cover image Lifting as They Climb: Black Women Buddhists and Collective Liberation

Lifting as They Climb: Black Women Buddhists and Collective Liberation

Toni Pressley-Sanon. Shambhala, $24.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-64547-076-2

Pressley-Sanon (Istwa Across the Water), an associate professor of Africology at Eastern Michigan University, provides edifying profiles of six influential Black women Buddhists: Rev. angel Kyodo williams, bell hooks (1952–2021), Faith Adiele, Jan Willis, Spring Washam, and Zenju Earthlyn Manuel. Framing their contributions as an “inheritance” combining the Black autobiographical tradition modeled by Frederick Douglass and the African philosophy of “ubuntu” (“that ‘I am’ only because ‘we are’”), Pressley-Sanon unearths how hooks’s childhood traumas shaped her “revolutionary love” ethic (which views love as something to which all—even the most vulnerable—are entitled), and how Adiele’s experiences as a biracial Buddhist nun in Thailand influenced her writings on the simultaneous hypervisibility and invisibility of people of color in American society. Throughout, Pressley-Sanon interweaves autobiographical anecdotes—including her alienating experiences as a Black woman in majority-white Western sanghas—to powerfully foreground the ways that “speaking truth to power in the service of Black people’s liberation” serves as “a condition of universal collective liberation.” The result is a worthwhile glimpse at the rich and complicated intersections of Blackness, womanhood, and spirituality. (Feb.)