This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us

Convergent. Feb. 2022. 224p. ISBN 9780593239773. $26. REL
With this debut, Arthur Riley, creator of Black Liturgies, has given us a wonderfully winsome, heartbreakingly honest, and ever-poetic work of spiritual biography and theological reflection. While some theologians will talk in the abstract about “incarnation,” “enfleshment,” or “embodiment,” Arthur Riley’s book is a lesson in concreteness, in Black theology, in seeing a body, being a body, being a person rooted in time, space, stories, and very particular flesh. Each chapter has a theme (e.g., “wonder”; “joy”; “memory”) and the journey toward those themes always takes surprising turns. On page after page, Arthur Riley unfolds herself slowly through family stories, personal struggles, Bible passages, whimsical descriptions, and an unflinching gaze at both the joyful and the agonizing aspects of being a person, a body woven from all this beauty and pain. For her, being a body means being a Black body, a body with physical challenges and illness, a body connected to family, histories, and specific places. That self-revelation reaching toward acceptance and love is the motive power of the work.
VERDICT A challenging and contemplative book, eminently readable as engaging prose while offering insight and depth throughout.
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