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Vol 42 No 1, Winter 2020


Book Review: The Lioness Within

Graciela Casillas’ Guide to Surviving and Thriving

By Nina Thompson

Nina's new survival kit. Photo by Nina Thompson.

The book, The Lioness Within, was one of the blessings that came to me from the 2019 PAWMA Camp. The book includes the author’s, Graciela Casillas’, own harrowing stories of survival and healing, as well as those of other brave women. If I had the resources, every woman I know would have a copy of this book. 

“Surviving an assault psychologically begins with valuing yourself and believing that no one has the right to hurt you.”

— Graciela Casillas

Unlike other books that tell of victim, of third person, of “that-silly-woman,” these stories include the “I”. Graciela tells how she herself survived being jumped by a knife wielding group of thugs while walking on the side of the road, stranded by a broken down car. How throughout her life she herself has had to learn to draw boundaries, buoy this support of others, and learn to live with emotional wounds society does not teach us how to heal. She tells of her own survival, and psychological recovery. Graciela is uniquely positioned to write this book. She is a trained counselor, a world champion of many styles of fighting, a martial arts instructor, a trained bodyguard, and a trained self defense instructor. 

Graciela Cassilas writes of her own story and stories that have been shared with her; she then describes the lineage of women fighters that I did not know I had. I devoured the words on the page as I learned about women fighting throughout wars, throughout regions of the world I would have never expected. I learned of the woman of Arabia’s Women Hashashin, or as they were called by the French, the “daughters of death.” I read of Nim Wing Chun, a young woman who learned to fight to avoid a bad marriage, went on to develop and popularize her name’s sake, the elegant Wing Chun style. How did I not know the style I studied for 2 years was started by a woman? It would have been so empowering to learn that as my younger self!    

The heart of this book, however, is not just how inspiring it is. The heart of this book is about how to prepare for the fight. How to prepare your body, how to prepare for the fear, how to prepare for the pain and work through it, and how to strategically fight. Lastly, how to follow the intuition of your inner lioness. The instincts that can save us from a bad situation. I cannot recommend this book enough. 

For more information, see this post on Graciela's Facebook. 




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