About mini reviews:
Maybe you’re not an audio book person, or maybe you are. I provide mini reviews of audio books and give a recommendation on the format. Was this book improved by a voice actor? Would a physical copy have been better? Perhaps they complement each other? Read on. . .
The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love is written and read by Sonya Renee Taylor. Sharing her story of the first time she said, “The body is not an apology,” Taylor introduces readers to how she became a body activist and workshop leader. Basically, her ideas have become a whole company, not just a book. One thing to note is that Taylor’s ideas are not limited to fatphobia, but include race, ability, sex, gender expression, and size. Essentially, the entire body! Which I appreciated and hadn’t really thought about before. While I’ve heard of intersectionality multiple times, I hadn’t thought about it in terms of the body as a whole thing, but more in regards to identity labels, e.g. I am a woman, I am white, I have a disability, etc.
I have a few problems with Taylor’s book, despite it’s positive message about bodies. Because she leans more towards self-help than academic, I’m still not sure what “radical self-love” is. Taylor writes, “Radical self-love demands that we see ourselves and others in the fullness of our complexities and intersections and that we work to create space for those intersections.” To be honest, I’m not sure what that means. What is the “fullness” of a complexity? You could argue that I’m nitpicking, but phrasing like that upsets my apple cart, and Taylor uses a lot of such examples. As a result, I’d zone out while listening.
In true self-help fashion, there are too many lengthy metaphors to get across a point. One that stood out as successful and illuminates the author’s point was about a person waiting for a train. The train never comes. Or they miss the train and refused to get on a different train. Or they remember a train that had been there in the past and are hoping it will come back again. In other words, Taylor uses the metaphor of the train to explain that we have to live now, because life is happening now. Our skinnier, less wrinkly, healthier body from high school? Buying a dress too small to motivate (i.e. shame) yourself to lose weight to fit into it? All these are intangible ideas that exclude today. However, Taylor jumps around, so I felt like the book wasn’t organized. I’d lose the thread when too many small metaphors cropped up.
Most powerful for me were the passages about physical movement and not hating our bodies. Taylor argues babies love everything about their bodies without hesitation (WOW, that hit me in an existential way) and how school recess used to be fun when we could swing and climb and play because we liked to. Consider the way I don’t want to move now because every tiny bit of motion is grounded in shame (don’t be fat, fatty).
What activities do I like? Swimming! But then I did aqua-cizing for “Health” instead of pretending I’m a mermaid like I really wanted to do. I used to like walking, but everyone went haywire with fitbits and “getting in their steps,” so every step feels like measurable shame. Even when there was construction at my library and we had to walk downstairs to use the fax machine, everyone talked about how good for their steps it would be. The message about enjoying my body the way a baby enjoys hers stuck with me as a powerful image and message.
The voice narration is good quality and sounds like a long workshop (passionate, sarcastic, straight-forward). Taylor is able to express her sentences how she would say them in front of a crowd, and it shows. Despite changing attitudes, the volume never gets painfully loud nor uselessly quiet, so I appreciated that.
Overall, this book is powerful to listen to, but it might be better on page, where readers can stop, focus on an idea, chew on it a bit, then read more.