A review of The Soulmaking Room by Dee Dee Risher
By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann
When Dee Dee Risher’s book first came out in April 2016, I quickly posted an interview with her on RadicalDiscipleship.net to promote the book. I was already thirty pages in and in my short introduction, I swore that while reading books had fallen out of my life due to sleepless toddler nights, I would finish this book!
Well, it’s been 3 years, but I did it. Both my kids now sleep most nights and I am waking up into a new personhood. So, I started reading again. I first got through Jennifer Harvey’s Raising White Kids in a Racially Unjust America, which felt crucial as I navigate these early years of parenting white boys. And then, I turned back to Dee Dee’s book.
My heart and mind fled through the pages. It is a page turner with stories begging to be heard. Shane Claiborne writes in the introduction, “By sharing our own story, we help others write theirs. That is what Dee Dee Risher has done.” And its true. I found myself in those pages. Dee Dee named truths and asked questions that are so deep inside of me, I had yet to find the words.
Her writing is strikingly vulnerable especially about the pain, losses, and shortcomings of her life (and thus of all our lives).
“Allow me to offer the folloing confession: I have lived by taking much more than my share of this earth’s resources, and I will betray my brothers and sisters on this planet for the rest of my life by continuing to do so. I am a First-World consumer, an extremely difficult addiction from which to recover.”
The book is filled with confessions that do not feel self-absorbed or contrived, but words that matter, that need to be said by all of us over and over again. “Perhaps the function of confession is to help us say real and vulnerable words to one another.”
Her book weaves stories together that grapple with marriage, hospitality, parenting, racism, and consumerism. But I find myself coming back to her words again and again about what it means to raise kids in this age of climate change.
“The looming crisis of the earth haunts me,” she writes. “I grapple with how to prepare my children for a future in which the foundation of life as we know it- this planet herself- promises to be in dramatic shift…We are failing them by raising them in an artificial and unsustainable world of comfort uncritical of materialism and disposability.”
The questions she raises throughout the book are ones that echo in all of our lives. She models a way of living and loving the questions encouraging each of us to be who we are summoned to be. “We must find a way to live out the resistance that feels like our own face, our own flesh.”
For me a particularly surprising part of the book, is giving space to grieve the loss of dreams that do not come to be. The dreams that we have for our lives that feel big enough to hold us and yet die unfinished. She writes, “Some things that I believe I was given to do have died in the worst way, right in my lap.” Her constant honesty about grief and pain open the readers up to find beauty in our own brokenness. And in the midst of it all, she is unwavering in her love for self and reader. “Tell the truth about everything- especially the things that go wrong.”
Each section is peppered with quotations I would love to paste to this page. Words that linger in my psyche and push me towards living the life my soul cries out for. But I will let you read the book. Trust me, if you only read two books over the course of several years, I recommend this as one of them. It is a room for your soul.
Dee Dee ends with a chapter on the transformative power of gratitude. “Our gratitude helps us discover our sacred, holy life.” I am a lover of gratitude. So, I too, end with gratitude. Dee Dee, thank you for writing this book. Thank you for opening up scripture and finding a small room on the second floor where each of us can fit. Thank you for honoring and naming the grief, the loss, the untold truths. Thank you for seeing the world and letting it break your heart. Thank you for consistently trying to live a life that is just and meaningful. Thank you for inviting each of us to tell our own stories and be undone by yours.