Books and Media
Story. Conflict. Empathy. Reconciliation.
Most of my work falls at the intersection of narrative and peacebuilding, using storytelling as a tool for bringing unlikely people together, bridging divides, amplifying unheard voices, and transforming relationships.
I’ve authored and contributed to a number of projects. I’m drawn most to the stories that people rarely hear. Those are the ones that often help us most.
I speak and teach on topics like narrative and storytelling, reconciliation and forgiveness, conflict transformation and peacebuilding, Israel-Palestine, incarceration, and more.
I facilitate workshops and retreats, primarily on themes of storytelling, peace and conflict, and faith.
Tenx9 Nashville is a Belfast-originated monthly community storytelling night where 9 people have up to ten minutes each to tell a real story from their lives, based on a theme. I’ve been hosting this in Nashville since I founded it in September 2013.
I’m the Southeast Regional Manager for Narrative 4, a global nonprofit using the power of personal story exchanges to build empathy.
In addition to speaking and teaching on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I also organize and co-lead political and religious tours to Israel and Palestine, taking pilgrims to the sites of ancient stories and introducing them to the people telling new ones.
While debriefing Narrative 4 circles I facilitate in and beyond Nashville, I often hear people say things like, “This experience reminds me of how much we all have in common. Most of the time, we’re all focused on all our differences, but we just need to remember that we are all more alike than we are different.”
This is a lovely sentiment, and one that may even be true. But it also might not be. While prioritizing the search for common ground has great use, it also runs the risk of assuming we must do this because difference is bad.
More than once during our month together, I heard Pádraig say, “We need to populate our language with plurals.” Singular language often impoverishes our understanding of issues and ideas.
Populating our language with plurals may help us remember that we are all multitudes. Even the person we think we totally understand—we don’t. Our simple, un-nuanced, stereotypical ways of speaking need always to be further complicated.
“We need more villains in our stories.” I hear Pádraig’s words as a challenge to listen to how we tell stories. More specifically, how we scapegoat in the way we tell stories.
Everything political is personal for someone. Politics, at its etymological root, has to do with how we organize our lives and affairs with the people we live among. And how we live among each other affects us all in personal ways.
“[Where the River Bends] is important … We cannot encounter these pages and remain unaffected. But what will happen to us if we listen to those we tend to ignore? This book is one way to find out. I encourage us all to listen.”Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, from the foreword
“[I Am Not Your Enemy is] important, timely, and needed … McRay … has prepared the path for us to start that journey in finding wisdom again in stories as opposed to fear.”Ishmael Beah, bestselling author of A Long Way Gone, from the foreword
“Michael McRay gets poignantly to the heart of the matter. [I Am Not Your Enemy] is a book about the varied faces of grief and love and reconciliation. It is incisive, smart, and acutely necessary for our times.”Colum McCann, National Book Award winning author of Let the Great World Spin
“We can theorize about what forgiveness really means, or we can talk and listen to those we have viewed as unforgivable. Where the River Bends … offers depth of insight and perspective that is rare yet essential if we are going to move to higher ground.”Michelle Alexander, bestselling author of The New Jim Crow
“What Michael McRay offers us [in I Am Not Your Enemy] is the collective testimony of people across the world whose stories rebuke … cheap reconciliation and challenge us to aim for more.”Emma Jordan-Simpson, Executive Director of Fellowship of Reconciliation
“Michael McRay has written a stunning book … [I Am Not Your Enemy] can help all of us get our bearings…”Becca Stevens, Founder & President, Thistle Farms
“Michael McRay brilliantly weaves stories … Read [I Am Not Your Enemy] and be moved to tears yet also inspired by hope.”Raja Shehadeh, critically acclaimed author of Palestinian Walks
“I Am Not Your Enemy is a timely illustration of the human spirit craving liberation, justice, dignity and equality.”Samar Ali, Founding President of Millions of Conversations
“[I Am Not Your Enemy] is a muscle, an ache, a practice of asking the troubling questions at the heart of peace.”Pádraig Ó Tuama, poet, theologian, author of In the Shelter
“[I Am Not Your Enemy] is so important. Michael McRay is a caretaker of stories, and he’s a master at it.”Shane Claiborne, bestselling author of The Irresistible Revolution
“[I Am Not Your Enemy] is the gift of a brilliant book and … a more timely set of stories can hardly be imagined.”John Paul Lederach, author of The Moral Imagination, Professor Emeritus at The Kroc Institute of Notre Dame
“Surprisingly invitational… [Letters from “Apartheid Street”] is a book worth reading and rereading. As a guide for activism, I hope these reflections will have a profoundly rippling effect.”Kathy Kelly, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee