body liberation Book Reviews

Book Review: “The Body is Not an Apology” by Sonya Renee Taylor

The Power of Radical Self-Love

I read this book for a different book club than White Fragility, but by coincidence of timing I read them back-to-back, which made for a fascinating juxtaposition. Both books share a core of radical anti-racism, and really anti-ism in general. Both books talk a good bit about the importance of confronting your own internal biases, the bullshit culture we live in that is constantly reinforcing them, and about being open to criticism and change.

But while White Fragility is the no-nonsense tough older sister who calls you out on your crap and doesn’t let you weasel your way out of the hard conversations, The Body is not an Apology is the sweet younger sister encouraging you to do your best and letting you know that you are always great to her. Taylor digs deep into the idea of radical self-love. Not just self-confidence, self-respect, or self-acceptance, but full out self-love.

Much of what Taylor discusses–both the cultural history and sociological studies she runs through at the beginning and the practical tips and techniques later on–were already familiar to me from my prior readings on body liberation. However, Taylor has a wonderful voice and her writing is dense and punchy, her advice clear and sensible. The book is not long (116pp. in the trade paperback), which makes it a quick read. Ideal for foisting upon your confused friends and relatives who don’t understand why you are suddenly not participating in their self-critical social chatter.

The best thing about the book is its persistent grounding in what Taylor calls “Unapologetic Inquiries” and “Radical Reflections,” which ask the reader, every page or two, to delve into their own experiences and thoughts. This makes the book almost interactive in nature. In fact, I believe there will be a companion workbook published in early ’21. The reflective nature of the book makes it particularly useful for someone, like me, who is currently working through self-image issues and digging into their past, their preconceptions, and their goals through therapy.

Book Reviews

Book Review: White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo

Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism.

I read this book for a book club. I did not necessarily go into it with enthusiasm–more like puzzlement as I was only guessing what “White Fragility” is. Fascinating, fascinating book–real game changer. The premise of this book is that racism is a ubiquitous system which constantly and hugely benefits all white people in modern American society. White people are generally raised not to see racism as something they benefit from or as something they participate in–we are “color-blind.” But in actuality color-blindness protects and preserves the racist system that we all exist in and which benefits all white people everyday.

This book really opened my eyes to the shit that I have done and said and invested in that supports the racist system. Several things in particular blew me away:

  • First, the idea that racism is something that white people may not “experience” because we live in “sheltered” existences where we don’t encounter people of color. I never thought before about how our societal segregation is exactly what makes me so deeply immersed in racism and exactly what makes me least sheltered from its insidious influence on my mind.
  • Second, the fact that the actual direction of danger between white people and black people is inverted in our perceptions so that we imagine that we are in danger from a black person who is walking through “our” neighborhood when in actuality they are in much more danger from us, should we call the police or otherwise act on our fear of them.
  • Third, the very fact that white people refuse to talk about race and difference, and the way in which that actually preserves the prejudgments we make. In an example the author discusses, if a small white child comments on a black person’s skin to their white parent in the supermarket, why does the parent shush the child? What are they communicating to the child about blackness and whiteness?

Another thing I took from this book is that if I want to make progress I need to accept that there will be discomfort. Discomfort is not the same as danger. I must confront my preconceptions and ask where they come from. I must be able to talk about these things, even if I mess up and say/do/think something “wrong.” There’s work to be done and I can’t just sit on my pretty lily white progressive bum. I need to get my hands dirty and read, learn, talk, and, most importantly, listen. So, more related book reviews coming as I work on my ignorance.