Lenny Duncan writes fast, releasing three short books in four years. But these works aren't slight. Reading Duncan, who is also a speaker, scholar, and podcaster at BlackBerryJams, is like facing a firehose— waves of ideas blast forward, propelled by a passion for racial justice. "Lenny is the loud voice who says what others are thinking," says Broadleaf acquiring editor Lisa Kloskin.

Book #1 was 2019's Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the U.S. In this debut work, Duncan colored within the institutional lines, they say, writing ideas for reformation for a hoped-for audience of Lutheran bishops and clergy. But then came the murder of George Floyd in spring 2020 and police clashing with protesters in the streets of Portland. Duncan, serving as a trauma chaplain on the front lines, felt their own life blown apart. In book #2, 2021's United States of Grace: A Memoir of Homelessness, Addiction, Incarceration, and Hope, Duncan reflects on living in physical and mental pain, resigning from their call to the ELCA pulpit, and leaving their marriage to claim a non-binary identity.

Book #3, Dear Revolutionaries: A Field Guide for a World Beyond the Church (Broadleaf, Feb. 21), has a future spin offered in a forthright voice. Today, Duncan's intended audience is everyone/everywhere who seeks to "wage peace" and doesn't flinch when the going gets brutal or the writing gets barbed. The book is both a rallying cry to work for social justice ("You are incredibly capable!") and an alarm siren (Step up because, Duncan writes, "No one else is coming.")

PW talked with Duncan about their message for 2023: You are here to save the world so get cracking.

Why does every chapter of Dear Revolutionaries begin with you shredding an excerpt from Dear Church?

When I wrote Dear Church, I thought I could weaponize a kind of respectability as a pastor. Then came May 30, 2020, and I did my first shift as a trauma chaplain as police attacked protesters. In my first five minutes, I had to wrestle a firearm from someone. I had a rabbi give me his gas mask while we were being teargassed. I was blessing the shields and armor of mothers who were trying to act as human shields. Everything I thought I knew and thought would work melted in the revealing of the truth.

But you are still leading. Dear Revolutionaries is very prescriptive, with each chapter suggesting ways to create spiritual space in one's life, to know one's ancestors and one's neighbors. Do these ideas relate to your current study in graduate school?

My Ph.D. dissertation is a people's history of magic in the Americas. Here we have settler culture on top of indigenous practices on top of slavery and oral epistemologies. We have thrown ancestral work into the wastebasket of modernity, something we might honor once a year on All Saints Day. They (the institutional churches) never tell you the real value of your ancestral story. I tell people to return to and discover the practices of the past, to discover what it means to be in touch with the land you stand on, the story that got you there, and what these mean for you, your connection with the Divine and with others. You are not here by mistake. My goal with this book is to say, 'Here is what you can do with your voice, with your power to declare what is righteous, to be the only priest in your own life.'

What drives you to keep writing?

I have resigned from the thought leader industrial complex. We are called to witness, and I am called to write down what I witness. I write books because I am trying to survive them. If I don't get them out, I might explode. In this book, I'm saying I have learned to live my life differently, to show up and say, "What can I do next?' because this is what salvation looks like— you and me showing up. It’s us. Christ isn’t coming because Christ already came. In you. In us.