Read A F*cking Book: Yoko Ono’s “Acorn” Can Help You Help Yourself

I brought Acorn with me to NYC Pride, where I did zero (count ’em, zero) things officially related to gay people but instead chose to simply hang out exclusively with gay people for .75 days. I stayed for one night and brought the book in case I got bored; I read the entire thing in one sitting on the way to Baltimore.

It made me feel warm.


Acorn is a book of “conceptual instructions,” which Yoko Ono herself likened to Grapefruit. But it goes further: it has blanks, and lines, and questions. It’s instruction and introduction, feeling and then processing. It’s tiny, a small white book where every other page is a pointillist illustration by Ono herself and on the left is comfortably-sized text pressing out to ask you to do something and figure out how it made you feel, right then and right there.

City Piece VIII

Carry everything you own with you.
Go shopping, or climb a mountain.
See if you can see where you are going.

Each series of exercises are organized into sections – there are Sky pieces, Earth pieces, City pieces, Connection pieces, Watch pieces, Room pieces, Cleaning pieces, Sound pieces, Dance pieces, Life pieces, Wish pieces. There is also “Your Piece,” a two-page introductory exercise which took me hours even though I didn’t write down my answers.

Although the intent is never made clear, the path of the writing provides for a complete and total recognition of the universe.

Connection Piece VI

Swim as far as you can in your dream. Away from:

your home
your mate
your children
your pets
your belongings
your work place
your colleagues

See if you drown or survive.

I have a friend named Charlotte who used to always prattle on about “the universe” and I always refused to listen. I’ve been admittedly engaging in random acts of faithfulness for years, but simply accepting that “things are” was always five steps ahead of how zen I was able to feel as a lapsed Catholic. Catholicism is not always about stepping outside and looking into your life to find gratitude and strength – it’s often about recognizing what’s wrong and praying something else will fix it. Charlotte’s theory was that it was up to us to use what we had around us – what the universe gave us – to find answers or come to peace with a lack of an answer. Mine was that people should beg for help.

Acorn is for people ready to stop begging.

Wish Piece VI

Write all the things you want to do.
Ask others to do them and move on.
Keep dancing.

Lately I sound like a self-help book but before everything was okay I didn’t want help. I didn’t seek out help. I didn’t ask for advice. I was just desolate and resentful and sad. And then this remarkable thing happened: the world came back together. I met someone. I found a job. I fell back in love with my dog. And the sun came out and it was warmer than ever. Sometimes it doesn’t matter that the sun rises and sets until you’re ready to feel it warm the Earth and watch it go to sleep at night. Sometimes the answer is right outside, or curled up to you in bed, and you don’t recognize it until after it’s done saving you from yourself.

I closed my eyes and did the Acorn exercises in my head on the way to New York City, which felt like cheating but more like muscle memory. I have stood in the sun waiting to feel warm before. I have stared at horizons and wondered if I was big anymore. I know now more than ever how it feels to derive happiness from nothing, how to survive by finding the naturally-planted, organically-grown, completely accidental batches of good vibes hidden in flowers, dog parks, and long nights out.


I completely and wholeheartedly recommend Acorn. Not just to you, either. To everyone. To anyone. I believe deeply in the idea that people are in charge of their own happiness, and that it lives inside of us waiting to be put to good use. I believe deeply in goodness and in learning to be alone and in knowing how to appreciate the stuff you take for granted, even when it’s hard and even more when it’s easy. I believe deeply in finding a reason to believe it’s all still happening and you’re okay. Not everyone believes in fate or in a pre-destined path or that anyone is watching them and that’s okay. Acorn is for that person. Some of us believe we’re kept safe by someone else and we’re just waiting to get where we’re meant to be and that’s okay. Acorn is for that person.

Acorn is for everyone with a sunrise inside their chests. For anyone who feels stuck. For anyone finally getting out. For everyone who misses summer. For everyone who needs a friend. For anyone who has forgotten how it feels to wake up energized and ready and trying to make every day better than the last.

Believe it or not, that’s you.

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. This is the most beautiful book review I’ve ever read. I’m going to get the book, but I think that even if I just woke up and read this review everyday, I might feel a little better.

  2. I got about halfway through this brilliant review before I was already opening a tab to order it. I can’t wait ’til it gets here!

    • I can’t seem to find out where to buy it. Maybe my Google-skills aren’t great when I have a cold. :(

  3. definitely just bought this book because of this review! less than zero spontaneous purchase regrets and i haven’t even started reading yet

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