The Red Couch: Raise Your Voice Introduction


I have long carried this image of myself as a wise, old woman. In that picture, my fluffy white hair smells of lavender and rosemary and I wear long, flowy dresses and handknit sweaters. I spend half my time in a little cottage in Rest And Be Thankful in Scotland and the other half wherever my family is. This version of my future self is strong in who she is created to be and she has finally, finally learned how to speak up.

I am not her yet. However, after reading Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up by Kathy Khang, I am a lot closer to becoming her.

Raise Your Voice has three main themes. Kathy begins by examining all the ways we stay silent or have been silenced. She then turns our attention to identifying where and how to speak up. However, she doesn’t let us go after finding and claiming our voices. Kathy also pushes us outside of ourselves to consider why we must speak up and for whom we must use our voice.

Throughout the book, Kathy intertwines incredibly personal stories from her experiences as an immigrant, a mother, and a woman of colour, with interviews, and practical questions and prompts for the reader to examine our own lives and motivations. She pushes us to spend time in our own stories and to do the work of finding our own individual voice.

She also re-examines familiar bible stories through the lens of voice, referring most often to Esther. By repositioning the story of Esther from a dominant male perspective to a marginalized female experience, she invites the reader to reconsider what the story has to say about speaking up. These parts were some of my favourite. In connecting Esther’s experiences with her own, Kathy confidently and sensitively writes from the in-between spaces of two (or more) identities.

I found this book personally challenging and extremely helpful. I struggle to use my voice. I am an introvert, am intensely uncomfortable in conflict and don’t think well on my feet. I am also a white, cis-gender, middle-class, married mother of two living in the suburbs. I know that my voice is over-represented. Then Kathy’s words on page 21 completely overturned how I understood speaking up,

“Voice is not limited to what comes out of my mouth but out of my being.”

Bam! Reframing my voice in this way has given me permission be stronger in who I am created to be. To stop worrying about the words I use and instead focus on how I live.

Reading this book is a lot like sitting down with a friend who challenges me to become a better version of myself. Kathy doesn’t position herself as an expert and is open about her own failings to speak up at certain times in her life. Her book is also incredibly practical. I now have a guidebook I can refer to over and over again and I move closer to that older, wiser version of myself. I have questions to examine places in my life where I have felt silenced and I have steps I can take to identify and use my voice to mend our world.

How about you? How have you struggled with using your voice? Where have you been silenced? Where are you speaking up?

We will be talking about this book all month long over in the Red Couch Facebook page. Use your voice to join in the conversation! And come back here at the end of January for a discussion post led by Debby Hudson.

The Nightstand: A short list of books to enhance and deepen your reading experience

(Including a few books either which have either influenced Kathy Khang while writing her book or ones that she loves!)

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown

A Sojourner’s Truth by Natasha Robinson

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership and Faith edited by Nikki A. Toyama-Szeto and Tracey Gee, Consulting Editor Jeanette Yep, by Kathy Khang, Christie Heller De Leon, and Asifa Dean

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

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