Loving Our Own Bones: Disability Wisdom and the Spiritual Subversiveness of Knowing Ourselves Whole (Hardcover)

Loving Our Own Bones: Disability Wisdom and the Spiritual Subversiveness of Knowing Ourselves Whole By Julia Watts Belser Cover Image
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A transformative spiritual companion and deep dive into disability politics that reimagines disability in the Bible and contemporary culture

A 2024 National Jewish Book Award winner and essential read on disability, spirituality, and social justice

“What’s wrong with you?”

Scholar, activist, and rabbi Julia Watts Belser is all too familiar with this question. What’s wrong isn’t her wheelchair, though—it’s exclusion, objectification, pity, and disdain.

Our attitudes about disability have such deep cultural roots that we almost forget their sources. But open the Bible and disability is everywhere. Moses believes his stutter renders him unable to answer God’s call. Jacob’s encounter with an angel leaves him changed not just spiritually but physically: he gains a limp. For centuries, these stories have been told and retold in ways that treat disability as a metaphor for spiritual incapacity or as a challenge to be overcome.

Through fresh and unexpected readings of the Bible, Loving Our Own Bones instead paints a luminous portrait of what it means to be disabled and one of God’s beloved. Belser delves deep into sacred literature, braiding the insights of disabled, feminist, Black, and queer thinkers with her own experiences as a queer disabled Jewish feminist. She talks back to biblical commentators who traffic in disability stigma and shame. What unfolds is a profound gift of disability wisdom, a radical act of spiritual imagination that can guide us all toward a powerful reckoning with each other and with our bodies.

Loving Our Own Bones invites readers to claim the power and promise of spiritual dissent, and to nourish their own souls through the revolutionary art of radical self-love.

About the Author

Julia Watts Belser is a rabbi, scholar, and spiritual teacher, as well as a longtime activist for disability, LGBTQ, and gender justice. She is a professor of Jewish studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Georgetown University and core faculty in Georgetown’s Disability Studies Program, as well as a senior research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Author of Rabbinic Tales of Destruction, among other scholarly books, she has held faculty fellowships at Harvard Divinity School and the Katz Center for Advanced Jewish Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She’s also an avid wheelchair hiker and a lover of wild places.

Praise For…

“Belser’s book is a triumph of theological insight, disability activism, and honest, personal, hard-won wisdom . . . An excellent, impressive addition to the conversation around theology and disability that shines on many levels.”
Library Journal, Starred Review

“Eloquently argued . . . This is an impressive achievement.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“A fresh perspective on disability.”
Spirituality and Practice

“Julia Watts Belser has written a book about joy, a political manifesto, a cry from the heart, and a spiritual companion. . . Her writing is both intimate and eloquent.”
—Emily Soloff, The Christian Century

“[An] . . . exceptional book.”
Religion Dispatches

“Written with a scholar’s deft touch and a poet’s lyrical precision, this book will draw you in to think and feel differently about sacred texts and disabled people’s complex and luminous lives, in the troublesome context of ableism’s strictures and structures. By the end, I was transported to new vistas, unimagined openings in my heart and understanding. Julia Watts Belser’s ability to move differently carries the reader to new realms: Loving Our Own Bones is a book that flies on wheels, a dazzling and revelatory ride.”
—Rebecca Ann Parker, co-author of Saving Paradise

“This book reaches back to the oldest stories of the Hebrew Bible and retells them through perspectives on flourishing in bodies considered disabled—the kinds of bodies we all inevitably inhabit. Loving Our Own Bones is a gift to us all and a call to love ourselves and one another in all our varied, distinctive, and entirely human bodies.”
—Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, author of Extraordinary Bodies

“Julia Watts Belser is a Wisdom Rebbe, a leader, an innovator, and a sacred guide to the deepest depths of all that makes us human.”
—Neshama Carlebach, award-winning singer/songwriter

“This is an extraordinary book: beautifully written and accessible yet filled with scholarly insights; profoundly spiritual yet also boldly critical; fiercely angry yet also affirming and joyous. Readers of Loving Our Own Bones will not only come away with a deepened understanding of disability and ableism but will also likely have their views of many biblical texts challenged and transformed.”
—Judith Plaskow, author, with Carol P. Christ, of Goddess and God in the World

“An unapologetically embodied text, Loving Our Own Bones is essential reading for anyone interested in queer crip world-making. Seamlessly weaving together memoir, disability theory, biblical criticism, and activist practice, Julia Watts Belser offers readers vital new frameworks for understanding the textures of disabled life and the possibilities of story. Placing radically inclusive access at the center of her spiritual work, Belser reveals how loving our own bones is a collective act.”
—Alison Kafer, author of Feminist, Queer, Crip

"...A profound gift of disability wisdom, a radical act of spiritual imagination that can guide us all toward a powerful reckoning with each other and with our bodies."
—Ilana Maymind, lecturer at the Religious Studies Department at Chapman University

Product Details
ISBN: 9780807006757
ISBN-10: 0807006750
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publication Date: September 12th, 2023
Pages: 288
Language: English