Letter from the Publisher: Returning Home to Our Bodies

Posted by – January 18, 2024
Categories: New Release Letter from the Publisher

To flower from seed, a book must traverse many seasons and defy gravity to sprout toward the sky, its petals often different from how it was first dreamed. 

The six-year blooming process for Abigail Rose Clarke’s new book Returning Home to Our Bodies: Reimagining the Relationship Between Our Bodies and the World began from the tiniest of seeds: in March 2018, my own racial justice work and interest in the role of white people within it led me to Abigail’s endeavors helping white people somatically dismantle the supremacy lacing through their bodies. I knew that my own socialized training as a cis white man to dominate or dismiss was something that I could feel in my body: sometimes as anger, sometimes as tension, sometimes as defensiveness, sometimes as pulling away. I was working on trying to catch myself in those “somatic panics” so that I could choose and embody something different. I was curious about a book from someone teaching people how to do that.

And so I reached out to Abigail through her website, and fortunately she was open to a conversation. We talked about a book that put her teachings into book form.

Two years passed. The creative birthing process does not always follow the Gregorian calendar; it interfaces with all other aspects of the creator’s life and can progress in starts and spurts. As a steward of books, I try to find the sweet spot between giving space and giving shape. I don’t want to rush people and their process; at the same time, I want them to know I am here, wondering, waiting, available to help wherever needed. And so I checked back in with Abigail.  

Her focus had changed, she told me. As she tried to work with white people in dismantling the white supremacy they enacted somatically, she recognized that their understanding of how their bodies worked was itself warped by prevailing dominator systems, and that bodily liberation could only happen if our conceptions of the facts of the body were liberated as well. Various forms of supremacy and “power over” have shaped how almost all of us understand the body—we need to re-see how the body actually works and that it is in fact built for liberation. 

In other words, Abigail still wanted to write a book, but a different one. This made sense to me: writing about what is “up” for authors can raise the words off the page. So Abigail went off to create a book proposal about reimagining our bodies, one that explored, for instance, how the permeability of our skin teaches us about boundaries and merging; how the queer behavior of an organ like the mesentery demonstrates that non-binariness is in fact endogenous to the human body. All that and practical exercises too. 

Two years passed again. Assembling one’s widely amassed knowledge and vision into a cohesive book proposal takes much time and labor. But when I received Abigail’s proposal for what was originally called Body Work: Somatics as a Field Guide to a Healing Future, I was hooked. Fortunately my colleagues were as well. 

Two years passed again. Even though the proposal holds the architecture of the book, it must still be written. That took Abigail a year and was its own sublime journey. And then there is the year we needed to edit, design, and produce the book; position it and create marketing and publicity plans; and enroll the sales team at our distributor Penguin Random House into the book’s particular power.  

I keep working on returning home to my body. As I continue to learn the ways I have been socialized into extractive, transactional systems and to locate those leverage points in my body, I am slowly repatterning myself. This is an inherently slow and messy process; the training is deep in my bones. But, as Abigail’s book so potently shows, so is liberation.  

—Tim McKee, publisher of North Atlantic Books 

About the Author

Tim came to NAB in 2013 and is honored to serve as publisher. Born in New York City, McKee grew up in Los Angeles and received a BA from Princeton University and an MA in journalism from the University of Missouri. He has worked in the nonprofit sector for his entire career, including serving as the long-time managing editor of The Sun magazine, the grants director for a social-justice foundation in San Francisco, and as a writer for several community-based organizations in California. He has also taught college-level writing and journalism. His book No More Strangers Now: Young Voices from a New South Africa (Dorling Kindersley) was an Honor Book for the Jane Addams Book Award and a Los Angeles Times bestseller. He is happiest when bringing necessary stories to the page.