Breathe: A Letter to My Sons

The cover page for the discussion guides to the 2020-21 Common Read of "Breathe" by Imani Perry features an abstract design.

The UUA chose Breathe: A Letter to My Sons by Imani Perry (Beacon Press, 2019) as the 2020-21 Common Read.

Discussion materials (PDF, 53 pages) for this Common Read offer two plans: one for use by a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) UU group, the other for any congregational group. Both plans invite groups to choose a one- or three-session program.

With online gathering now a norm, readers need not live near one another to form a group. If you identify as a person of color and want to provide or join a BIPOC Common Read group for Breathe, please “Share Your Group” on the UUA website. The "share" page also invites any group to post about your Common Read. (When you post, please indicate whether your group is BIPOC only or open to any UU.)

Why Read This Book Together?

Emotionally raw and deeply reflective, Perry's book challenges society to recognize Black children as deserving of humanity. She shares her fear and frustration for her African American sons in an increasingly racist atmosphere in which white people at times seem irredeemable. However, as a mother, feminist, writer, and intellectual, Perry offers an unfettered expression of love—finding beauty and possibility in life. She exhorts her children and their peers to find the courage to chart their own paths and find grounding and inspiration in Black tradition. The New York Times calls Breathe “an elixir of history, ancestry and compassion, which, together, become instruction…a parent’s unflinching demand, born of inherited trauma and love, for her children’s right simply to be possible.”

Breathe offers a broad meditation on race, gender, and the meaning of a life well lived as well as an unforgettable lesson in Black resistance and resilience. Congregations, groups, and individuals may purchase this book in hardcover from inSpirit: The UU Book and Gift Shop; group discount available. The e-book and audio book (CD or MP3) are available from the Bookshop.

This moment in time calls for a historic national reckoning with what it means to live as a Black or Brown American. Since our country's founding, systems of institutional racism have been operating to control, traumatize, and oppress people of color. As our President, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, has written, “It matters that we support the uprisings whose goal is the liberation of Black people and communities who for too long have been crushed by white supremacy, militarism, and capitalism. We must find the sources within ourselves to give us courage in this moment.” The selection of Breathe as the 2020-21 Common Read aims to nurture this necessary courage.

Imani Perry: "Depth, Complexity, and Beauty..."

Video profile of Breathe author and Princeton professor Imani Perry, produced by The Guardian (2020)

Watch on YouTube

Past Common Reads