Anxious to Talk About It

My book is shipping now! Come celebrate the book launch on Thursday, Feb. 15th at 7pm at BookPeople in Austin, Texas!

Want to know more? Here’s the description from my publisher’s website:

“Wait… We’re talking about what? I’m not so sure I want to do that.” When it comes to discussing racism, many white people are overwhelmed with anxiety, leading to a fight-or-flight response. In Anxious to Talk About It, pastor and professor Carolyn B. Helsel draws on her successful experiences with white congregations to offer us tools to embrace and explore these anxious feelings. Through the sharing of our stories, new insights on racial identity, and spiritual practices to help you engage racial justice concerns prayerfully, you’ll begin to overcome your anxiety and learn to join conversations with less fear, more compassion, and more knowledge of self, others, and the important issues at stake.

Helsel’s words and guidance will inspire you to receive the gifts that come through these difficult conversations and point to how you can get further involved in the important work around race relations.

While Anxious to Talk About It can be read alone, reading it with a group is strongly recommended to help deepen and broaden the discussion, integrate the material and practice with others. Free Study Guide is available at

What reviewers are saying:

“We white Christians engage in conversation about a number of important issues. But there is one conversation we are loathe to have: talk about race. We get edgy and nervous when talk turns to ‘America’s original sin.’ Carolyn Helsel gives us the background, the context, and the history we need in order to engage in this painful but so very important conversation. Helsel also gives us specific, practical guidance in how to instigate conversations about race in our churches. Thanks to God for this useful, important book!” ― Will Willimon, Duke Divinity School, United Methodist Bishop (retired), and author of Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism

“This book is spot-on for the kinds of conversations we need to be having. Carolyn Helsel offers ready access to approach the hard issues of race without being adversarial. Her writing is deeply personal, reflecting her own path of growth. At the same time it is acutely informed by developmental theory and is pervaded by a generous pastoral sensibility.” ―Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary, author of Sabbath As Resistance, The Prophetic Imagination, and other books

“Helsel has engaged a critical step in dismantling racism: moving beyond the anxiety and hesitancy that many whites have about discussing the subject. Hard conversations must be had, and this book will be an important tool in facilitating them. The reader will be grateful for Carolyn’s honest courage.”―Teresa ‘Terri’ Hord Owens, General Minister and President Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

“‘I’m not a racist,’ you may be thinking. ‘I’m not in the KKK and I don’t carry a Nazi flag. Why should I read a book about race?’ Carolyn Helsel’s new book will answer that question, and in the process, you’ll become … not just a better white person, but a better, more mature, more caring human being.― Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration

Anxious is a much-needed resource to demystify the ‘R’ word (racism) for White people. This book is an inviting and accessible read for individuals and small groups. Helsel adeptly employs the art of storytelling to disarm those plagued by feelings of anger, confusion, and guilt when participating in anti-racism discussions. She impressively escorts the reader through an introduction to critical race theory as an invitation to help participants embrace their discomfort and own their ‘response-ability’ toward becoming an ally in the movement for racial justice.”―April G. Johnson, Minister of Reconciliation, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

“Carolyn B. Helsel has placed her finger on a most anxious place in our society: racism and the awkward silence on this issue in many pulpits. With a scholar’s insight and a pastor’s wisdom, she provides counsel about how preachers in white contexts can speak about race with courage, thoughtfulness, and practical impact. This is an urgent, timely, and welcome book.”― Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

“Helsel wades right into the thicket of emotions that accompany white fragility. This book is a tender journey through the forest of avoidance, defensiveness, and obliviousness and a tool for building one’s tolerance for truth. She pierces myths that undergird white supremacy and offers preachers and teachers a resource for sparking some conversations that desperately need to start. This volume is packed with stories that need to be heard if America is ever going to live out a new story concerning race.”― Donyelle McCray, Yale Divinity School

“In Anxious to Talk about It, a welter of stories that are real and get real invite ‘white Christians’ to recognize and relinquish racist ways, however subconscious, subtle, or insidious. Using narrative finesse, Helsel gently convicts readers to rely upon gratitude for the grace of God as an entrée into ‘response-able listening’ that fearlessly and attentively loves all neighbors, especially ones devastated by the sin of white racism. Churches and communities beyond her targeted audience will also feel the warmth and promise of her witness.”― Gerald C. Liu, author of Music and the Generosity of God, Princeton Theological Seminary, and ordained Elder in the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church

“From guilt and shame to healthy white identity, Helsel has brought us a much -needed guide to white self-awareness on the switchback-ridden journey to becoming anti-racist.”― Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, Director, National Council of Churches Truth and Racial Justice Initiative

“Carolyn Helsel’s book is full of stories, including moving stories about her own attempts to understand the power of racism and the need for faithful action to resist it. But she does not pretend to be perfect. She does not claim to have it all figured out. Her modesty opens up space for some frank conversations about race. And these are conversations that the church very much needs to be having.”― Ted A. Smith, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

Anxious to Talk About It is rooted in scholarly knowledge that branches into pastoral wisdom. White people usually do not want to talk about race and when they do, often discover that they do not know how. Helsel takes seriously white anxiety about racism and provides keys to understanding the cultural, personal, and spiritual issues that it entails. This book is full of faith, and gives people of faith an accessible strategy to move beyond anxiety and guilt toward grace and gratitude. This is a book to be used, not just read.”―Daniel Aleshire, Retired Executive Director, The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada

“Carolyn Helsel’s book is ‘for such a time as this.’ It is an honest, courageous, thoughtful, and pastoral approach in engaging whites who are anxious to talk about race and racism. Helsel is brave enough to speak truth to power in these anxious and angry times. Reading this should move one prayerfully from anxiety to gratitude because the truth dances all over these pages. Beware (white) readers: you will meet the truth and the truth will set you free! If you dare to be free, ‘take up and read.’”― Luke A. Powery, Duke University Chapel and Duke Divinity School


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