Book Reviews,  Reese's Book Club

I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown Book Review

2020 has been a year of personal growth for me in many ways. One large part of that has been reading a lot of books, especially ones out of my “comfort” genres. Being a member of Reese’s Book Club has motivated me to read books that are relevant and necessary. So before I get ahead of myself and start giving my detailed review, here’s a general overview of this book: July’s pick is I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown.

Title: I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World
Made For Whiteness

Author: Austin Channing Brown

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with a racialized America came at age seven, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools and churches, Austin writes, “I had to learn what it means to love blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker, and expert helping organizations practice genuine inclusion.

In a time when nearly every institution (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claims to value diversity in its mission statement, Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice. Her stories bear witness to the complexity of America’s social fabric—from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.

I'm Still Here by Austin Channing Brown

For readers who have engaged with America’s legacy on race through the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michael Eric Dyson, I’m Still Here is an illuminating look at how white, middle-class, Evangelicalism has participated in an era of rising racial hostility, inviting the reader to confront apathy, recognize God’s ongoing work in the world, and discover how blackness—if we let it—can save us all.

Synopsis from GoodReads

My Review:

The book starts off right away with such power and boldness. Austin writes with amazing clarity and heart. I have never read a more personal and straightforward memoir than this one. As a white person who grew up and currently lives in a mostly white community, this book introduced me to experiences and circumstances that I couldn’t relate to. I don’t know what it’s like to feel what the black community feels, but reading this book helped open my eyes and my heart.

“My story is not about condemning white people but about rejecting the assumption – sometimes spoken, sometimes not – that white is right: closer to God, holy, chosen, the epitome of being.”

Austin Channing Brown

I also really loved how Austin connected the church and her spiritual life into the topic of racial injustice. In my experience, people in the church don’t like to talk about these “hot topics”. If these topics are discussed, though, it’s usually in the form of a passing comment such as a collective prayer. Unfortunately, topics like racial injustice are turned into ridiculous debates that are not helpful for anyone.

(I wish I could include paragraphs of her book in this post, but no one would read a 10,000-word blog post, so I’ll have to paraphrase.) Basically, she says that the church needs to have painful and emotional conversations about racism. There will be anger, hurt, confusion, and lots of emotion. But that’s okay. “For only by being truthful about how we got here can we begin to imagine another way.”

“In too many churches and organizations, listening to the hurt and pain of people of color is the end of the road, rather than the beginning.”

Austin Channing Brown

I definitely recommend this book to EVERYONE! I truly believe every single person should read this book and the other books out there on this topic. It’s impossible to grow as a person if you don’t continue to educate yourself.

Stay tuned for my July Reads post next week! In the meantime, click here to browse more book reviews. Thanks for reading!

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