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Book Club Kits: The Way of Tenderness

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

"What does liberation mean when I have incarnated in a particular body, with a particular shape, color, and sex?"

In The Way of Tenderness, Zen priest Zenju Earthlyn Manuel brings Buddhist philosophies of emptiness and appearance to bear on race, sexuality, and gender, using wisdom forged through personal experience and practice to rethink problems of identity and privilege.
Manuel brings her own experiences as a lesbian black woman into conversation with Buddhism to square our ultimately empty nature with superficial perspectives of everyday life. Her hard-won insights reveal that dry wisdom alone is not sufficient to heal the wounds of the marginalized; an effective practice must embrace the tenderness found where conventional reality and emptiness intersect. Only warmth and compassion can cure hatred and heal the damage it wreaks within us.
This is a book that will teach us all.

Discussion Questions

1. What was your first impression of this book? Did your opinion of the book change as you read it? How?


2. If this book was intended to teach the reader something, did it succeed? Was something learned from reading this book, if so what? If not, why did the book failed as a teaching tool?


3. Was there a specific passage that had left an impression, good or bad? Share the passage and its effect.


4. What surprised you the most about the book?


5. Were there any particular quotes that stood out to you? Why?


6. Was the purpose of the book to bring to light an issue? If so, did it make the group more aware and knowledgeable about the particular issue? How did earlier opinions about the issue change after reading this book?


7. After reading the book, has the group's interest been piqued about the subject matter? If so, would the group consider reading more on the topic in the future?


8. The way a non-fiction book is written can impact a reader's enjoyment and understanding of it. Was the book written in a way that was easily accessible? Did the language make the group loose interest in something that would have otherwise been an exciting subject? Were unfamiliar terms and concepts explained? Were there plenty of visuals to reinforce the subject matter and were they helpful?


9. Have you read any other books by this author? How did they compare to this one?


10. Does the author—or can you—draw implications for the future? Are there long- or short-term consequences to the issues raised in the book? If so, are they positive or negative? Affirming or frightening?

About the Author

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Ph.D., is an author and ordained Zen Buddhist priest. She combines Zen meditation, intuitive knowing, and indigenous wisdom in a path of liberation. She applies spiritual teachings to our lived experiences in the context of race, sexuality, and gender and at the same time hold these experiences as gateways to absolute freedom. With her own insights and creative teachings she encourages us to make a commitment to freedom and take refuge in it. Ultimately, she invites meditations on the nature of embodiment within a boundless life. As a teacher she continues as a student by dedicating herself to ongoing study and dharma practice (including yearly residential retreats) and to deepening continually her understanding and embodiment of the Buddha’s teachings.