Book Reviews: The Art of Asking: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

I first came across Amanda Palmer very recently and in person. One of the best things about Cambridge, Massachusetts is their Harvard Bookstore (which despite the name is not affiliated with Harvard University). Instead it is an independently run bookstore with a great used books section and an even more fantastic author series. The same fall I started my PhD program and was struggling with my anxiety I learned that one of my favorite writers of all time, Cheryl Strayed, was coming to host a live version of her radio program Dear Sugar and talk about her book, Brave Enough. I attended the fantastic show, and got to see a surprise visit by Amanda Palmer, who answered some of the questions and played her ukulele. She was brave and funny, so when I saw she wrote a book about a topic that I was struggling with, I borrowed it from the library.

This book intertwines a lot with Brene Brown’s work, so much so that Brene Brown wrote the introduction. Yet, this is not at all repetitive or a knock off version of Brene Brown, instead her work stands on her own. This work is deeply personal and revealing, and as a result is filled with examples of struggling with being authentic and trusting others. Amanda Palmer has found it easy to trust others, often complete strangers with her band’s needs, music, and her very livelihood, but she finds it harder to ask for financial help from her husband. She has learned over her experiences on the road and through crowdsourcing funding though that receiving a gift is a way of helping and connecting with others, it’s not weakness. We all need connection and sometimes we are in the position to give and sometimes we’re in the position to receive. This is awesome. We shouldn’t reject someone’s gift when they want and need to help us too.

Amanda is a musician and writer and her book speaks clearly to those in the creative fields, but also to many of us experiencing changes in the economy that allow us to do work and get paid for doing non-traditional work, yet have trouble understanding how to do that. Amanda writes that artists and musicians are afraid to ask for contributions or donations to do their work, because it feels like begging. Yet, that’s the last thing to be afraid of. Artists, musicians, writers, free-lancers, whoever, aren’t begging, they’re asking to be paid for their work. It’s important and right that creatives and non-traditional workers get paid for their labor and work, not wrong. This work is important and can only happen if it is supported and paid.

This work is part entertaining memoir, but also a powerfully reflective work on how we connect and form relationships, authentic relationships, with others and how this often means we need to be prepared to give and receive. She is an inspiring and fun author.

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