Book Review, Nonfiction, Racism, White Supremacy

The Gift of Our Wounds: A Sikh and a Former White Supremacist Find Forgiveness after Hate by Arno Michaelis, Pardeep Kaleka

What does hate look like?  Hate looks like the bullet hole in the door frame leading into the prayer room at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin—a vestige of the carnage that took place there on August 5, 2012, when a troubled man with a distorted view of what America should look like executed peaceful people inside.

Wow!  This book filled me with so many emotions.  I felt horror, anger, grief, disbelief, enlightenment, and hope all at the same time.  The story is not just about the horrible incident that happened on August 5, 2012, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but about two unlikely men who came together to find answers, to find forgiveness, and to find ways to prevent this from happening again.

Pardeep Singh Kaleka’s father was one of the 6 victims who died at the Sikh Temple that day.  As a former policeman and as a teacher of at-risk kids he thought he had seen it all, but he was struggling to understand why someone would want to walk into a temple and gun down innocent men, women, and children.  So, to find some answers,  Pardeep met with Arno Michaelis, a former white supremacist who was one of the “founders of the same group that Pardeep’s father’s killer belonged to”.

Arno Michaelis had been a “wild child” in his youth and at age 16 he got caught up in the racism that was prevalent in many area of the U.S.  At age 18 “he was the founding member of the largest white power skinhead organization in the world”.   His turning point was in his mid-twenties….his daughter, Autumn.  His life’s mission from then on was to practice loving kindness to all and he founded the non-profit organization, Life After Hate with the mission “to inspire compassion and forgiveness for all people”.

From their first several-hour-long meeting in a small Thai restaurant, Arno’s and Pardeep’s lives changed forever.  Shortly, after that first meeting Pardeep asked Arno to speak at his temple where his father was murdered.  And now, they work together as brothers “to bring forth the gift of their wounds”.

Arno and Pardeep are both very humble and inspiring men and this book has given me hope for my country and for the world.   This book is well-written in both Arno’s and Pardeep’s points of view.  The depth of feeling about themselves, about each other, and about their cause is moving and encouraging, and I believe this book is important for everyone to read.  The book will make you feel uncomfortable, angry and heartsick, and will force you to reflect on yourself and how you perceive others, but it also shows you kindness and forgiveness which will inspire the most dubious person.  I recommend this book wholeheartedly!

Thank you to Mr. Michaelis and Mr. Kaleka for giving me an opportunity to voluntarily review their book provided free through NetGalley.


The Gift of Our Wounds

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 Arno Michaelis

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolutions.”—Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)

In the late 1980′s and early 1990′s, Arno Michaelis was a founding member of what went on to become the largest racist skinhead organization on Earth, a reverend of a self-declared “Racial Holy War,” and lead singer of the hate-metal band Centurion, which sold 20,000 CDs by the mid-nineties and is still popular with racists today.

Single parenthood, love for his daughter, and the forgiveness shown by the people he once hated all helped to turn Arno’s life around, bringing him to embrace diversity and practice gratitude for all life. Today Arno is a speaker, author of My Life After Hate, and very fortunate to be able to share his ongoing process of character development working with Serve 2 Unite.

Arno enjoys spending time with his daughter, art, music, and all forms of fearless creative expression, along with climbing things, being underwater, and the wonderful natural beauty of our planet Earth. Learn more at

Pardeep Kaleka

“My Humanity rests in your humanity” ~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Pardeep is the eldest son of Satwant Singh Kaleka – the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, who was gunned down during the attacks of August 5th, 2012. Pardeep grew up in Milwaukee and graduated from Marquette University.

Being a former Milwaukee Police Officer and a current teacher in the inner city – Pardeep is no stranger to the never-ending battle against racism, bigotry, and ignorance. He firmly believes that the lamp of knowledge and truth will outshine all the darkness in the world, and does his best to profess this through his work with Serve 2 Unite.

The Serve 2 Unite Mission:

In the wake of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin shooting on August 5th, 2012, Serve 2 Unite emerged in a spirit of defiance. The hate behind the murders was met with an ongoing practice of fearless, creative, compassion. Rooted in the principles of service to others, and relentless optimism in the face of adversity, Serve 2 Unite today engages young people of all backgrounds to value humanity and the aspiration of living a genuine, honest life as a peacemaker.


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