Author, Educator, Activist, And Auntie, Rachel Cargle’s New Memoir Is The Perfect Manifesto For This Moment In Herstory

by Sabrina Ford

GROWING UP IN Green, OH, Rachel E. Cargle lived in poverty with her disabled single mother and had two sisters struggling with addiction. Statistically, the odds seemed stacked against her from the start. But statistics couldn’t account for the love of books that Cargle’s mother imbued her with. And statistics certainly couldn’t have accounted for Cargle’s superpower—the ability to reimagine her life and herself.

That superpower is the central theme of Cargle’s debut book, A Renaissance of Our Own: A Memoir and Manifesto on Reimagining (Ballentine Books), and it’s the central theme of her life, too. At 21, Cargle was a Christian housewife, married to a nice guy. She had everything she’d been taught to want, but she wasn’t satisfied. So, she reimagined what a “good” life looks like. Today, in her mid-30s, Cargle is a successful, queer, formerly-Christian entrepreneur, philanthropist, and thought leader. Her nonprofit, The Loveland Foundation, provides Black women and girls with access to mental health resources. And she’s also Founder and CEO of The Loveland Group, a set of ventures that includes online learning space The Great Unlearn, and Elizabeth’s Bookshop & Writing Centre in Akron, OH. “Probably 80 percent of my childhood memories take place in a library or bookstore,” says Cargle, who is now selling her own book on the shelves of her own bookstore. “Walking in and seeing it is really special. My mother passed away last November, but she was there for my bookstore opening and she was there to see the cover of my book. So, it is also a part of my grief practice—this constant relationship with books, and with the bookstore. Reading is a continuation of my relationship with my mother.”

“I saw this open door to understanding how Black women fit into feminism, how Black women were pushed out of it, and how Black women were building things on their own.”

Cargle had already envisioned multiple directions her life could take by the time a photo of her with a
friend at the 2017 Women’s March, holding a sign that read, “If You Don’t Fight For All Women You Fight
For No Women,” went viral. She says she was taken aback by some of the responses from Black people on social media criticizing the March and talking about “white feminism.” So, she immersed herself in the work of Black feminists, including Kimberlé Crenshaw, Patricia Hill Collins, The Combahee River Collective, and others. “I saw this open door to understanding how Black women fit into feminism, how Black women were pushed out of it, and how Black women were building things on their own,” she recalls. “It really solidified this understanding, which then turned into me talking to white people, asking them, ‘How intentional are you in your feminism?’” Cargle then took what she had learned and created “Unpacking White Feminism” in 2019, a syllabus and lecture she started giving on campuses around the country, which led to a TEDx talk, and eventually, an Instagram following of over 1.6 M.

While education is at the heart of much of Cargle’s work, there’s also joy. Founded in 2020, her Instagram community, @RichAuntieSupreme, celebrates women like herself who have chosen to live a childfree life, and the role these women play in their communities. “As I got older and more aware of myself, I felt more secure in that decision,” explains Cargle. “I wanted this aspect of myself to also be in conversation, not only with other people who have decided not to have children, but also with people who have children. I wanted to discuss what this intentional relationship might mean in terms of how aunties can help mothers and how mothers can give women who don’t have children space to celebrate and lean into their decisions as well.”

Top Image: Photo Credit: Matt Sayles

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