Every generation, a phrase enters our consciousness. In the sixties it was civil rights; in the eighties it was self-esteem; now our word is empathy.
But what actually is empathy? Is it just one thing? Is it inherited? Can it be taught? Is `corporate empathy' an oxymoron? And is empathy always a desirable human value?
Cris Beam tackles these questions and more as she journeys from neuroscience labs, to classrooms; from a reconciliation program in the US, to South Africa, where the first children born since Apartheid are coming of age. She talks to scientists studying mirror neurons and to teachers helping children identify emotions, to victims of childhood abuse, and to those attempting the most difficult empathy of all: empathy for the genocidal state. Along the way, she examines her own past and family relationships, and discovers what it means to `feel you' - and how we can all apply empathy in our complex lives.
Cris Beam is an author and professor in New York City, where she teaches creative writing at Columbia University and New York University. Her previous books include To the End of June: the intimate life of American foster care and Transparent: love, family, and living the T with transgender teenagers, which won a Lambda Literary Award and was a Stonewall Honor book. Cris' work has also been featured in The New York Times, HuffPost, and The Guardian, and on This American Life.