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SEE NO STRANGER
June 16, 2020
I had never heard of Valarie Kaur before reading this memoir, but she is a renowned Sikh activist, filmmaker, and civil rights lawyer. She’s also incredibly thoughtful, insightful, and impressively understanding toward people who are different from her. It took me a while to finish See No Stranger because it is heavy—beautifully written and straight up breathtaking, no exaggeration—but, good grief, she covers some tough subjects. Not only does she discuss her personal experiences with racism and sexual assault (she grew up with her Sikh family in the farmland of white-washed central California). But she also describes her years as a law student observing “life” at Guantánamo Bay and later fighting for prison reform, as well as her years as an activist helping communities recover from brutal acts of violence fueled by xenophobic prejudice.
The deep level of hate she describes in this book is damn near unbearable to read, especially given our current political climate. But her message to stay open, to commit to an attitude of “wonder,” especially when interacting with people who are (often extremely) different from us is powerful. When she describes speaking to the guards at Guantánamo Bay (specifically to one guard who inconceivably complains that the prisoners have more freedom than he has) and then forcing herself to not shut down and judge, but instead ask questions to understand his point of view, it’s incredible. Inspirational.
“You are a part of me that I don’t yet know” is a common refrain in this book. It’s a powerful reminder that hate only breeds more hate, but love and understanding are what make us feel light, connected, and free. With 38 days until the election, this is exactly what I needed to read right now.
Big thank you to One World and Net Galley for the ARC!