Review: “Braving the Wilderness” by Brene Brown

Quick review for a quick read. I picked up this book after a recommendation from a professional training session I attended. Not my favorite of the books I’ve read from Brown’s, but nonetheless, in its better moments, it provides food for thought. She tackles many tough subjects in this book, and expresses the need for meaning, connection, discussion, and empathy in the face of difficult situations, especially given the current social climate where a lot of emotional roughness is involved. It’s an okay book to get your feet wet with the type of narratives that Brown uses to shape her arguments on the importance of empathy, the use of social science and research, inspirational figures, and her experiences, but I would say that some who start with this book may not be getting the full meat and potatoes (so to speak) of why so much of what she has to say is imperative. Imperative in terms of building connections and not putting up barriers to communication and learning of the crippling power that “shame” has in an individual/group capacities.

“Braving the Wilderness” felt too short and didn’t have as much of the root that I thought it would have for some of the difficult topics mentioned in the book, which is why it’s difficult for me to rate this higher than perhaps either 3 or 3.5 stars (and I’ve gone back and forth in my thoughts after finishing this work). It may be a case of the mentioned topics being too heavy for coverage in the brief scope of this book or perhaps a case of “either/or” applied to topics that have more than ten faces of dimension, and Brown really doesn’t give enough time to really vet through these discussions, which is counterintuitive to the intention of the work. While I agree with the collective sentiment of listening, learning empathy, not being so quick to judge people’s experiences, she seems to skirt topics on privilege, the roots of why people may be apt to have prejudgments, and even in some cases tries to make excuses for things that, while it may not have been in the vein of knowledge for the people involved, didn’t focus on the roots of hurt – which can be rooted in a lot of different discourses that span history, psychological, sociological, political, cultural, even anthropological roots. It’s a shame, because she’s a good speaker and I have respect for her work, but this isn’t the best she has to offer especially for a book that does attempt to try to explain the importance of building connections in difficult situations. I just don’t think she crossed that bridge well enough, or expanded enough, to really make it hit home in a cohesive, illuminating way.

Overall score: 3/5 stars.

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