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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

    Scarllet ✦ iamlitandwit

    I finished reading Mia Birdsong's How We Show Up and I truly believe this is the most timely and hopeful read in a time where we are so social distanced and isolated. I'm glad publishers sent it my way because it's made me reflect on my community and not only how important they are to me, but how important I am to them. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Mia discusses how: "... we are not out here alone, we don't achieve or thrive, or survive or get by, on our own," which is something I'm always so grateful for as I would I finished reading Mia Birdsong's How We Show Up and I truly believe this is the most timely and hopeful read in a time where we are so social distanced and isolated. I'm glad publishers sent it my way because it's made me reflect on my community and not only how important they are to me, but how important I am to them. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Mia discusses how: "... we are not out here alone, we don't achieve or thrive, or survive or get by, on our own," which is something I'm always so grateful for as I wouldn't be who I am or where I am without the people who've helped me out when I needed it. In particular, she discusses Black and Queer community and how important the collective is, I definitely recommend everyone to pick it up and read it. I highlighted so many passages, here are a few of those passages: "But we long to be known, not just for our wins or talents or the good we do in the world, not just for how we overcome hardship, but for our pain and struggle while we are suffering, for our failures and shortcomings." "We want to be known so we can be accepted and loved just because we are here. we all want to be enough." "By not asking for help when you need it, you are blocking that flow." "When we see someone experience relief or ease or happiness because we helped them, we are filled. it also reminds us that we are not out here alone, we don't achieve or thrive, or survive or get by, on our own." "Instead of listening to the fictitious lone wolf in us, we must listen to the wolf in the pack, and tap into the impulse that moves us to cocreate opportunities for mutuality, opportunities to care for and be there for one another." "Being free is, in part, achieved through being connected." "Accountability [...] recognizing and accepting that we are necessary & wanted. it's understanding that when we neglect ourselves, don't care for ourselves, or are not working to live as our best selves, we are devaluing the time, energy, & care that our loved ones offer us." "I use queer to describe most aspects of my identity because apart from the definition as 'not-straight,' I see it as meaning odd and not fitting easily with where I came from." "And yet I ultimately always circle back to hope, because shit, what else is there? If we give up, we definitely lose. Trying is the only option." "Being relentlessly known terrifies us, but i think we also crave the freedom of it."

  2. 4 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 5 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.

  5. 5 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 !

  6. 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.

  7. 5 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.

  8. 5 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joy

    A combination of vignettes and ramblings from an extremely granola woman. It was well-organized, although it wasn’t really my style. But I’m glad she wrote it.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 4 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,

  13. 5 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    AAMBC Review

    We received a copy of How We Show up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community by Mia Birdsong. We were thrilled about the subtitle because we are in a season where families, friendships, and community unity is being challenged.  How We Show Up is a collection of stories, as told to the author, about family, communities, and friendships that have been birthed from and nourished by love. Even with the pain and trauma that is revealed through these stories, we are inspired by the courage of tho We received a copy of How We Show up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community by Mia Birdsong. We were thrilled about the subtitle because we are in a season where families, friendships, and community unity is being challenged.  How We Show Up is a collection of stories, as told to the author, about family, communities, and friendships that have been birthed from and nourished by love. Even with the pain and trauma that is revealed through these stories, we are inspired by the courage of those who have lived the pain and trauma that they are revealing. From finding your way back home to understanding the importance of self-care while caring for your community to even reading about how faith plays in part in family, friendships, and community, this book emphasizes the importance of all through the stories of those involved. How We Show Up confirms that we must understand our role in our families, our friendships, and our communities, in order to extend love and dwell amongst each other in unity. We recommend this book. How We Show Up contains depth in its storytelling. The flow and structure of the stories told makes it easy to follow what is going on in each story. The stories are fully developed in a way that does not leave the reader hanging and without feeling as if that particular story has no place in the book. The book also makes readers reflect on their core values when it comes to family, friendships, and communities as well as reflect on how engaged they are with each. Author Mia Birdsong did a great job of making every sentence relevant to the story that it was contained in. We would have loved to read about the authors' values on family, friendship, and community in order to determine if the values of the author and those involved are aligned. --- TL;DR The Good: The stories/chapters are well developed and every sentence is relevant. This is great for flow. The Bad: More emphasis or explanation could have been made about how to reclaim family, friendships, and communities from the lessons learned through these stories. No clear message of how each person in the stories was able to do this Is It Worth The Buy: Yes. The stories are inspirational and will cause you to reflect on your values Rating: 4/5

  15. 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.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Luke Campbell

    The book expanded my perspective in many good ways and challenged me to think differently about common constructs and social norms. This was a book club selection for a volunteer organization I'm involved with, and it's a good choice for book clubs because the topics covered are well fit for discussion. I believe these topics (community, family, friendship) are better to be discussed in order for various points of view to be explored more fully, and it's a challenge for one person to present the The book expanded my perspective in many good ways and challenged me to think differently about common constructs and social norms. This was a book club selection for a volunteer organization I'm involved with, and it's a good choice for book clubs because the topics covered are well fit for discussion. I believe these topics (community, family, friendship) are better to be discussed in order for various points of view to be explored more fully, and it's a challenge for one person to present their perspective as well as be the interpreter for others as Birdsong is here as an author. While Birdsong pulls in examples from herself and from a range of people she knows or interviewed, she advocates for seeing community from a broader perspective though it still comes across that her visions for community are being purported as best in a world where there are such diverse representations of community and positives and negatives that come from each. Readers should come to this book with an open mind, and it should make anyone think more deeply about community going forward.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jakob Feller

    A great collection of personal stories that redefine family and demand a stronger community for us all. The author dives into vulnerability, toxic masculinity, white supremacy, abolition, toxic individualism and how all of these negative and violent parts of our society stem from a broken notion of community and what it means. The personal stories even brought up emotions in me and memories of people I felt I’d left behind or haven’t given attention to in a long time that I still feel love for a A great collection of personal stories that redefine family and demand a stronger community for us all. The author dives into vulnerability, toxic masculinity, white supremacy, abolition, toxic individualism and how all of these negative and violent parts of our society stem from a broken notion of community and what it means. The personal stories even brought up emotions in me and memories of people I felt I’d left behind or haven’t given attention to in a long time that I still feel love for and do in fact want in my life but I feel scared to give them time and space as that would open it up to me having to share which scares me daily. Most of the stories revolve around people with children which is vital but I would have personally liked more stories about people my age without children because I think we would love a new kind of community that builds a life together to not only survive this exhausting world but thrive as well.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    I so enjoyed listening to this book, read by the author. I hope I will take action particularly on ideas of family and friendship, such as knowing necessary medical information for my friends and making my home have more casual get-togethers once they are a thing again. For obvious reasons, I was esp. interested in the parts on parenting and family, and this book helped me grieve a bit having the pandemic with a new kid and not forming a village. I also really liked the pieces on postitnotefrien I so enjoyed listening to this book, read by the author. I hope I will take action particularly on ideas of family and friendship, such as knowing necessary medical information for my friends and making my home have more casual get-togethers once they are a thing again. For obvious reasons, I was esp. interested in the parts on parenting and family, and this book helped me grieve a bit having the pandemic with a new kid and not forming a village. I also really liked the pieces on postitnotefriends and boundaries. I keep saying this year I like reading books that feel like friends, and I guess maybe also ones that help me to be a better friend. This book offers a sense of redemption & hope, and I will take all of that that I can get please.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Starlight

    This book really helped me define what I am looking for in relation to others. It came at the perfect time in my life and made my longing for a community where people show up in a more thoughtful way feel valid and also reachable. Not only did it validate those needs, but it laid out obstacles, thought processes, tips, and examples of how to reach it. It also made me feel grounded in the connections I do have, and safe in the fact that I have chosen certain people to be close to me in my life ba This book really helped me define what I am looking for in relation to others. It came at the perfect time in my life and made my longing for a community where people show up in a more thoughtful way feel valid and also reachable. Not only did it validate those needs, but it laid out obstacles, thought processes, tips, and examples of how to reach it. It also made me feel grounded in the connections I do have, and safe in the fact that I have chosen certain people to be close to me in my life based on “criteria” that is very close to my heart/soul. Dope book. A warm read. My heart is singing.

  20. 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.”

  21. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    This collection of examples of how to be in community is so wonderful. Having visions of ways of being that are supportive and interdependent is a powerful thing. Lots of great references to additional material for the "nuts and bolts" and overall very inspirational/reflective/hopeful/empowering.

  22. 5 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.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Wonderful! Thought-provoking ! Answered so many questions ! It was lovely !

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Yeomelakis

    Recommended by Aminatou Sow

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

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

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katharina

    Made me cry and dream of a more connected future.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

    This book helped me see that the life I want and the world I want to live it in are not only possible, but beautiful.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Juliet

    Just a sweet reminder how much we NEED our community, especially in times like these.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Akeiisa

    Overall 3.5 out of 5

  30. 5 out of 5

    Queenie

    this unlocked a new level in my life i think

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