By Vickie Machado

Healing Haunted Histories: A Settler Discipleship of Decolonization, written by Elaine Enns & Ched Myers (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2021), 392 pp., $38 (pbk) ISBN:9781725255357

The deep roots of colonialism and Indigenous displacement are strong realities that permeate our society—haunting us through both past and present-day injustices, pain, and hurt that continually impact the most marginalized communities. As peace advocates and activists, we know that these injustices and those that accompany them call for complex and long-term solutions if the work of healing, restoration, and restitution is ever to be accomplished. In an effort to move toward restorative justice and decolonization, Elaine Enns and Ched Myers’ Healing Haunted Histories: A Settler Discipleship of Decolonization gives readers a practical starting point with which to engage this work: exploring family histories, culture, and tradition. Speaking directly to settler Christians and other settlers of faith, Healing Haunted Histories analyzes and reflects upon how we are shaped by our pasts and how we must re-think what this means for our future. While the book is both a memoir and a social analysis (with theological reflection), peace advocates might find the workbook aspect of this text to be most appealing. Healing Haunted Histories is structured in a way that readers can work through underlying systems of oppression and trauma in their own families that set the foundation upon which many of today’s injustices continue. By doing this, Enns and Myers call readers to: understand their own histories within the context of settler colonialism, transform self-understandings (thereby impacting ways of living and structures of society), and practice restorative solidarity through decolonization. 

Drawing from landlines, bloodlines, and songlines (known as LBS), Enns and Myers look at the locations, stories, and cultural traditions associated with family trauma. The recognition of personal and collective traumas show the generational impact of injustice and privilege and how both are passed down. Enns draws from her own Mennonite family history to model how the work of using LBS can be a beneficial way of recognizing hurt and laying the foundation for restoration. Much of this involves acting as a “remem-bearer,” acknowledging wounds and violence while also drawing from healing “traditions of resilience.” A powerful theological interlude about missionary work sets readers up for the second half of the book, which explores revising storylines. This final part explores the movement toward decolonization through reinhabitation, de-assimilation, restoration, and reconciliation. Successful and creative experiments are spotlighted at the end to show that change is possible. Collectively the book is a must read for any person of faith who is seeking to practice justice and work toward decolonization in today’s world.

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