Sunday, April 5, 2020

Nine notable unabashed books about bodies

Cai Emmons is the author of the novels His Mother’s Son (Harcourt), The Stylist (HarperCollins), and Weather Woman (Red Hen Press). A sequel to Weather Woman, called Sinking Islands, is forthcoming.

Her latest book is the story collection, Vanishing, winner of the 2018 Leapfrog Fiction Contest.

At LitHub, Emmons tagged nine books that "are notable for the frank eye they bring to physical pleasure and pain, and the overall messiness of human bodies." One title on the list:
Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams

Leslie Jamison’s essay collection The Empathy Exams forays into various corners of human experience, but ultimately its central concern is the female body and pain. As a survivor of anorexia, cutting, alcoholism, as well as abortion, heart surgery, and numerous accidents, Jamison is uniquely equipped to address this subject. Part personal essay and part academic treatise, Jamison composes her pieces by synthesizing her own experiences alongside the work of other writers, thinkers, and artists. “I’ve got this double-edged shame and indignation about my bodily ills and ailments—jaw, punched nose, fast heart, broken foot, etc. etc. etc. On the one hand, I’m like, Why does this shit happen to me? And on the other hand, I’m like, Why the fuck am I talking about this so much,” she says of herself, in the final essay entitled “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain.” Her final question in this essay is: “How do we represent female pain without producing a culture in which this pain has been fetishized to the point of fantasy or imperative?” Both self-disclosing and brainy, the book offers numerous riveting vignettes and deep dives into what it means to possess a body, in particular one of the female persuasion.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue