The release of Sarah Stewart Holland & Beth Silvers’ Now What? How to Move Forward When We’re Divided About Basically Everything was perfectly timed. If you follow their podcast Pantsuit Politics like I do, you know that their mission is to help others engage in grace filled political conversations.
Let me say that one more time:: GRACE.FILLED.POLITICAL.CONVERSATIONS.
On their twice-weekly podcast, Sarah and Beth take a different approach to the news and regularly prioritize curiosity over the conflict that often drives political conversations.
Let me rewind a bit though with Sarah and Beth. Their first book, I Think You’re Wrong, But I’m Listening was released in 2019, and it was also perfectly timed. The overall message of the book was that politics does not have to divide us and that we can bring the same care and respect to policy discussions that we bring to the rest of our lives. That served many of us well for quite some time.
Then came the pandemic in early 2020 when the world seemed to tip upside down. Suddenly, it was a lot harder for many of us to listen to others with differing viewpoints when our personal health and safety was front and center. Since then, division has continued to accelerate at a rapid pace and one peek at your social media feeds these days will send you into a tailspin of worry and despair if you let it.
That is why I believe that Sarah and Beth’s second book, Now What? arrived right on time and is so appropriate for this moment. The book was released literally the day after the recent Supreme Court leak regarding Roe v. Wade that nearly broke the internet. If you’ve ever been part of a book release before, you know that the release date is coordinated months in advance. Regardless, this book dropped at the most needed time for many of us.
Regardless of your personal or political beliefs, Now What? offers authentic approaches to better understanding the connections you have with people and ways to more effectively engage with, listen to, and understand others. It walks you through how to approach difficult political situations with loved ones, how to talk to your kids about responsible citizenship, navigating culture wars on social media, understanding national politics through the lens of personal trauma, and also the unfortunate reality of accepting when connections are too toxic in our lives and need to be severed.
The book is less about providing a script for how to handle each and every situation like it’s a checklist, but more about recognizing that each of these scenarios is complicated, nuanced, and that we are all dealing with them. After hearing Sarah and Beth describe their own struggles with these topics and those of others, I finished the book feeling a lot less isolated and alone.
As an avid Pantsuit Politics show listener who has traveled to see Sarah and Beth in person for an event, reading this book was a no-brainer for me. However, if you aren’t familiar with their work I would like to share with you a few of the most important insights that can be gleaned from Now What? including:
Dealing with Family Conflict
“Our families of origin make us who we are, and that’s why a breakdown in those connections hurts so badly.”
This was hands down the most powerful quote in the book for me and I immediately teared up. Sarah and Beth mention in the book that they receive, “more emails every week about navigating political conflict within families than any other topic” which really resonated with me.
The past 2 years have been hard on several of my family relationships and I would be lying if I told you I know how to fix them. However, Sarah and Beth point out that different life experiences mean different expectations in life and that is what makes all of this so hard. They stress that, “We cannot free ourselves of all the forces that create different expectations among our family members. We can try to see them, label them, and keep them in mind when we’re responding to conflict so that when political conflict does enter the room, we are more prepared.”
Navigating Adult Friendships
“Letting friction live is our best advice in friendships.”
In this part of the book, Sarah and Beth discuss how it’s tempting to believe that friendships should be “incubators of sameness.” At first glance, why shouldn’t they be? You get to choose your friends and being the same is good – right? Not so fast.
As the ladies point out, when we walk away from friendships that experience moments or even seasons of tension, we are “depriving ourselves of so much love, history, and perspective.” I have two very dear friends and we lived through a period of remarkable tension a while back. However, I can tell you that the process of us sorting through it all taught me more about myself and others than I ever could have imagined.
I won’t pretend it was easy though, and again I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t tempted in the thick of the tension to just run the other way. But as Sarah and Beth so aptly point out, “Friction that is allowed to live is a remarkable teacher.”
Reality of Social Media
“Twitter. Ain’t. Church.”
It is so easy to become disillusioned these days with the online content we consume. Personally, I’ve struggled for several years now with the right balance of social media in my life. On the one hand, I am part of several organizations that provide important updates and information I need exclusively through Facebook and I genuinely enjoy keeping up with friends on Instagram and Facebook. However, as Sarah and Beth describe in their book “Twitter. Ain’t. Church” and “people need to stop acting like they’re in the pews when they’re just behind their keyboards.”
Admittedly, I have posted my fair share of posts and stories as though I’m standing behind the pulpit. But I know it rarely accomplishes anything at all. As Sarah and Beth describe, most of what we see on social media is more about “how the story is told” and “the thing that happened” gets lost. That’s where the art of curating your feed comes in. No longer allowing social media to tell you what to pay attention to by curating your feed to people and organizations you trust can be a lifesaver – literally! Make no mistake – this is not about cutting out anyone and anything that you do not agree with online. Instead, it is about, “Establishing some guiding principles for ourselves online” to help make you feel, “more grounded and clearheaded.”
There is so much more to Now What? than I could possibly write in this book review but hopefully this has given you a taste of what you can gain by reading the book.
Pro-tip: If you are an avid Pantsuit Politics listener, listening to it on audiobook is highly recommended to fully capture the passion and energy from Sarah and Beth in this beautifully written book. You’ll laugh, probably cry, and hopefully feel a lot more hopeful about the future by the end.
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