See No Stranger

See No Stranger

by Valarie Kaur
Published on September 7, 2021
Pages: 416
Format: Hardcover Source: Library

An urgent manifesto and a dramatic memoir of awakening, this is the story of revolutionary love.

Finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize • “In a world stricken with fear and turmoil, Valarie Kaur shows us how to summon our deepest wisdom.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love
 
How do we love in a time of rage? How do we fix a broken world while not breaking ourselves? Valarie Kaur—renowned Sikh activist, filmmaker, and civil rights lawyer—describes revolutionary love as the call of our time, a radical, joyful practice that extends in three directions: to others, to our opponents, and to ourselves. It enjoins us to see no stranger but instead look at others and say: You are part of me I do not yet know. Starting from that place of wonder, the world begins to change: It is a practice that can transform a relationship, a community, a culture, even a nation.
 
Kaur takes readers through her own riveting journey—as a brown girl growing up in California farmland finding her place in the world; as a young adult galvanized by the murders of Sikhs after 9/11; as a law student fighting injustices in American prisons and on Guantánamo Bay; as an activist working with communities recovering from xenophobic attacks; and as a woman trying to heal from her own experiences with police violence and sexual assault. Drawing from the wisdom of sages, scientists, and activists, Kaur reclaims love as an active, public, and revolutionary force that creates new possibilities for ourselves, our communities, and our world. See No Stranger helps us imagine new ways of being with each other—and with ourselves—so that together we can begin to build the world we want to see.


Valarie Kaur is a Sikh woman from rural California. She was involved in political action in college. She was a witness to the effects of violence on the Sikh community after 9/11. She made a documentary film about it. She also went to Harvard Divinity school and Yale Law.

Her work with communities facing violence has lead her to advocate for a new way of imaging how the world may be. It starts with realizing that we need to try to see people that we disagree with as also human. That doesn’t mean allowing them to run over us. It means seeing the pain and brokenness underlying violence and hate and trying to fix the root of the problem.

The book is part memoir and part manifesto. It details her work with Latinx people being harrassed by the police in East Haven CT. She goes to the sites of mass shootings to grieve with the communities. She works against solitary confinement and mass incarceration. She also tries to find ways to support her own wellbeing in the face of repeated trauma.

I am a huge advocate of imagining the world as you want it to be instead of saying, “This is just how things are.” This book spoke to that part of my soul. It made me feel like I’m not the strange one for thinking like this.

I finished this book a few days before the Dobbs decision was handed down by the Supreme Court. Whenever the rage started to overtake me I thought about her words. How would I react to anyone I saw rejoicing about this decision? Cussing them out doesn’t reach people. I took a deep breath and opened Facebook. Luckily, I purged most of the remnants of my misspent youth as an evangelical Christian when Trump got elected so I didn’t have anyone happy on my timeline. I didn’t have to try to see the humanity in them when they were celebrating the downfall of human rights. In that moment I was not ready to reach out to try to embrace understanding. I know I will see it eventually though. I think that some of the techniques that she supports may be helpful. I tend to be a person who walks away from conflict and then cusses them out later to people who agree with me. Maybe I could use some gentle techniques to confront people.

The Revolutionary Love Project is a website that has a lot of the teachings from the book and some of the films that she has made. I will be digging deeper into this work.

One of the things I’ve been playing with this month is a TikTok channel. Yeah, I know, but hear me out. I’m mostly posting book quotes with minimally invasive music. Am I the only one who HATES sound on videos? I’m making a lot of little movies for passages from this book so I can remember. Here’s one and there will be more on the channel.

What Do You Think?