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Publisher's Summary

2020 Chautauqua Prize Finalist

2020 NAACP Image Award Nominee - Outstanding Literary Work (Nonfiction) 

Best-of Lists: Best Nonfiction Books of 2019 (Kirkus Reviews); 25 Can't-Miss Books of 2019 (The Undefeated)

Explores the terror, grace, and beauty of coming of age as a Black person in contemporary America and what it means to parent our children in a persistently unjust world.

Emotionally raw and deeply reflective, Imani Perry issues an unflinching challenge to society to see Black children as deserving of humanity. She admits fear and frustration for her African-American sons in a society that is increasingly racist and at times seems irredeemable. However, as a mother, feminist, writer, and intellectual, Perry offers an unfettered expression of love - finding beauty and possibility in life - and she exhorts her children and their peers to find the courage to chart their own paths and find steady footing and inspiration in Black tradition. 

Perry draws upon the ideas of figures such as James Baldwin, W. E. B. DuBois, Emily Dickinson, Toni Morrison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Ida B. Wells. She shares vulnerabilities and insight from her own life and from encounters in places as varied as the West Side of Chicago; Birmingham, Alabama; and New England prep schools. 

With original art for the cover by Ekua Holmes, Breathe offers a broader meditation on race, gender, and the meaning of a life well-lived and is also an unforgettable lesson in Black resistance and resilience. 

©2019 Imani Perry (P)2019 Beacon Press

Critic Reviews

Breathe is a parent’s unflinching demand, born of inherited trauma and love, for her children’s right simply to be possible.” (The New York Times

“In Breathe, Perry offers a lyrical meditation that connects a painful, proud history of African American struggle with a clarion call for present-day action to protect, defend, and celebrate the promise of the next generation.” (Stacey Abrams, founder and chair of Fair Fight Action, Inc.) 

Breathe: A Letter to My Sons is deeply cathartic and resonant for parents attempting to raise their children with intention and integrity. Imani Perry shows deep compassion for both parents and children while incisively underlining the realities of raising Black boys in a country that will inherently betray them. It is a book filled with love and insight for difficult times.” (Tarana Burke) 

What listeners say about Breathe

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Delightful peek into the heart & soul of a mother

It felt as if I had stumbled upon a private journal left open for my prying eyes. I found a quiet corner & listened. I lost myself a few times as I reflected on my own experiences and I went on a little bit of an emotional roller coaster but in the end I felt lifted and so full of love. A beautiful letter written from the heart & soul of a mother to every child. Thanks for sharing.

3 people found this helpful

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A treasure

While this book is written for her sons, it feels like a letter we all need. It is instructive, compassionate, fierce, philosophical, and practical. As a white Mom, it deepened my understanding of and compassion for the differences in the types of conversations Black and other Moms of color are having, and gave me insight into how to speak to my own white son about the work we still need to do. And as a Mom more generally, I hope some day I can gift my own child even a fraction of the wisdom Ms. Perry offers her sons here. Truly this is a treasure.

2 people found this helpful

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Breathtaking

Although I know that this book isn't really for me, I'm so grateful to have had the chance read it. There is paradigm shifting perspective and powerful story.

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Wonderful.

Deep. Imani Perry told her story in an open and honest way. Her son's should know know they have a mother that cares deeply for them. As a black women I can relate to so many topics that was presented in this book.

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Outstanding testimony!

Such a beautifully written and narrated book. Imani Perry is superb in her analysis and commentary. A must read.

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Great Job

sometimes hard to focus on subject as narrator jumped around often in her train of thought