How to Live Free in a Dangerous World: A Decolonial Memoir (Hardcover)
“Phenomenal.... A memoir that opens into the world, with brilliance, courage, and elegant prose.... This is a book to read, read again, and remember.”—Imani Perry, New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award winner South to America
Poet and journalist Shayla Lawson follows their National Book Critics Circle finalist This Is Major with these daring and exquisitely crafted essays, where Lawson journeys across the globe, finds beauty in tumultuous times, and powerfully disrupts the constraints of race, gender, and disability.
In their new book, Shayla Lawson reveals how traveling can itself be a political act, when it can be a dangerous world to be Black, femme, nonbinary, and disabled. With their signature prose, at turns bold, muscular, and luminous, Shayla Lawson travels the world to explore deeper meanings held within love, time, and the self.
Through encounters with a gorgeous gondolier in Venice, an ex-husband in the Netherlands, and a lost love on New Year’s Eve in Mexico City, Lawson’s travels bring unexpected wisdom about life in and out of love. They learn the strength of friendships and the dangers of beauty during a narrow escape in Egypt. They examine Blackness in post-dictatorship Zimbabwe, then take us on a secretive tour of Black freedom movements in Portugal.
Through a deeply insightful journey, Lawson leads readers from a castle in France to a hula hoop competition in Jamaica to a traditional theater in Tokyo to a Prince concert in Minnesota and, finally, to finding liberation on a beach in Bermuda, exploring each location—and their deepest emotions—to the fullest. In the end, they discover how the trials of marriage, grief, and missed connections can lead to self-transformation and unimagined new freedoms.
About the Author
Shayla Lawson is the author of This Is Major, which was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award and a LAMBDA Literary Award, as well as two poetry collections. Lawson has written for New York magazine, Salon, ESPN, and Paper, and earned fellowships from Yaddo and MacDowell. They reside in Lexington, Kentucky. They’ve “lived” everywhere.
Praise for How to Live Free in a Dangerous World
“Phenomenal. Shayla Lawson’s How to Live Free in a Dangerous World is luminously intimate. It is a memoir that opens into the world, with brilliance, courage, and elegant prose. Lawson is at once marvelously and unapologetically Black, incisive, and vulnerable. They are an unflinching observer of the world who takes us on a journey that is both wide and deep. This is a book to read, read again, and remember.”
—Imani Perry, New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award winner South to America
“Some writers have the gift of talent. Some writers’ talent is a gift to others, namely the reader. Then there are those writers who fall into both categories. Shayla Lawson is one such author. Thought provoking, raw, honest, funny, moving. This book is a treasure. Shayla is a marvel. I’m so grateful for what they and the book have given us.”
— Phoebe Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of You Can’t Touch My Hair
"How To Live Free in a Dangerous World explores many places – varied cultures, perspectives, life stages, individual differences – and how we navigate these intersecting landscapes. Beautiful, moving, and relentlessly insightful.”
—Julia Serano, author of Whipping Girl
“Shayla Lawson is one of our greatest storytellers. Their ability to weave personal narrative and pop culture criticism is unparalleled. They make How to Live Free in a Dangerous World uniquely appealing and will leave audiences wanting more.”
—Jamilah Lemieux, writer, culture critic, and podcast host
“The writing in How to Live Free in a Dangerous World is beautiful, Shayla’s ideas uniquely compelling, and their perspective invaluable in these precarious times. I am grateful for Shayla Lawson's sharp eye, incisive critiques, and the threads of resistance and hope woven through their observations of this life.”
—Areva Martin, award-winning civil rights attorney and national bestselling author of Make It Rain!
“Packed with lyrical lines, genuine insight, and ebullient confessions, Lawson’s latest nonfiction book sparkles with vulnerability, sincerity, and poetry… Lawson is a gifted chronicler not only of their own personal revolution, but also of the power structures that affect their place in the world. A stunning essay collection about travel, mortality, and liberation.”
—Kirkus, starred review
Praise for This Is Major
"[A] pitch-perfect blend of wit and keen observation and analysis. A book that makes you laugh and think at the same time."
“With a brand of candor and urgency known to us only as Lawson-eque, these essays [offer]... a kaleidoscope of wit, humor, sorrow and deeply felt thinking and questioning of modern life.”