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Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto by Tricia Hersey

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Rest is Resistance

by Tricia Hersey
October 11, 2022 · Little, Brown Spark
Not a Book

Rest is Resistance is a tiny book but it took me a long time to read because every sentence was a truth bomb that I needed to carefully absorb. This is a short book with a lot of repetition, but I felt it powerfully. I am so excited about this book, but I find it difficult to review because I just want to quote it. Essentially, this book crystallized a lot of things I’ve been learning recently about the importance of validating rest not only as self-care but as a way of rejecting the entire culture that reduces people to machines and values people only for their output.

Shana: This book felt like the spiritual sequel of Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski. While I liked Burnout, I thought it did a better job of assessing how women of color are damaged by modern society than it did at offering specific self care suggestions to us. Rest is Resistance roots its suggestions in the lived experience of Black women. From the introduction, it tries to speak to those of us who might not see rest as a realistic option, because we’re worried about money, overburdened, or driven by a strong sense of activism. Tricia Hersey is open in describing her life before she refocused on rest, and it’s basically my life right now—balancing multiple responsibilities, driven both by economic necessity and social justice.

Carrie: The message of Rest is Resistance is right there in the title. Hersey posits that we are caught in grind culture, in a capitalistic and white supremacist society that attempts to reduce our value to what we produce. By exercising our right to rest we reclaim our humanity from a dehumanizing system.

Hersey is adamant that rest is a means of resistance for everyone. However, she centers Black people because, historically and in the current day, they have been most deprived of rest. Claiming the right to rest is not an individual action in this context but rather a collective action that resists the dominant culture:

The rigid idea that justice work centering Blackness, born from a lens of Black liberation, is only for Black people is limiting and false…The belief that what one does and experiences does not affect everyone around them is a myth and disease that Americans severely suffer from. When we don’t take our own rest while holding space for others around us to rest, we are functioning like the systems we want to gain freedom from.

I found plenty in this book that spoke to me on many levels. It’s a book that insists that not only can I take a nap, or rest my eyes, or find a moment of pause in my day, but that I have an absolute RIGHT to do that, a duty to myself and my community to honor that need in myself and in others.

Shana: I thought one of the strongest parts of the book was the way it gave you MANY reasons to give yourself a break, and also offered practical suggestions. The suggestions were both bite-sized like deleting an app or closing your eyes for one minute, and dramatic, like rethinking your purpose on Earth. I liked that the book is an inspirational sermon and super-duper actionable at the same time. When I said no to someone this week I heard Hersey in my head saying “…will you be able to one day say no to a request that doesn’t serve you?”

Carrie: I’ve always struggled with “not being able to pour for others from an empty cup.” This book goes way beyond that concept:

The concept of filling up your cup first, so you can have enough in it to pour to others feels off balance. It reeks of the capitalistic language that is now a part of our daily mantras…The cup metaphor also is most often geared toward women, who, because of patriarchy and sexism, carry the burden of labor…Our [Black and Latina] labor historically has been used to make the lives of white women less hectic and more relaxed…I propose that the cups all be broken into little pieces, and we replace pouring with resting and connecting with our bodies in a way that is centered on experimentation and repair.

This paragraph suggests to me, or rather insists to me, that in addition to claiming my own right to rest, it is my responsibility to recognize my racial and class privilege and ally with marginalized communities to ensure that the right to rest is exercised by all. It also reinforces the message of the book that rest is a right in and of itself. It’s not something we should be doing so that we can do more, or produce more. It’s not saying that I should grab a nap so that I’ll have the energy for the next protest, or for the next job, or for the next task. It’s worthy in and of and for itself.

I know that everyone who reads this will have a different “Holy Shirtballs” moment. I have pages and pages of to-do lists and piles of guilt about not completing everything on them, so my Holy Shirtballs moment was this:

I know that if I never check another item off my to-do list, I am still worthy and loved by God and my ancestors.

Bitches, I had to just sit down with that for a while. It was like I saw that sentence in capital letters of flame. Once more for the people in the back:


I’m a white atheist who does not share the same roots at Hersey, who gained this sense of self-worth from her upbringing in a church that preached Black Liberation theology, but this sentence still stopped me cold. Can that really be true? I’ve been thinking and thinking about this concept. It’s a true paradigm buster, one that challenges not only how I see myself but also how I see other people and my role within society.

Shana: That’s a lovely thought. I have to say that even though Hersey refers to her work as the Nap Ministry, I was unprepared for how churchy the tone of this book was. I have a complicated relationship with religion and there were a lot of references to divinity, souls, and sacredness that personally didn’t work for me.

But I still had many highlighted quotes in Rest in Resistance that spoke to me. Thinking about the sacrifices of my ancestors is often what drives me to sacrifice my time, my health, or my peace in service of other people. This book offers an alternative perspective on honoring one’s past, and it made me reflect on the different survival and resistance strategies of my own ancestors. This is a deeply accepting book, and it encouraged me to not only see myself as more than my labor, but to see my ancestors that way too. I loved that it directly linked how Black people resisted exploitation in the past, to how we can rest and resist in the present.

Carrie: I recommend this book highly, especially in conjunction with Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price, which also explores the concept of rest from an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist viewpoint. It is VERY repetitive, but that worked well for me because I struggled so much emotionally with the concepts (are we SURE my worth isn’t tied to my to-do list?).

Shana: I agree that the book is very repetitive. The main points are in the introduction, and the rest of the book doesn’t deviate much from those initial ideas. This is partly by design, because Hersey talks about the need to repeat something “over and over to ourselves as we deepen into this truth.”

It took me a month to read this short book because I kept putting it down to go to sleep. So, I guess it’s effective! I would recommend this book for readers looking for a manifesto that encourages you to nap and dream more often, especially if you’re skeptical about whether resting more is possible for someone like you.

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