Myisha Cherry at Harvard Book Store


Failures of Forgiveness:
What We Get Wrong and How to Do Better

in conversation with BRANDON M. TERRY


September 19, 2023
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes MYISHA CHERRY—assistant professor of philosophy at the University of California—for a discussion of her new book Failures of Forgiveness: What We Get Wrong and How to Do Better. She will be joined in conversation by John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University, BRANDON M. TERRY.

About Failures of Forgiveness

Sages from Cicero to Oprah have told us that forgiveness requires us to let go of negative emotions and that it has a unique power to heal our wounds. In Failures of Forgiveness, Myisha Cherry argues that these beliefs couldn’t be more wrong—and that the ways we think about and use forgiveness, personally and as a society, can often do more harm than good. She presents a new and healthier understanding of forgiveness—one that will give us a better chance to recover from wrongdoing and move toward “radical repair.”

Cherry began exploring forgiveness after some relatives of the victims of the mass shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, forgave what seemed unforgiveable. She was troubled that many observers appeared to be more inspired by these acts of forgiveness than they were motivated to confront the racial hatred that led to the killings. That is a big mistake, Cherry argues. Forgiveness isn’t magic. We can forgive and still be angry, there can be good reasons not to forgive, and forgiving a wrong without tackling its roots solves nothing. Examining how forgiveness can go wrong in families, between friends, at work, and in the media, politics, and beyond, Cherry addresses forgiveness and race, canceling versus forgiving, self-forgiveness, and more. She takes the burden of forgiveness off those who have been wronged and offers guidance both to those deciding whether and how to forgive and those seeking forgiveness.

By showing us how to do forgiveness better, Failures of Forgiveness promises to transform how we deal with wrongdoing in our lives, opening a new path to true healing and reconciliation.

Praise for Failures of Forgiveness

“In a world full of moral clichés, forgiveness is a candidate for king. We dole forgiveness out, sometimes because we believe it’s the catalyst for healing, and other times because we assume bad things will happen if we don’t forgive. Myisha Cherry explodes these ideas and brilliantly explores how we should change our thinking about forgiveness, so that we can better understand its power, and our relationship not just to forgiveness, but to ourselves.” —Jason Reynolds, #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

“We live in times that seem to demand the act of forgiveness. But Myisha Cherry insists that we understand forgiveness in all of its complexity and that we acknowledge its limits. It is not enough to ask for forgiveness; it is not enough to extend it to others, either. We have to do so much more if radical repair is to happen. Failures of Forgiveness offers the reader a way to do just that. Such an important book for our difficult days.” —Eddie S. Glaude Jr., New York Times bestselling author of Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own

“Like conjurers whispering spells, we speak ‘forgiveness’ to magically absolve us of wrongs, seeking the easy road of escape rather than the hard work of repair. In Failures of Forgiveness, Myisha Cherry offers a way of seeing forgiveness not as a magical act of transformation but as an ethical journey of discovery and healing. This is essential reading for our unsettled and unsettling times.” —Melvin Rogers, author of The Darkened Light of Faith: Race, Democracy, and Freedom in African American Political Thought

Mask Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Brandon M. Terry
Brandon M. Terry

Brandon M. Terry

Brandon M. Terry is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and the co-director of the Institute on Policing, Incarceration, and Public Safety at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. A scholar of African American political thought, Brandon is the editor, with Tommie Shelby, of To Shape a New World: Essays on the Political Philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Harvard University Press, 2018) and the editor of Fifty Years Since MLK (Boston Review/MIT 2018). He has published work in Modern Intellectual History, Political Theory, The New York Review of Books, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Boston Review, Dissent, The Point, and New Labor Forum. He is currently at work on two books. The first, which will be released in 2024, is The Tragic Vision of the Civil Rights Movement: Political Theory and the Historical Imagination (Harvard University Press). It critically explores the ethical and political significance of the ways that different narrative modes of African American history influence contemporary politics and public philosophy. The second is tentatively titled Home to Roost: Malcolm X Between Prophecy and Peril (Penguin/Random House) and concerns the political thought and legacy of Malcolm X.

Myisha Cherry
Myisha Cherry

Myisha Cherry

Myisha Cherry is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, where she also directs the Emotion and Society Lab. She is the author of The Case for Rage: Why Anger Is Essential to Anti-Racist Struggle and UnMuted: Conversations on Prejudice, Oppression, and Social Justice, which draws on her popular podcast UnMute. She has been widely featured in the media, including the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, the Atlantic, BET, and the podcast Pod Save the People.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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