The Spirited Book Club discusses ‘This Here Flesh’, the stunning NYT bestseller by Cole Arthur Riley
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.
“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.
Reviews for This Here Flesh
“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
“A wonderfully winsome, heartbreakingly honest, and ever-poetic work of spiritual biography and theological reflection . . . While some theologians will talk in the abstract about ‘incarnation,’ ‘enfleshment,’ or ‘embodiment,’ Arthur Riley’s book is a lesson in concreteness, in Black theology, in seeing a body, being a body, being a person rooted in time, space, stories, and very particular flesh.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“This Here Flesh is a gospel to what we remember. This book is rigorous, joyous, complex, and honest, and tells the story of how we get free. It is a story that would not let me go.”—Danté Stewart, author of Shoutin’ in the Fire
“Exquisite . . . Arthur Riley’s writing is both transporting and hauntingly intimate as she narrates this important account of generational inheritance. The stories and meditations in this book are sure to stay with you forever.”—Ayọ Tometi, human rights advocate and co-founder of Black Lives Matter
“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
Club Discussion Dates
FIRST BOOK CLUB MEETING for August 11: First half
SECOND BOOK CLUB MEETING for August 25: Second half
++Book discussion facilitated by Sheri Brown
About the author
Cole Arthur Riley is the creator of Black Liturgies, a space for Black spiritual words of liberation, lament, rage, and rest; and a project of The Center for Dignity and Contemplation where she serves as Executive Curator. Born and for the most part raised in Pittsburgh, Cole studied Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. She once took a professor’s advice very seriously to begin writing a little every day, and has followed it for nearly a decade.
Cole currently serves as the spiritual teacher in residence with Cornell University’s Office of Spirituality and Meaning Making. Her writing has been featured in The Atlantic, Guernica, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post.
Read more about Ms. Arthur Riley.