“Body Talk” Book Review

For a lot of people, the most complicated and fraught relationship they’ll ever have is the one they have with their body. Even for the most well-adjusted and confident of us, it’s important to remember that everyone has something they’d like to change about their bodies. That’s why this anthology collection of essays written by a diverse group (writers, models, artists, etc.) feels so powerful and uniting. It’s a universal experience to wish you could alter yourself so that you would feel more accepted by the world.

This collection felt more geared towards a younger generation to me because there are FAQs and extra information on anatomy and body issues sprinkled in between the stories. This made it feel a little more educational than if the stories were introduced by themselves. But the range of topics is wonderful – everything from living with a physical disability to wearing makeup to feel more powerful. Each writer shares their story with a refreshing amount of honesty and transparency. The selections that dealt with gender identity and eating disorders were especially powerful. Even though there’s a YA vibe, this book could easily be relatable for anyone that can remember back to what it felt like to be an awkward, confused sixth grader.

As much as I appreciated the editor’s drive to include a varied and diverse group of people, I did feel like there was a tad bit of repetition. For example, there were three stories about women who suffered from scoliosis and had to wear extremely unattractive and uncomfortable back braces in their adolescence. I know this is a terrible affliction and can cause serious damage to someone’s self-esteem and body image, but I felt like the usage of three stories on the same condition made them end up feeling less compelling. Additionally, there were three entries by Tyra Banks; although her stories have a light-hearted tone to them that the book benefits from, I would have rather seen more writers getting to share their experiences than hear from her more than once.

I also felt like there was a missed opportunity in regards to trauma and the body. Because it’s unfortunately so common for many young women and men to experience some form of sexual abuse by the time they reach adulthood, I think it would have been fascinating to have a story included about someone’s hatred for their body because of this type of experience. Trauma is often at the root of many mental illnesses (especially eating disorders) and they can be such a huge part of how we relate to and think about our bodies. I think it would have been a great inclusion to have a story that focused on how abuse can make self-love for the body so challenging. It’s almost a form of disability in itself and can be just as hard to overcome as a physical malady but still is talked about so rarely.

I’m all for books that work to make people feel less alone in their experiences and in the world in general. I wish there had been more books like this when I was growing up so that I could have read of other people struggling with body image or shame. Feeling less alone can be an invaluable part of healing body issues and feeling more comfortable in our skin, and I definitely think this book can help with that.

4 stars

*Free ARC provided by Netgalley and Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review*

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