Self-Help That Doesn’t Suck # 4 – Sisters of the Yam

Title: Sisters of the Yam


Author: bell hooks

The Break-Down: Recognized public intellectual and scholar bell hooks covers healing for black women in various dimensions to include beauty, relationships, and critical thinking/engagement. There is no “strong inhuman black woman” rhetoric here.

Why I Loved It: Sometimes when you are experiencing constant micro-aggressions or looking out at the incessant indignities faced by people who share your identity there is a strange mixture of confusion, anger, and numbness that arises. Are you crazy for noticing this? Should you deal with this latest slight or stop fighting this battle? Why must the world be like this? I’ve experienced all of these questions and still wrestle with them often. I can always come back to this book to assure myself that:

  1. I am not imagining injustice.
  2. Healing myself is not selfish.
  3. I am not alone.

I feel seen when I read this book in a way that society still has not caught up with. Black women may be “strong” but we are also human. We hurt. We cry, even when “slaying” and displaying our #blackgirlmagic.

For You, If…: You are a smart black woman who also wants to heal. You have a smart black woman in your life who wants to heal. You are a smart person who wants to read a really smart person talk about healing.

Woo-Woo Factor: 1 out of 5 patchouli incense sticks . She’s an intellectual, so there’s that. While there are brief mentions of some noted more fuzzy, self-help writers, hooks’ brilliant mind still shines through on each page.



Self Help That Doesn’t Suck #1

 I love a good self-help book/course.


Those ” change your ______, change your life!” titles are sirens to my defenseless sailor. They call to me over and over, eventually leading to my watery death.


Just playin’. 


But, yes the Call is powerful. 


I am equally amazed and slightly envious of people who do not share my attachment to all things self-help.


Don’t they think they need, um, assistance? But then, hey, maybe it’s nice not to live in a state of constant self-fixing and over-analysis. 


Well, I’ve read a lot of self-help and not all of it has been stellar. 


Sometimes I wish there was a Fairy Help Mother who would have steered me clear of narcissistic carpe diem instructions or the too-woo-woo-for-earthly-beings titles. 


Sadly, there are few titles that I can really attest to having made much dent in my life. So many self-help “gurus” are recycling ancient wisdom or long-known psychology principles and dressing it up real pretty. So many courses and books sit on the superficial and shut their eyes away from Real Life with all her incongruities and instances of oppression.


Still, I am of the “take what you need and leave the rest” mentality. (Sometimes I just have to leave whole books. Life is too short to waste on mediocre self-help.)


Once in awhile, I want to share those books/courses/random weird shit I do marketed in the self help category that have truly helped me.


I’m no expert book reviewer by any means, but I can share what I  have learned. And maybe if you’re into self-help or just want to try something new, you can use these “Self Help That Doesn’t Suck” posts as a nice little guide.


Here goes:


Cover of radical acceptance book with light purple cover and white lotus in middle
 She also has a great podcast.

Title: Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha


Author: Tara Brach


The Break-Down: Well-known psychotherapist and Buddhist practitioner Tara Brach uses this book to bridge the Western worlds of psychology with that of Buddhism. Using vivid and IRL anecdotes that are not banal or otherworldly, she teaches people how to relate to those behaviors rooted in self-hate or self disregard. 

Why I Loved It: This book truly changed how I related to “bad emotions”. We are often taught to shut down feelings like anger, grief, self-hated and mask it with an optimistic, cheery “I’m taking the positive” attitude. Tara Brach is not about that life. Her way of being real about the suffering we all face and methods of meeting one’s hard places with inquiry and self-compassion truly resulted in a paradigm shift. I felt like I learned something each page and it never felt like she was talking down to me or obfuscating the pain of the world. The topics she covers here are not namby-pamby in the least. They showcase the things I often deplore, those emotions and bodily sensations that make me reject and hide from myself in equal measure. Her talk on the body was also especially eye-opening for me. 


For You, If…: You are a person who sometimes suffers. If you have trouble with self-compassion or self-love. If you can get down with Buddhist thought, spirituality, and are open to Western psychology practices. You are not too cool for school. 


Woo-Woo Factor: 2 out of 5 Rose Quartz Stones. Yes, there is definitely a book about a Buddhist practice. Yes, she uses the words “compassion” and “joy” pretty often. But, there isn’t really anything too woo beyond that.






Letter from a Blue Restorative INFP

So, I like tests. Personality tests to be exact, though tests in general never really scared me. Personality tests were always an alluring topic for me: fill out the bubbles, see how many more A’s you have than C’s, find yourself on the Likert scale of your choice… I loved the idea of the right assortment of answers unlocking who I was.

So, what did I find?

I am an INFP.


I have a blue-green brain.

My top strengths are Input, Intellection, Restorative, Empathy, and Individualization.

I am an Aries with a Gemini moon and Aquarius ascendant.

Of course, these tests would never really solve the truest desire of my soul, which was to know myself and peek at the divine within. The thing about external measures is that they are only pointers to what our souls already know. We often confuse the pointer with the answer.

Still, these tests were fun and pretty interesting to look back on. For instance, I used to test as an ENFP and then slowly came to be an INFP over time. Honestly, if you’re ever bored on The Internet, these tests can be illuminating.

I write this because I am still swimming in the waters of trying to figure out who I am. I am still tearing off identities that don’t fit, peeling off layers that only serve to make me uncomfortable, constrained, and annoyed.

Surely you can relate.

Maybe you’re addicted to personality tests like me. I can also say I am a workshop junkie and a self-help fiend at times.  Hello, my name is Hannah and I am addicted to online “challenges”.

I wandered bookstores in a myriad of cities, would look up and find myself surrounded by A Course in Miracles and Co-Dependent No More. It was like some weird sort of magic.

I was always hoping Someone Else would give me a clue on how to be myself. (I’m an Aries, we can’t help but study ourselves and even my personality tests say I’m likely to be a constant improver. Sigh…)

What kind of woman do I want to be and who I am now? Who I am when no one is looking and there is no chance for side-eyes, internet ridicule, or second guessing?

Today (for today and this minute is all that we have), I am an idealistic woman wanting to fully express herself in the world. I am organized chaos. I am a wounded healer. I am a goddess wrapped up in a funnel coat.

I try not to berate myself for my constant inner searching and treks to energy healers, classes, and seminars galore. I used to.  A LOT. It was another thing I added to the I Hate Myself list. Laughing about this drive in me is much better. Oh, Hannah, you test addict you!

Besides, because of these journeys, I have become a better person more attuned to my own path.That’s not a terrible thing.

But, I am ready to stop looking for the next book to speak direction. I am ready to define myself and work with what I have. Maybe it’s the New Moon in Aquarius.

Art By: Mystic Mamma
Art By: Mystic Mamma

Even as I write this, I am a little like WTF, Hannah? I have been in a military environment for more than ten years. I have a degree in Community and Economic Development. I was a Logistics major…who I am to be talking about new moons and this “woo-woo crap”?

I am who I am. That is the answer. And I don’t want my navel gazing to be in vain. I want it to serve in whatever way it can. I want other women and girls to live fully expressed and in love with Life, right here right now.

Really, I want for others what I want for myself:

To be free.

So, whoever is reading this manifesto-y self-exploration blog post, please bear with me. I am trying to let my soul know that it is now or never.

Dear Soul,

It’s time to stop hiding. It’s time to step into this next stage and live without looking for a test or model life to conform. (You can still read some self-help books but let’s try more novels, huh?)

You are not alone in this quest and all this living you have done will be of use. Your quest to live with honesty will serve others.

If it doesn’t, well, I sure as hell hope they find someone who does help them. Here’s to action. Here’s to being Yourself.

With love,