How to Live Free in a Dangerous World: A Decolonial Memoir (Hardcover)

How to Live Free in a Dangerous World: A Decolonial Memoir By Shayla Lawson Cover Image
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“Phenomenal.... A memoir that opens into the world, with brilliance, courage, and elegant prose.... This is a book to read, read again, and remember.”—Imani Perry, New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award winner South to America

Poet and journalist Shayla Lawson follows their National Book Critics Circle finalist This Is Major with these daring and exquisitely crafted essays, where Lawson journeys across the globe, finds beauty in tumultuous times, and powerfully disrupts the constraints of race, gender, and disability.

One of Esquire's Best Memoirs of 2024
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2024 by Elle, Them, Book Riot, LitHub, Stylecaster, and Chicago Review of Books

In their new book, Shayla Lawson reveals how traveling can itself be a political act, when it can be a dangerous world to be Black, femme, nonbinary, and disabled. With their signature prose, at turns bold, muscular, and luminous, Shayla Lawson travels the world to explore deeper meanings held within love, time, and the self.

Through encounters with a gorgeous gondolier in Venice, an ex-husband in the Netherlands, and a lost love on New Year’s Eve in Mexico City, Lawson’s travels bring unexpected wisdom about life in and out of love. They learn the strength of friendships and the dangers of beauty during a narrow escape in Egypt. They examine Blackness in post-dictatorship Zimbabwe, then take us on a secretive tour of Black freedom movements in Portugal.

Through a deeply insightful journey, Lawson leads readers from a castle in France to a hula hoop competition in Jamaica to a traditional theater in Tokyo to a Prince concert in Minnesota and, finally, to finding liberation on a beach in Bermuda, exploring each location—and their deepest emotions—to the fullest. In the end, they discover how the trials of marriage, grief, and missed connections can lead to self-transformation and unimagined new freedoms.

About the Author


Shayla Lawson is the author of This Is Major, which was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award and a LAMBDA Literary Award, as well as two poetry collections. Lawson has written for New York magazine, Salon, ESPN, and Paper, and earned fellowships from Yaddo and MacDowell. They reside in Lexington, Kentucky. They’ve “lived” everywhere.

Praise For…


Praise for How to Live Free in a Dangerous World

“Lawson is an insightful and unfailingly open-handed writer: eager to share what they’ve learned, sharp but never jaded, honest about their trials, unafraid to be vulnerable. Though their book is structured like a travel memoir, it defies easy categorization. Bursting with humor and life, it will do more than transport readers; for many, it will be transformative.”
Esquire, Best Memoirs of 2024 (So Far)

“Phenomenal. Shayla Lawson’s How to Live Free in a Dangerous World is luminously intimate. It is a memoir that opens into the world, with brilliance, courage, and elegant prose. Lawson is at once marvelously and unapologetically Black, incisive, and vulnerable. They are an unflinching observer of the world who takes us on a journey that is both wide and deep. This is a book to read, read again, and remember.”
Imani Perry, New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award winner South to America

“Some writers have the gift of talent. Some writers’ talent is a gift to others, namely the reader. Then there are those writers who fall into both categories. Shayla Lawson is one such author. Thought provoking, raw, honest, funny, moving. This book is a treasure. Shayla is a marvel. I’m so grateful for what they and the book have given us.”
Phoebe Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of You Can’t Touch My Hair

"How To Live Free in a Dangerous World explores many places – varied cultures, perspectives, life stages, individual differences – and how we navigate these intersecting landscapes. Beautiful, moving, and relentlessly insightful.”
—Julia Serano, author of Whipping Girl

“Shayla Lawson is one of our greatest storytellers. Their ability to weave personal narrative and pop culture criticism is unparalleled. They make How to Live Free in a Dangerous World uniquely appealing and will leave audiences wanting more.”
Jamilah Lemieux, writer, culture critic, and podcast host

“The writing in How to Live Free in a Dangerous World is beautiful, Shayla’s ideas uniquely compelling, and their perspective invaluable in these precarious times. I am grateful for Shayla Lawson's sharp eye, incisive critiques, and the threads of resistance and hope woven through their observations of this life.”
Areva Martin, award-winning civil rights attorney and national bestselling author of Make It Rain!

“Shayla Lawson’s How To Live Free in a Dangerous World is Eat, Pray, Love for a new generation…a poignant look at how Lawson learned to liberate themselves from the things that held them back.” 
TIME, "Here Are the 13 Books You Should Read in February"

“There’s a real courage and generosity to Lawson’s work; readers will find much here to embolden their own self-exploration.”
Elle, "The Best and Most Anticipated Fiction Books of 2024, So Far"

“Dense with ideas, as well as full of those beautiful sentences.”
—Linda Holmes, NPR

“If you haven’t encountered Shayla Lawson’s work yet, consider this your formal invitation. How to Live Free in a Dangerous World is a jet-setting memoir that explores race, gender, disability, and love through an unbelievable itinerary: Venice, Zimbabwe, Mexico City, Portugal, Tokyo, Bermuda—the list goes on. Lawson writes with fierceness, wisdom, and vulnerability in a voice that can’t help but captivate. Treat yourself.” 
Lit Hub, "Most Anticipated Books of 2024"

“I loved Shayla Lawson’s essay collection This Is Major, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Lambda Literary Award, and I can’t wait for their forthcoming memoir. Anyone familiar with their work knows how sharp and smart everything they write is, but this book, which deals with gender identity, Blackness, disability, and liberation through travel, promises to be one not to miss.”
Chicago Review of Books, "Most Anticipated Books of 2024"

“If you’re looking for wide-reaching nonfiction that explores identity, personal growth, and lots of adventures, don’t miss this book.”
BookRiot, "12 of the Best Queer Books: 2024 New Releases"

“Packed with lyrical lines, genuine insight, and ebullient confessions, Lawson’s latest nonfiction book sparkles with vulnerability, sincerity, and poetry… Lawson is a gifted chronicler not only of their own personal revolution, but also of the power structures that affect their place in the world. A stunning essay collection about travel, mortality, and liberation.”
Kirkus, starred review

“No matter the setting, Lawson’s sentences astonish…the author’s commitment to unsentimental self-examination is inspiring…The final product is both vivid and galvanizing.”
Publishers Weekly

“Shayla Lawson’s new essay collection finds the author encountering lost loves and new friends in Egypt, Bermuda, Mexico City, Zimbabwe, and more. In each place they visit, they learn to let go of something that’s been holding them back, while also developing philosophies of freedom and healing. Inspirational, but never twee, this memoir belongs on your TBR.”
—Them

"Shayla Lawson’s eloquent prose takes readers on a global journey exploring love, time, and self-discovery. From encounters in Venice to reflections on Blackness in Zimbabwe, Shayla delves into the complexities of life and love."
Diva Magazine

Praise for This Is Major

"Whip-smart."
People

"[A] pitch-perfect blend of wit and keen observation and analysis. A book that makes you laugh and think at the same time."
Shondaland

With a brand of candor and urgency known to us only as Lawson-eque, these essays [offer]... a kaleidoscope of wit, humor, sorrow and deeply felt thinking and questioning of modern life.”
—Ocean Vuong


Product Details
ISBN: 9780593472583
ISBN-10: 0593472586
Publisher: Tiny Reparations Books
Publication Date: February 6th, 2024
Pages: 320
Language: English