What better time than right now to encounter a book that both nudges and guides us out of the cynicism and denial that enshrouds the American body politic?  Healing America’s Narratives: The Feminine, the Masculine, & Our Collective National Shadow is such a book – a soulful encounter.  From its beginning pages to the final footnotes, Reggie Marra offers the possibility that troubling truths may also be a healing balm. In so doing, he unravels the unbroken and interlaced threads of feral deceit and abusive power from the 17th century to the 21st century: savagery that belies cherished American creeds of innocence, equality, and exceptionalism.  That said, this book is no brutish screed; it is instead an aching love story to an America capable of healing through an evolving imagination of human meaning and possibility. 

From the outset, Marra insists on clarity—of standpoint, purpose, and language. He begins by situating himself in the “cultural givens” (some quite humorous) that shaped his becoming as a second-generation Italian-American male human. From that point, he grounds his thesis in a precise explanation of Shadow, removing it from the domain of esoteric jargon where it is little understood and from the muddled appropriations of popular culture. Hence, he reveals Shadow as lived experience manifest through interactions as mundane as short-lived interpersonal encounters, and as significant as presidential politics and US military operations. 

Using deep history, literary allusions, insights from psycho-logical theory, and an occasional dose of good humor, Marra is unflinching in his insistence that truth counts. He chafes at the use of euphemisms to contaminate truth, as in: “The arrival of Europeans in North America opened a new chapter in the history of Native peoples.” Similarly, he takes on the hypocrisy of academic scholars who, whether in a quest for tenure or media attention for a loudmouth, denounce critical and comprehensive analysis of history and culture as bad for marginalized citizens.

To read this book is to live the political as personal. Reggie Marra invites us into Shadow for our personal and collective evolution. And he does so as a co-journeyer, not a pedant.  There may be moments when the searing revelations might elicit a ‘say it ain’t so’ reaction and cause you to step away, which is fine, but for God’s sake come back. There are plenty of opportunities for reflective practice, but the book is not a workshop and won’t be apprehended by cognitive intelli-gences alone. It unearths the history that lives in us; it invites us to open our bodies to edifying truths. Read the book; then read it again and again.

Maureen Walker, Ph.D., author of When Getting Along Is Not Enough: Reconstructing Race in Our Lives and Relationships