2/52 Carmen Maria Machado's Her Body & Other Parties (2017) might be the best book I read this year. I know it is early to say that because its the second book I have read to the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge. Most certainly this collection of short stories will be one of the best setting 2018 standard very high. I know there are many interesting books coming this year so I really hope to get happy surprises.
Following might contain some spoilers! Her Body & Other Parties is full of honest and truthful stories which give many perspectives to what it is to be a woman. I found it easy to relate these women and their lives, experiences and feelings. In Real Woman Have Bodies women start to lose their physical body. The thought is haunting and horrible but maybe not science fiction or fantasy at all. Also Eight Bites examines the same theme. Why do we take it given that we are not enough and we need to change. Maybe we don't always even realize the pressure and it's effect on us.
I read Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth (1990) last Autumn and it provoked me to think these themes too. Wolf opens the mechanisms of beauty industry and the ways we are made to think we have to upgrade ourselves to become qualified and wanted. This task takes all our energy from active participation in society, career development and healthy relationships. After reading Machado's stories I came to think why do we let ourselves vanish. Is it actually other things than so called perfect body that we want? I often find myself thinking that maybe things would get better, maybe I would be more successful and happier if I looked different. That different might not be me anymore and in that sense it would mean vanishing and losing myself. It sounds horrible said like this but when it is done in little mundane routines, in the name of healthy eating and good manners it doesn't get us shouting for justice even though we are modifying ourselves and being modified by reward and punishment method. And by reward and punishment I mean for example the comments we get and give to each other considering appearance.
From the stories The Resident was also one that spoke to me personally. In the story main character is accepted to an artist residency. The place of residence is near her old girl scout camp which makes her reflect happenings from childhood and how those have formed her. I began to wonder how it affects to your adulthood whether you are insider or outsider in childhood and/or young age. Sure all experiences we have in our lives makes us what we are. A new perspective I found in this story was that being outside from a group might allow you to see yourself, hear your own thoughts and decide your path without the group's pressure. If we are used to being part of the group we seek groups in our lives and act to fit in. These groups also affect to our thinking and how we see our possibilities. It might be that the fear of being left out makes us go through life in a way that we feel we get accepted. Being alone to get to decide all by yourself is not a life goal because we need people around us, love and friendship. But having an experience of being outsider might boost the inner motivation and dreams. It is no longer a goal to do things right according to social norms. Instead it makes you see the situations where you are being manipulated and tamed to fit the so called ideal. I loved the part where the main character shouts her right to be as she is and not to act as someone else orders her to. So often the norms push us to be what we are not, in the name of good behavior or acceptance.
These are my thoughts of the book. I truly recommend Her Body & Other Parties as there are so many excellent and thought provoking stories.