I contemplated back and forth for the past few days if I want to write a review for this for the simple reason that it is a controversial book, and this blog is for fun, not for debates and tension. But in the spirit of Brené Brown and the book itself, I am choosing to write a review. Let’s be honest: people get touchy over any and every book. It doesn’t matter if it’s actually controversial. Somebody will make it that way. (Take the Grisha series, for example… Yikes.) So let’s get into it!
I rarely read book recommendations unless they’re from my sister, but I was told about this book while having a discussion with a friend who has a totally different political ideology than me. That’s the first thing that makes Braving the Wilderness such a standout book. While it is certainly politically pertinent, it holds the kind of pertinence that can be agreed upon by two people across the aisle. Notice I didn’t say, all people on either side of the aisle. But two of us in the world definitely feel this way.
Also, as a quick note before we continue, I’m not particularly far one way or another on the political spectrum, but I am strong in my beliefs.
The overarching idea behind this book is that we have to find the strength, peace, confidence, and care in and for ourselves that we are able to be honest about our beliefs. It’s a beautiful sentiment, to be honest. If you would have said this to me five years ago, I probably would have laughed. But I’ve grown from the person I was at 13, at 15, at 17, (heck, even last year at 21) and I think a big part of growth for me has been working to understand why other people think the way they do. It doesn’t mean I think they’re smart or right. It means I am being my best respectful, empathetic self, and that feels good to me. (Brené mentions at one point in the text that there are boundaries though, so don’t take this as “treat people however, because they have to take it.” I, along with a whole lot of the world, will not in fact take it.)
The short one-or-two-page-long stories she included within many of the chapters really stood out to me. A person can preach to me as much as they want, but nothing speaks as loud as the retelling of an experience they’ve had. In the chapter discussing the importance of experiencing collective joy and pain, I remember her speaking about a Harry Potter opening night showing she attended. And yes, this is the point where this nonfiction book review turns into a Harry Potter experience.
During the showing, when (gigantic spoiler alert if the series has somehow evaded your grasp thus far) Dumbledore dies, the teachers and students at Hogwarts raise their wands to the sky. The viewers then proceeded to raise their hands (and some of them, wands) to the theater ceiling. Brené points out that this is not because the audience actually believes in Harry Potter. What they do believe in is the light. She then suggests we consider turning the film viewing into some sort of political arena. Those people would likely have turned on each other, split themselves up, and chosen sides. Instead, they felt together in that moment, in the collective experience of it all, in the fact that we are all bound together as humans.
She points out that collective events, experienced in person, are incredibly important to remind us we are together; we are one; and we are more connected than we like to think when we read through the angry drivel fed to us by social media.
All in all, I liked the book, and I liked most of the ideas in it. Of course, I’m not going to think it’s all good and dandy. That’s the thing about opinions; we’re not always going to have the same ones. In fact, we often are not, but that doesn’t mean we are doomed, and that doesn’t mean we have to become monsters to one another. This is basically a How To Stay Nice When We Wonder If It’s Possible Anymore guide. Pretty cool, if you ask me.