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Book review: Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey

11 August 2023

Jennie Hogan reviews a sleep manifesto

PREACHERS are mindful of not letting their congregation nod off; the African-American author, poet, and activist Tricia Hersey (Feature, 4 August) is wholeheartedly dedicated to inspiring followers of her Nap Ministry to sleep, dream, and stop working so hard.

Her manifesto is compelling and impassioned: “This book is a testament and testimony of my refusal to donate my body to a system that still owes a debt to my Ancestors for the theft of their labor and DreamSpace.” She reflects unflinchingly on her bitter experience and examines the scars inflicted by systemic white supremacy and capitalism. “Enough!” is her cry. The encouragement to resist “grind culture”, as she calls it, is prophetic and timely.

Her Nap Ministry began in 2017 by inviting people into a simple room to nap. The experience was transformative, and her ministry has gone global — clearly revealing the magnitude of the sleep-deprivation epidemic. Rest, she urges, is not a privilege, but a protest. Her revolutionary message is arresting.

Rooted in the Pentecostal tradition, the call to nap, as she expounds it, is not merely for personal fulfilment. Instead, to receive rest is a gift to the world, contributes to community, and works towards changing a hyper-productivity culture. Further, rest is seen as a “portal for the imagination” and dreaming — by day or by night — is charmingly described as “brain love”. Might our refusal to rest be a resistance to being in touch with our unfathomable desires?

Despite her attendance at a seminary, theological insights are scarce here, which is disappointing. There is an absence of deeper reflection on, say, monastic traditions, where rest as well as work and prayer is given equal value. Similarly, her thoughts on the fruits of digital sabbaths lack genuine context. I found myself wondering when prayer might be incorporated, but, unfortunately, it never surfaced.

Manifestos are by definition impassioned; Hersey’s writing style is shouty and repetitive. Her insistence that we should press the pause button a little more often is, however, a real wake-up call.

The Revd Jennie Hogan is a psychotherapist. She is the author of This Is My Body: A story of sickness and health (Canterbury Press, 2017).


Rest is Resistance
Tricia Hersey
Octopus Publishing Group £16.99
Church Times Bookshop £15.29

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