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How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community

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An Invitation to Community and Models for Connection



After almost every presentation activist and writer Mia Birdsong gives to executives, think tanks, and policy makers, one of those leaders quietly confesses how much they long for the profound community she describes. They have family, friends, and colleagues, yet they still feel like they're standing alone. They're "winning" at the American Dream, but they're lonely, disconnected, and unsatisfied.


It seems counterintuitive that living the "good life"—the well-paying job, the nuclear family, the upward mobility—can make us feel isolated and unhappy. But in a divided America, where only a quarter of us know our neighbors and everyone is either a winner or a loser, we've forgotten the key element that helped us make progress in the first place: community. In this provocative, groundbreaking work, Mia Birdsong shows that what separates us isn't only the ever-present injustices built around race, class, gender, values, and beliefs, but also our denial of our interdependence and need for belonging. In response to the fear and discomfort we feel, we've built walls, and instead of leaning on each other, we find ourselves leaning on concrete.


Through research, interviews, and stories of lived experience, How We Show Up returns us to our inherent connectedness where we find strength, safety, and support in vulnerability and generosity, in asking for help, and in being accountable. Showing up—literally and figuratively—points us toward the promise of our collective vitality and leads us to the liberated well-being we all want.

ISBN-13: 9781580058070

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Hachette Books

Publication Date: 06-02-2020

Pages: 272

Product Dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.20(d)

Mia Birdsong is an activist, facilitator, and storyteller. A Senior Fellow of the Economic Security Project, she was also an inaugural Ascend Fellow of The Aspen Institute and New American California Fellow. She was founding Co-Director of Family Story and Vice President of the Family Independence Initiative, Mia speaks widely at conferences and gatherings across the country. She lives with her loved ones on the occupied land of the Chochenyo Ohlone people (AKA Oakland, CA). Read more about her work at miabirdsong.com.

Table of Contents

Akaya Said xiii

1 When Failure Leads Us Home: The Trap of the American Dream 1

2 Me and Us: Self-Care in the Context of Community 25

3 Love Is Abundant and Every Relationship Is Unique: The Queering of Friendship 55

4 I Love You Till Ashes or Dirt: Family Beyond Blood and Law 77

5 The Best of the People We Know: The Village We All Need 107

6 Make This Space for People, Make This Space for Me: Navigating Hardship 139

7 A Gathering and a Calling Home: The Remedies Are in Our Kitchens 165

8 We Can't Build Safety Without Community: Healing, Repair, and Accountability 187

How We Show Up 221

Gratitude 233

Resources 235

Index 239