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Healing: My Journey from Doctor to Nun


There are few memoirs that are more stirring than Healing, a poignant autobiography penned by Sister Dang Nghiem, an ordained Buddhist nun and student of Thich Nhat Hanh.

In Healing: A Woman’s Journey from Doctor to Nun, Nghiem details her harrowing childhood in Vietnam during and after the Vietnam War.  Although her immediate family survived, they suffered deep emotional and psychological wounds.  So many women were sexual assaulted by American soldiers, and as Nghiem tells us, many Vietnamese men continued this abuse after the war ended.

Nghiem grows up not knowing the identity of her biological father (and therefore if she is biracial), being sexually abused by her uncle and suffering the abuse at the hands of her mother (a former prostitute).

Nghiem is a poet and she writes her life story with spaciousness and a light touch. The heaviness is all around her—and yet reading her words, I always felt connected to the light of her spirit.

When Nghiem is in medical school, she is drawn to help others who have suffered violence, abuse and rape and in turn begins to heal herself.  When she eventually leaves medicine and ordains as a nun, her spiritual journey comes full circle.  She has healed deeply and is ready to support others on their journey to wholeness.

I recommend this book for all young women, or mothers and daughters, who want to deepen their understanding of feminism and spirituality. Nghiem details with great tenderness the oppression that so many women face and the unique joy of becoming whole.

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