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The Book Nook

Le Coin Lecture

Curl up and grab one of these books to help you navigate the work that's ahead.

This list is meant to help, challenge, and encourage discussions around DEI, Anti-Racism and Emerging Leadership practices. 

July 1, 2024

Risk it takes to bloom by Raquel Willis.png


The Risk it Takes to Bloom by Raquel Willis

By: Sas Miller

What's this about?

The Risk It Takes to Bloom is a candid and powerful memoir in which writer Raquel Willis traces her evolution and work as a Black transgender woman, against the backdrop of the Obama and Trump presidencies. At the 2017 National Women’s March in Washington, D.C., the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Willis was one of the invited speakers. When her speech veered into a call for greater intersectionality and inclusion of trans women within the women’s movement,  the event organisers had her mic cut off. This incident strengthened Willis’ resolve and commitment to advocating for collective liberation. 


Willis documents her experiences growing up in a traditional Black, Catholic family in Augusta, Georgia, through her time at the University of Georgia, where she begins exploring questions of gender, community and identity. Through isolation, loss, and grief, Willis’ story is a poignant example of what it means to bloom and live authentically. 

About The Author

Raquel Willis is an award-winning writer, media strategist and transgender activist, dedicated to collective liberation and highlighting the stories of Black trans individuals. She is the former Executive Editor for Out Magazine, and her work has appeared in publications including The Huffington Post, Essence, Vogue, and Autostraddle. Raquel uses her work and platform to fundraise for Black-led LGBTQ+ workshops and initiatives.


Memoir, Transgender, Queer, Feminism, Race, Social Justice

What We Liked

I loved the frankness with which Willis documents her sometimes strained relationship with her father.  The admission that his death in a lot of ways freed her to bloom into her most authentic self, was a refreshingly honest and relatable confession, because it’s an example of how sometimes family expectations can be the biggest obstacle to one's own self-actualization.


What we remember: After Willis’ speech is cut short during the Women’s March, she reaches out to fellow trans activist, Janet Mock, for advice on how to handle the situation. Mock advises that it would be better to let the slight go, because as a trans individual, Willis would be judged more for her reaction to the incident, rather than the March organisers being judged for the incident itself. This example resonated because it showed the mental labour and emotional restraint marginalised individuals must exhibit, no matter how righteous their rage, in order to be palatable to mainstream society.

What this book is : A complex examination of intersecting identities including Black womanhood and Black masculinity.


What this book isn't :  A traditional memoir which solely documents Willis’ journey. Like she does with her social media platforms, Willis uses the book to write letters to, and highlight the stories of other trans individuals including Leelah Alcorn, a trans teen who died by suicide, and Chyna Gibson, a trans woman who was shot and killed in New Orleans.

Why Read This Book

Although Black trans women disproportionately face more risk of discrimination and violence, their first person narratives largely go untold. Willis acknowledges her class privilege in being able to document her story, which offers a necessary counter narrative to the often tragic stories of trans individuals that are told by mainstream media.

Quick Quote

“While a part of me was trying to conceal the feelings of pain, loss and anguish in that moment, another part was trying to carve out who I’d become in a world where your approval mattered less… Your death saddened me, but it also freed me. I could love you, but not fit your mould. I could love you, and didn’t have to see myself as a failure for not being the epitome of Black masculinity. I could love you, and didn’t have to surrender my brief, precious life to your dreams.” 

"His whiteness had afforded him more space to explore gender non-conformity as a child. Not to mention his parents had recently allowed him to take time off from school to support his mental health. It was beautiful that he had that kind of grace in his life, but I never would’ve been extended that by my traditional, Southern, Black family… I had been raised with the expectation to grind myself to the bone. To endure by any means necessary."

Get the Gist

Listen to author Raquel Willis discuss The Risk It Takes to Bloom on the Pulling The Thread podcast.

How does it fare?

“This pleasantly conversational memoir mixes sombre activism and youthful levity, combining glittering details of a buoyant social life with sorrowful reflections on violence against trans people. It’s an inspiring account.”

Publishers Weekly

“This book is essential reading. Raquel Willis uses her life story as a means to inspire and encourage us to step into our full selves. Deeply engaging with searing honesty and compassion.”

– Elliot Page, actor and author of Page Boy

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