Discover more from What Works
READ: 3 Books for Remembering You Have a Body
“You have a body.” That’s the first principle of feminist business-building according to Jennifer Armbrust, founder of Sister and creator of the Feminist Business School. It might seem a strange way to begin a manifesto about business, but remembering that we’re human beings with needs rather than tirelessly productive automata is a pretty subversive move.
What’s more, when we remember we have bodies, it’s easier to remember that our team members, coworkers, or customers have bodies too. They’re not merely wallets or numbers in a spreadsheet.
Two recent books and one from a few years back have given me new ways to think about bodies in general and my body in particular. These aren’t, in any way, business books. But they are books that illuminate parts of the human experience that are all to often forgotten in the crush of work and entrepreneurship.
Easy Beauty by Chloe Cooper Jones
I’d spent my life waiting for people to reach their place of comfort with my disability so that they’d forget about it and then I could be seen. Of course, I’d succeeded only in erasing a part of myself.
Chloe Cooper Jones, Easy Beauty
Chloe Cooper Jones has a body. It’s a body that others are often uncomfortable with. It’s a body that is often forgotten.
Jones is also a philosopher, and Easy Beauty is her meditation on life in a disabled body. The book does something pretty extraordinary. It allows one to see just how much Jones’s life has in common with one’s own, while simultaneously rendering in stark detail all of the ways that Jones is disabled by the world around her.
Easy Beauty is beautiful writing on challenging subjects.
I also recommend these interviews with Jones:
The Invisible Kingdom by Meghan O’Rourke
My experience of being ill led me to see that our bodies may feel autonomous, but we all live in the nexus of radical interconnection.
Meghan O’Rourke, The Invisible Kingdom
Meghan O'Rourke has a body. But it seems to be rebelling against her.
What happens when you feel unwell—exhausted, in pain, nauseated—but no one can figure out what’s wrong with you? Maybe no one even believes you’re sick at all? That’s the life of many people living with chronic illness.
At best, many chronic illnesses lack proven diagnostic tools, effective treatment regimens, or insurance coverage. At worst, chronically ill people are shunned by their doctors, their friends and family, and the medical establishment as a whole. Some are told they’re crazy. Others go bankrupt trying to find an answer.
The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness is an exploration of chronic illness that is thoroughly researched and deeply personal. It tracks not only her own quest for answers but the evolving science around mystery diseases.
Plus, it’s a clear look at a world that would prefer to forget some bodies.
On Immunity by Eula Biss
…our bodies may belong to us, but we ourselves belong to a greater body composed of many bodies. We are, bodily, both independent and dependent.
Eula Biss, On Immunity
Eula Biss has a body—as does her son. And she wonders how their bodies impact the bodies around them.
Instead of thinking about the body as a discrete unit—one of seven million others on the planet—Biss considers how the ways we treat our bodies impacts others. She examines the history of inoculation, herd immunity, vaccine hesitancy, and what attitudes about vaccination tell us about capitalism.
It’s probably helpful to know that Biss published the book in 2014. So it does avoid the more recent, let’s say, resistance to vaccination.
While the other two books on this list offer first-hand accounts of ways particular bodies are treated by society, On Immunity deals with how society is treated by particular bodies.