A renaissance of our own A memoir & manifesto on reimagining

Rachel Elizabeth Cargle

Book - 2023

"A deeply personal and illuminating approach to antiracism and allyship, revealing the power of imagination and action to dismantle oppressive systems and build liberating ones, from a highly lauded lecturer, public academic, writer, and activist. In A Renaissance of Our Own, Rachel Cargle details the seminal event that put her on the map--her viral 2017 Women's March appearance that thrust her into the national conversation on feminism and allyship--xand how she soon woke up to the fallacies of a movement she had believed in. Discovering and unpacking the white-washed lies she'd been fed about intersectional "solidarity," Cargle's awakening, although painful and seismic, gifted her the opportunity to see the w...orld through a new lens. Now, Cargle shares her journey, depicting a framework for allyship, and beyond, that she developed along the way. In creating KEA (Knowledge, Empathy, Action), or as she calls them "from the head to the heart to the feet," Cargle learned to craft a world independent of oppressive constructs that allowed her to critically examine her surroundings. Alongside KEA, she established a set of intentional values based on an individual sense of purpose, known as higher values, and through the combination of these tools, reimagined her approach to the personal, societal, and structural components of life that are often stifled. She provides the same tools and prompts that she used to unearth and align her own values so anyone can wield them, and ultimately, identify the structures and mindsets that hold them back and learn to move forward. A Renaissance of Our Own serves as a reminder of the power of reimagining as an engine for critical learning, radical empathizing, and intentional action"--

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New York : Ballantine Books [2023]
Main Author
Rachel Elizabeth Cargle (author)
First edition
Physical Description
xiv, 238 pages ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 227-238).
  • Manifesto
  • Author's Note
  • Introduction A Journey to Reimagining
  • Chapter 1. Reimagining Belief Systems
  • Reflections Identify Your Highest Values
  • Chapter 2. Reimagining Relationships
  • Chapter 3. Reimagining Feminism
  • Chapter 4. Reimagining Education
  • Chapter 5. Reimagining Work
  • Chapter 6. Reimagining Rest
  • Final Thoughts
  • Create Your Own Manifesto
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
Review by Booklist Review

Activist and lecturer Cargle shares how she transformed her life by reimagining herself in terms of faith, relationships, feminism, education, work, and rest. After looking within and facing some hard truths, she was able to shed traditional thought processes and expectations pertaining to women in America. Hardships and breaking points forced her to seek her true identity. Once a small-town Christian wife, Cargle is now an eloquent activist and innovator in the feminist and queer movements. She shares her manifesto, a blueprint that readers can utilize to map out their dreams to create new ways of living their truth, using reimagining as a process of observation, curiosity, and intention. Cargle notes that anti-racism is an ongoing process that demands a critical way of thinking and acting to improve race relations and Black lives. For readers who want to reimagine their role in fighting injustice, she shares her knowledge, empathy, and action (KEA) framework, an effective way to communicate and form diverse allyships. Cargle's self-help memoir is highly recommended for DEI and LGTBQ+ collections and women of all ages who want to renew and rethink their purpose in life.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A vulnerable look at one activist's long journey of deconstruction, healing, and reimagining of the toxic societal structure meant to oppress marginalized identities. In her debut book, Cargle--an activist, academic, anti-racism educator, philanthropist, artist, writer, and entrepreneur--takes on a host of preconceived notions that make up the definition of success in the modern world, frameworks she knew could never align with her true self. Through an examination of her own journey from social media activist to the birth of her umbrella company, the Loveland Group, Cargle breaks down the countless "reimaginings" that led to the creation of her personal manifesto. Today, she writes, "reimagining the world is not just ideal but critical for our continued healing. Here we are, in a time when our goodness, our wellness, our liveli-hoods, are begging us to dream up bigger and bolder reali-ties for ourselves and one another." Exploring relationships, education, feminism, work, and self-care, Cargle emphasizes the necessity of unlearning the capitalistic system that has been structured to work against her--and against any person within a marginalized group. As a Black queer woman striving for "ease, abundance, and opportunity" in every aspect of life, she creates her own way of living that feeds her soul via a wide variety of personal and community projects. After laying out the framework of her own process of reimagining, Cargle then implores the reader to do the same by making their own manifesto that pulls from their value system. The author expertly strikes down the idea that one size fits all in a Whitewashed society and shows that, above all, marginalized groups yearn to live instead of simply survive. In her acknowledgements, the author thanks "my intellectual and literary elders and ancestors who tilled the ground for the blooming gar-dens of my generation," including Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and James Baldwin. Cargle opens the door into a possibility-rich world of acceptance, accountability, and allyship. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Chapter 1 Reimagining Belief Systems While I was growing up, my family attended Antioch Baptist Church, on the west side of Akron, Ohio, each and every Sunday. During my elementary school years, I rode a bus to a tiny, private, white suburban Christian school where, every week, we memorized a new Bible verse. It's safe to say, no matter the environment, I was steeped in the Church for most of my early life. In fact, Christianity was the moral compass of my household for many years, and church was the cornerstone of our schedules. Each Sunday, we'd file out of the church, where the membership was made up of both family and friends. These were the people I sold Girl Scout Cookies to each spring, whom I turned to for references when applying for my first job. Church was part of the ritual and rhythm of my young life. I was born and raised in a small suburban town right outside Akron. The town was called Green, like the color, and green it was. There were towering evergreen trees and manicured lawns on every block. My family lived on a cul-de-sac at the end of a two-way street in a tight-knit neighborhood. Bright yellow speed bumps served as afterschool balance beams as well as they slowed the cars that came down our way. There was a massive field near our house where the neighborhood kids would gather to play tag or soccer or sometimes just to lie among the dandelions. Though Green was populated with modest homes, our area was surrounded by more affluent neighborhoods, with newly built houses boasting four and five bedrooms and two-car garages. Huge stone signs at the front of these gated communities bore aspirational British-sounding names like "Prestwick" and "Mayfair." Despite the affluence surrounding us, my family was poor. We lived in a two-story, three-bedroom townhouse connected to a complex of similar apartments and townhomes. The house had just enough space for our family: my parents and, with my birth, three girls. While I was my mother's third child, I was the first and only child she had with my father. By the time I was born, my sisters were already preteens--Michelle, twelve, and April, eleven. In my earliest remembering, I had no idea that we were poor or that my mother could afford the life we had only with the help of government assistance. Our townhouse was classified as Section 8 housing, and food stamps and welfare checks supplied our basic needs. Of course, as a little girl, this meant nothing to me. I knew only that I had a nice, modest home, a yard to play in, and two parents who loved me. And this was by design. My mother was one of six children born into a lower-class Black family who possessed no blueprint for improving their circumstances. An outlier among her siblings, she recognized that raising her children in the same inner-city neighborhood on the west side of Akron where she'd grown up, and where the rest of her family continued to languish, was not going to help her daughters boost their station in life. But my mother bore the additional burden of having contracted polio at age five, unable to walk without the aid of crutches thereon. This restricted her ability to work outside the home. Still, knowing that her choices were limited, she made the decision to look for affordable housing in the suburbs rather than stay in a crowded, dingy apartment complex--the kind the city housing authority was notoriously known to offer Black women with dependent children. By moving us to Green, my mother curated a life for us that allowed us to bear witness to what was possible. She created her own blueprint for changing her family's fortunes. Despite her physical disability, my mother was fiercely independent. She'd always be there, in that first row of the bleachers, cheering me on in my soccer games, and she attended as many of my Girl Scout camping trips as possible. While work outside the home wasn't always an option for her, she consistently found ways to supplement what little government support we received--more often than not, while in service to the community. She tutored kids in the neighborhood, sold beautiful homemade greeting cards in the local hospital gift shop, and created a reading program at the daycare my aunt owned. My mother was industrious and creative, and she was always preparing me for a better life, a life she herself never experienced. She enrolled me in etiquette classes and golf lessons, sent me to that private Christian school, and she always reminded me, with pride in her voice, "Rachel, even though we don't have a lot of money, we look like we do." My father didn't share my mother's work ethic. He never kept a steady job and he came with both a financial and emotional unavailability that my mother bore the weight of. He lived with us until I was ten years old, but my parents weren't married, and I'm not even sure I could say that they were ever in love. Nonetheless, he had a powerful impact on my young life, making me feel loved and secure. My father's kindness, laughter, and warmth stood in stark contrast to my mother's more stoic personality. She took a no-nonsense approach to life and seemed to think emotions were most often excessive. "You'll be okay" was what she usually said to me when I brought home any childhood slight or pain. Even positive emotions seemed too much for her. Still, while she wasn't demonstrative with her affection in the way my father was, I never doubted her love for me. In those early days, the glue that held my family together the most was survival, survival, and Jesus. Devotion and Disruption Like most Baptists, we believed that Jesus died for our sins and that the only way to get to heaven--the ultimate goal in life for a devoted Baptist--was to believe that He was both Lord and Savior. Without Christ, there was no salvation. As a child, I understood that being a good Christian meant following the rules my mother and grandmother meted out, going to church, and loving God and His Holy Son. Through church, we were also taught that it was our personal responsibility to build our own relationship with God through study and prayer. So my family didn't go to church only on Sundays. As soon as my sisters and I were old enough to pass the collection plate, weekly participation in one ministry or another was expected of us. Also, our mother taught Vacation Bible School every summer, and of course I was expected to attend. But I didn't mind one bit. I actually loved spending time at church as a child. Church was my safe space and reprieve. It was where I got to play with my Black friends and be a part of a wider Black family, which was a welcome contrast to my mostly white suburban existence. It was the place where I felt most like myself when I was little. It was at church--jumping double Dutch; clapping hands with other little Black girls, singing "Miss Mary Mack"--where I truly felt like a happy Black child. Some Saturdays, my cousins and I would spend the night at our grandma's house. When we'd wake on Sunday morning, Grandma would unfurl the curls she'd pinned our hair into the night before, help us into frilly dresses and socks with lace and bows, and take us to the early-morning Sunday school class. Afterward, we'd sit through the regular ten a.m. service. Then it was back to Grandma's to change out of our fancy clothes and play in her backyard. That was my life for most of my early childhood years. It wasn't perfect, but it seemed pretty normal. We had family dinners where my dad made everyone laugh. We went to church on Sundays. We seemed to be doing as well as we could. And then everything changed. On the night of her senior prom, my sister Michelle returned home with another life within her. My niece Schuyler was born when I was seven. In an attempt to take responsibility for her life and actions, Michelle moved into an apartment in the city shortly after Schuyler's birth. Not long after, after graduating from high school, April also moved out, as she moved into adulthood and began to manage an unexpected pregnancy of her own. But as my elder sisters were growing up and beginning their adult lives, I gained a new little sister, Myriah, when my aunt became incarcerated and my mother decided to bring her infant daughter to live with us, rather than see her shuttled through the foster care system. It was during this era of change that my mother asked my father to leave the house. He wasn't bringing enough to the table to make it worthwhile to support him any further, especially not as she was taking on another mouth to feed. While I still saw my father, it was certainly not the same as having him in our home. It seemed that my world was being flipped upside down. Although my mother had been shouldering the responsibility of running our family affairs all along, we were now officially a single woman-led household. And then what was left of my "normal childhood" was cruelly taken away. Excerpted from A Renaissance of Our Own: A Memoir and Manifesto on Reimagining by Rachel E. Cargle All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.