“Unruly bodies” have been the talk of much cultural criticism these days (even here on Eleventh Stack), as the the body-positive movement gains more traction. The body-positive movement means a lot of things to a lot of different people, but is probably most easily understood as an umbrella term for activism which seeks to celebrate bodily autonomy and accessibility. Body-positivity can apply to small, individual decisions like body hair removal or decisions about wearing makeup, and to larger, more systemic concerns; large wings of the movement are focused on disability activism, awareness for trans rights and fat-activism.
I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs lately, primarily by women. There are other posts about these memoirs waiting in the wings, like “memoirs about mental illness,” but for now I want to focus on three excellent memoirs written by amazing, inspiring Black women.
This book is both curious and hilarious. It is a book which, though peppered with occasional truths, is largely composed of of events that fail to hold up to any scrutiny. Still, it has “memoir” in the title and a yellow Biography sticker on the spine, so I think it’s worth exploring this strange volume and the man behind it.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. We all experience various forms of mental health, and it’s only when you add terms such as “illness”, “problem” or “disorder” to the end of that phrase, that your awareness is shifted from well-being to something that needs to be fixed (or is beyond fixing).
Those of us who spend lots of time commuting or on long walks, or who enjoy listening to books while we’re engaged with chores or stationary hobbies can attest that getting lost in an audiobook is easy to do, but it’s a real bummer when you don’t vibe with the narrator. Sometimes the voice gets on your nerves, sometimes you don’t feel like the tone of the narrator matches up with who you imagine characters to be, and sometimes you don’t really know what’s bothering you about it, but a voice just rubs you the wrong way. One (almost) sure-fire way I’ve found around this problem is in listening to memoirs.
Recently, I finished reading Roxane Gay’s memoir, Bad Feminist, and I really enjoyed it. The memoir was funny and relatable. One example of this is when Gay mentions the fact that she feels that she’s a bad feminist because she loves rap music. Gay mentioned this a few times in the book, and I was thinking “Me too!”
I chose Tangles: A story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me by Sarah Leavitt. Tangles is 1) a graphic memoir, 2) was written by a woman, 3) was published in 2012 (just hitting the five year mark), and 4) has only 832 ratings on Goodreads. I feel really fortunate though that it fit my criteria, because Tangles turned out to be a profoundly affecting story of a daughter losing her mother and a mother losing herself.
When Women’s History Month was approaching, I thought I was going to write about Gloria Steinem, leader of the second wave of feminism and co-founder of Ms. magazine. Her book, My Life on the Road (2015), is definitely worth a read. But I decided to focus on women who are living the lives that second wave feminists fought for. It is still a struggle in a man’s world, even in Hollywood. But being a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t laugh.
Abeer Hoque was born in Nigeria to Bangladeshi parents and moved to Pittsburgh when she was thirteen. She struggled to find her place in America, and eventually moved to Bangladesh on her own, where she still didn’t quite fit in. She details her multicultural growing-up and coming-of-age story in a new memoir called Olive Witch. Abeer will be at CLP – Main on Wednesday to give a reading and answer questions, but I was able to catch up with her via email in advance of her event.
While looking for books to read on Goodreads, I saw the cover for Cat Marnell’s memoir, How To Murder Your Life. I had never heard of Marnell before reading her book. This is hands down one of the craziest yet interesting books that I’ve ever read. Half of the time that I was reading this I had to keep reminding myself that this is non-fiction because it reads like fiction.