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Frankie Blackburn
Start with the Heart
Start with the Heart is a practical guide to building genuine multicultural relationships and community networks to increase belonging, mutual support, and shared action, where you live and work. •\tAre you searching for new friends, ones who bring out the best in you? •\tAre you challenged by getting to know people who are different than you? •\tDo you need to do a better job connecting with people at work? •\tDoes your job require you to build diverse and trusting relationships in the community? Many people acknowledge how difficult it has become to make friends or to forge new relationships of any kind, but especially those which can open our minds and hearts to new perspectives and experiences. Frankie Blackburn, a longtime community organizer in neighborhoods, apartment complexes and local schools, interviewed over 50 diverse colleagues, each of whom brings direct experience building relationships across race and class in a wide range of settings, both personal and professional. Out of these in-depth conversations and 40 years of her own personal practice, she developed ten specific practices to support both the cultivation of new relationships and the nurturing of lasting relationships. She believes that networks of diverse and trusting relationships are the only way to thrive personally and transform our world collectively. This self-help handbook, and the real stories used to illustrate each practice, will \tInspire you to find activities and spaces to meet new people. \tSupport you in initiating conversation and following up afterwards. \tMotivate you to be more creative and intentional in how you deepen a new connection. \tOffer you concrete tips and tools for navigating the ups and downs of relating to people. \tProvide you a framework for sharing gifts and talents to effect change.
Blackburn offers readers a light-hearted self-help guide to the “lifelong journey” of building strong relationships in any setting (“be it at work, in the community, or even at home”) in this inviting debut. Making the case that "building bridges of deep trust,” especially across cultural lines, demands individual and collective intentionality, awareness, understanding, and open hearts, Blackburn encourages in her ten practices for relationship building (“Practice Three: Persist with a Patient Heart”) that readers put their full hearts into the nurturing of diverse, inclusive community: “Heart-driven connection also helps us truly listen and receive what the person is saying or offering,” she argues. Packed with incisive prompts and practical advice, this compact resource draws on expertise from over 50 intentional relationship builders with an eye for “intentional awareness” as it lays out how to promote kindness, recognize personal biases, and eventually construct a network of long-lasting relationships.

Particularly helpful are Blackburn’s hands-on applications that range from guided reflections to exercises designed with interaction in mind. (One roleplay centers on resolving challenging relationship issues, and readers are encouraged to practice forgiveness when collaborating with others.) Drawing on her and her interviewees’ personal experiences for learning opportunities, Blackburn shares how she has cultivated inclusivity while building new relationships with co-workers, neighbors, and others—and she commiserates with the inner fears and struggles many face when initiating new friendships or social encounters.

Blackburn professes "I believe that we have no choice but to figure out how to honor, respect, and know 'the others’ in our midst.” That rousing sentiment runs throughout the book as she provides tips to engage in healthy communication and active listening in an effort to build commonality with others. The material is as inspirational as it is constructive, but it’s also practical. Blackburn examines how to set boundaries and stretch comfort zones. This is a winning resource for anyone seeking meaningful and strong connections with the people around them.

Takeaway: Inspiring, practical resource for cultivating multicultural community.

Comparable Titles: Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart, Jennie Allen’s Find Your People.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: B
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A