Valerie Brown co-authors book providing readers with wisdom and comfort

by Lisa DeAngelis

“Healing Our Way Home: Black Buddhist Teachings on Ancestors, Joy, and Liberation” offers wisdom and comfort to people on the winding journey of life.

New Hope resident, Valerie Brown wrote the book, which came out in February, along with co-authors Marisela B. Gomez, MD, and Kaira Jewel Lingo. 

Valerie’s path from a childhood she describes as “filled with violence, fear, and poverty” to lawyer, lobbyist and finally Dharma teacher was filled with detours.

“I was driven by fear to get out of poverty,” she remembers. “I became an independent student, meaning I had no parental support, at 18 years of age. My mother had died suddenly, and my father had abandoned the family. I got a job at Burger King and went to college at night. Slowly I made my way from undergrad to law school and to the ‘Big and Important Job’ as a lawyer and lobbyist. The only problem with the job was that it was killing my spirit and my soul.”

That drive to achieve had maintained her in her career for more than 20 years, no matter how unfulfilling.

Though she knew she needed to make a change, she wasn’t sure what that would mean.

Valerie grew up in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

She lived in Lambertville for 10 years and now lives in New Hope, a town she loves.

“New Hope is a very accepting community. Gay, straight, Black, White – everyone has a place here.”

In 1995, she attended a public talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh that she says changed not only her career trajectory but her whole life. 

“Slowly, very slowly, I began practicing mindfulness meditation. I changed from the inside out. I realized I was no longer a lobbyist-lawyer. I had to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be.”

A further catalyst for change came in 2022.

In little more than a year, Valerie says, “I was divorced, my brother, Trevor died, his wife died, my house in Lambertville was destroyed by Hurricane Ida, and my younger brother, Milton died.”

These events left her shaken, but with the support of family and friends, she began a healing journey that would ultimately result in her writing the book along with Gomez and Lingo. 

The connecting thread that brought the three women together was that all had been students of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh as well as Dharma teachers in the International Plum Village community.

Dharma is defined in the book as the teachings of the Buddha. The Plum Village Tradition is a global community of mindfulness centers and monasteries offering retreats and teachings on Buddhism and the art of mindful living. 

One need not be a practicing Buddhist or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) to derive wisdom and comfort from the book.

Valerie says of writing with her two co-authors, “It is a book that we ourselves would have liked to read, but which did not yet exist, to have a companion on the path.” Healing Our Way Home can be that companion for readers on the path between birth and death.

The nine chapters in the book touch on many relevant themes.

“Grounding In The Ancestors” explores the cultural, religious, and historical backgrounds, as well as the life events that shaped the three authors.

“Home, Place, and Belonging” recounts the three women’s life stories so far and explores how they have ultimately found home within themselves.

“Touching The Pain and Beauty of Our Heritage” touches on themes of ancestral heritage, healing, struggle, liberation, resistance, and resilience.

“True Refuge In Oneself: Relationships, Solitude, and Loneliness” speaks to the ways the tension between connectedness and aloneness live in our minds and bodies, and in the lives of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.

“Sexuality, Sensuality, and Intimacy” unpacks these topics as a form of deeper understanding of ourselves and others. 

“Racial Solidarity and Integrity On The Path To Justice” looks at what Black identity means in general, in popular culture, and in politics.

“Practicing With Racial Harm: Healing and Transformation” Are Possible offers straight talk about anger, rage, humiliation, and trauma.

“Self-Care, Celebrating Ourselves” explores self-care, self-regard, and self-love as ways we can truly center ourselves.

“Don’t Get Me Started! Real Talk On Race and Truly Coming Home To Ourselves” is described in the introduction as an exploration of the transformation of Black people and Black women from internalized oppression to true freedom.

Most poignantly, the book ends with a hope and wish for all of us in the midst and in the throes of this human experience: “May we all feel more at home in our own skin.”

The book is available online at and wherever books are sold.

PHOTO CAP 1: Valerie Brown

PHOTO CAP 2: “Healing Our Way Home”

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