|photo: Cornell Watson
Jessamyn Stanley is an internationally acclaimed voice in wellness, known for her insights on 21st-century yoga and intersectional identity. She is the founder of The Underbelly, a streaming wellness app and community, co-host of the podcast Dear Jessamyn and co-founder of We Go High, a North Carolina-based cannabis justice initiative. She is a regular contributor to SELF magazine and has been featured in the New York Times, Vogue and Sports Illustrated. She is the author of Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear. Get on the Mat. Love Your Body. Her latest book is the essay collection Yoke: My Yoga of Self-Acceptance (Workman, June 22, 2021).
On your nightstand now:
No Jim Crow Church: The Origins of South Carolina's Bahá'í Community by Louis Venters
I was drawn to read No Jim Crow Church because I am a third-generation Bahá'í and a descendent of South Carolina's Bahá'í community, and being able to look at my family's history has felt very important to me, to see a snapshot of my family through time. I've had a lot of conflict with my Bahá'í upbringing, and learning about my heritage has been deeply healing.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Anything from The Baby-Sitters Club
Your top five authors:
Book you've faked reading:
The Metamorphosis, but then again--I used to say anything to get laid.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Jeffrey Eugenides does such an incredible job of showcasing humanity and the power of the blood that we all carry within us.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Making Faces by Kevyn Aucoin.
Book you hid from your parents:
Wifey by Judy Blume. This was actually my mom's book--I took it without permission and read it. I found it is SCANDALOUS! I read it because it's Judy Blume, and I masturbated to it for years and took it with me to boarding school. But if they knew I was reading it, they would know why, so I had to hide it.
Book that changed your life:
The Odyssey by Homer. I have to be honest with you. I only read two or three of the books I was supposed to read during my freshman year of high school, and I pretty much read Sparknotes for everything else. This one, I read cover to cover. So powerful and so relevant, even though it's old as f**k.
Five books you'll never part with:
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
The Fifth Agreement by Don Jose Ruiz, Don Miguel Ruiz and Janet Mills.
Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom by B.K.S. Iyengar. He wrote a lot of books during his lifetime, and it is really interesting to read this one after having read his earlier books. His understanding of yoga and what it means to practice evolved so much throughout his life. I am grateful he took the time to record his practice because it is so relatable. I find it to be invaluable as I move through my own life.
The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav.
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Sula by Toni Morrison. I read this my sophomore year of high school, and I loved it so much, but I don't remember what I loved about it, I just really remember connecting to the characters. I was so young, and so many of the themes would hit me very differently now.
A book that inspired you as a writer:
Reading stories by other Black women about the way they see the world has been very influential for me, and one of first books that gave me that experience was Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.