"Rest Is Resitance: A Manifesto" by Tricia Hersey

By Tricia Hersey

Reviewed by Heidi

ISBN 9780316365215

Hersey is a Chicago-born artist, poet, theologian, community organizer, and founder of @thenapministry, an organization that practices rest as a form of resistance by offering spaces for people to rest via Collective Napping Experiences, workshops, performance art installations, social media, and more.

How many times in your life have you felt burnt out? Fatigued? Frazzled? And yet, when you take any sort of break, are you left feeling ashamed and guilty for wasting time that you could have used to be productive?

This guilt, Hersey posits in Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto, rears its ugly head because we have internalized the idea that our worth as human beings comes from what we produce. In response to this, Hersey argues that rest is a form of resistance because it disrupts and pushes back against capitalism and white supremacy, which cannot function without constant labor and ever-increasing production. Rest is a human right, says Hersey. It allows us to reclaim our autonomy, to heal, imagine, and invent – and we are not getting enough of it.

Rest, Hersey explains, is about much more than literal sleep. It is about “beginning the messy process of deconstructing your own beliefs and behaviors that are aligned with white supremacy and capitalism… our lack of boundaries for ourselves and each other, the choices we make, and how we engage with ourselves and our community” all act in the service of the systems that drive us to exhaustion. To rest, you must examine how you harm yourself and others and make an effort to stop. Rest can look like napping on the couch, yes, but it can also look like not immediately responding to texts or emails. It can look like taking regular breaks from social media. It can look like laughing with your friends, staring out a window and daydreaming, or blasting music and dancing alone in your room. Rest comes in many forms.

Rest as a form of resistance is not something new and trendy, Hersey points out; rather, it is a continuation of liberation work that Black people have been practicing for generations in the face of anti-Black oppression and trauma. From the Transatlantic Slave Trade to the Jim Crow Era, from the Civil Rights Movement to the advent of Afrofuturism and the radical, imaginative writings from authors like Octavia Butler, bell hooks, and Audre Lorde, Black people have continually found ways to resist the demand that they exhaust themselves in the service of capitalism and white supremacy. Hersey cites the brutal history of plantation slavery as a reason for her own commitment to resist being overworked and exhausted: “I simply cannot and will not do it any longer. I have connected the dots spiritually and physically between this history and my life today… I don’t belong to the systems. They cannot have me.”

Hersey is quick to push back against the misconception that liberation and justice work centering Blackness is only for black people. Black liberation, she states, is “a global shift for an entire world bamboozled by the lies of capitalism and white supremacy.” Capitalism and white supremacy are grinding us all into dust, regardless of our race or any other factor. These systems will not make space for you to rest because it is antithetical to how they function. Resisting these systems ultimately benefits everyone.

Drawing from Black history and liberation politics, her own family’s “legacy of exhaustion”, her lived experience as a Black woman in the United States, and myriad other sources, Hersey weaves a masterful web of words that settles over the reader like a blanket lovingly laid across the shoulders. You are enough, this book says, a message reminiscent of Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese. Don’t believe the lie that your worth depends on what you produce; you do not have to prove yourself through constant doing. Let go of your guilt and your shame. You are worthy right now, right here. And you deserve to rest.

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