whenever I need them. So much goodness here. I can't wait for you to read this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Bergstrom de Leon

    Though I am a pastor, I tend not to read a lot of religious, theological or even spiritual books throughout the year, at least not in comparison to the number of books I read all together. So when I do choose such a book, it is usually because it captures my spirit’s imagination in such a way I am willing to take a leap of faith, so to speak. “This Here Flesh” by Cole Arthur Riley was one such spiritually centered book and it delivered. With her short packed chapters of theological reflection ti Though I am a pastor, I tend not to read a lot of religious, theological or even spiritual books throughout the year, at least not in comparison to the number of books I read all together. So when I do choose such a book, it is usually because it captures my spirit’s imagination in such a way I am willing to take a leap of faith, so to speak. “This Here Flesh” by Cole Arthur Riley was one such spiritually centered book and it delivered. With her short packed chapters of theological reflection tied into her personal and familial stories, Cole Arthur Riley offers the reader insight, perspective and a place of connection to God and the Spirit through a lens and experience that has been marginalized or violently silenced in the church for far too long. She holds a mirror up the popular protestant narratives which perpetuate heteronormative, patriarchal, capitalistic and white supremacism standards. Cole Arthur Riley frees our understanding of God, faith and the movement of the Spirit in our lives and invites the reader to push beyond these tropes and have and articulate a freer and more authentic experience of God. Cole Arthur Riley offers no easy answers, no formula for faith, prayer or deeper relationship to God. She offers her story, the story of her family and God’s presence and revelation in those stories much like we find God in the stories of our faith families, Sarah and Abraham, Rachel and Isaac, etc. None of these stories come without pain, trials and oppression inflicted upon the most vulnerable and it is right in these places of “weakness” and “disdain” that Cole Arthur Riley points to God, the Spirit and a truth that the colonizer has been denying for centuries: liberation for the oppressed is God’s daily work. Absolutely worth your time, attention and reflection. Want more book content? Follow me at thebookwar.com

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brittin

    This is the kind of book you simultaneously want to put in a glass case as a precious object and carry it with you everywhere, dog-eared and worn. I bought the audiobook but plan to buy a hardcopy so I can come back to Cole's wisdom again and again. This quickly became one of my favourite books in the Christian literature genre, but it is so much more. The generational stories, social commentary, personal reflection and spiritual meditation make for incredibly moving and contemplative storytelli This is the kind of book you simultaneously want to put in a glass case as a precious object and carry it with you everywhere, dog-eared and worn. I bought the audiobook but plan to buy a hardcopy so I can come back to Cole's wisdom again and again. This quickly became one of my favourite books in the Christian literature genre, but it is so much more. The generational stories, social commentary, personal reflection and spiritual meditation make for incredibly moving and contemplative storytelling. You cannot read this book and remain the same. One thing I didn't expect was to feel so seen as a person - sensitive, deep-feeling, overthinking, anxious, depressed and all. The prose was so powerful, but Cole herself is the real heartbeat of this book. Her vulnerability and strength is palpable. It reminded me how healing it can be to tell stories...something I hope to...I must return to. There are too many quotes to share but here is a taste, "Many of us end up surrending a spirituality that allows us to be curious and uncertain and free so that we can maintain some semblance of belonging even if that means we adhere to a way of life that doesn't leave room for the truth of us.". Audiobook: 6h 8m

  24. 4 out of 5

    Erika Anderson

    Beautiful, stunning authentic words in a style all her own. Like Annie Dillard if she wrote Psalms (and Dillard is my all-time favorite, so that praise does not come lightly). I read this during an extremely difficult spiritual time for me and it not only spoke to my soul, but it nurtured my body — a reminder that was so needed. Ours is not a faith, or a God, of the ephemeral, but one who dwelt among us, sits among our grief and doubt and joy, one of this here flesh.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shelli

    Her chapter on memory put me in a dark place for awhile, but it's a poignant book and taught me a lot particularly about lament and wonder. from p. 171, "The oldest stories of where I come from have been stolen from me. I am still grieving the loss and the sense of belonging this disrupted in me." Me too Cole... Her chapter on memory put me in a dark place for awhile, but it's a poignant book and taught me a lot particularly about lament and wonder. from p. 171, "The oldest stories of where I come from have been stolen from me. I am still grieving the loss and the sense of belonging this disrupted in me." Me too Cole...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    While I enjoyed listening to this, I think I would have preferred to have read it. There were lines I would have liked to have annotated and some ideas I’d like to come back to. (Some stunning sentenced I’d like to see on the page, too.) This was a unique read. It is part memoir, part philosophy, part commentary, part collection of family history. Riley is a beautiful writer.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    This is a beautiful and poignant book, filled with stories of faith, perseverance, struggle, and the ties between family and friends that help to carry us through our lives. I have followed the author on Instagram for some time and been blessed, challenged, and inspired by her Black Liturgies writings. Hearing she was soon to publish her first book, I immediately pre-ordered it. This is not a book to hurry your way through, but rather one that invites a reader to ponder, reflect, and consider at This is a beautiful and poignant book, filled with stories of faith, perseverance, struggle, and the ties between family and friends that help to carry us through our lives. I have followed the author on Instagram for some time and been blessed, challenged, and inspired by her Black Liturgies writings. Hearing she was soon to publish her first book, I immediately pre-ordered it. This is not a book to hurry your way through, but rather one that invites a reader to ponder, reflect, and consider at length. Definitely one that I will read again and again and recommend heartily.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    I’m a huge fan of Riley’s Black Liturgies project, and this book is no different. This is one of those collections that I’ll likely continue to revisit and gain new and beautiful insight each time. Would also recommend the audiobook as Riley narrates herself and her voice is a just big warm hug.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mirage McCloy

    What a beautiful gift to everyone who will read this work of art. Going in my ‘read again later’ pile. To be invited into such incredible stories and personal vulnerability is not something to be taken for granted. Well done well done well done.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay P

    I can’t remember the last time I was ready to recommend a book this highly (and to buy it!) before even finishing it. I listened to a podcast before reading, and thought it would be too flowery for my taste. It’s not. It’s grounded, loving, affirming, vulnerable, and just the perfect antidote to all the fear, shame, and distance of US white religiosity. Basically I want all my friends to read it just so we can talk about it.

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