Posts Tagged In the Body of the World

STEELE Picks: 20 Best Books of 2013

woman upstairs

1. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud [Knopf]
–a brilliant novel about anything but that typical woman upstairs. It’s about aspirations present and past, realized and forsaken.


2. The Revolution of Every Day by Cari Luna [Tin House Books]
–an intense book about squatting, community and political activism in the 90s

ghana must go

3. Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi [Penguin]
–a beautifully written book. haunting and lyrical. family, race, country, belonging.


4. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward [Bloomsbury]
–this memoir. raw. upsetting. the author mediates on the poverty in Louisiana and the black men she lost in its depths.


5. Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat [Knopf]
–another novel in which I’m in awe of the writing style. gorgeous mystical tale about Haiti.


6. FEVER by Mary Beth Keane [Scribner]
-wondrous historical fiction about “Typhoid Mary.” fascinatingly imagined.

inbetween people

7. The Inbetween People by Emma McEvoy [The Permanent Press]
–stunning, powerful novel. Avi Goldberg writes from military prison because he refuses to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces [IDF]. He writes about his friend Saleem, an Israeli Arab he met. Their lives intertwine despite cultural differences and past troubles.

in the body of the world

8. In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler [Metropolitan]
–not only a memoir about Ensler’s personal journey with cancer but it’s a call to community, to get involved. so powerful I cried when I finished reading it.

valley of amazement

9. The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan [ECCO]
–sweeping story about mothers and daughters set in turn-of-the-century Shanghai

Harvard Square

10. Harvard Square by Andre Aciman [W.W. Norton]
–melancholic, nostalgic autobiographical novel about belonging and assimilation that focuses on immigrants finding their place in America in the 70s.

sister mother husband dog

11. Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.) by Delia Ephron [Blue Rider]
–the this essay collection, Delia tackles the profound to the superficial with wit, perception and charm. She maintains a steady wisdom-filled tone. She’s a woman who’s experienced plenty and shares mistakes, some secrets and reflects upon life-lessons with those willing to listen.

vampires in lemon grove

12. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell [Knopf]
–This collection of stories transports you to places you never imagined going to. Russell writes stories about variations on monsters. Beautiful, peculiar, unusual and tragic monsters. She creates bizarre, macabre and funny settings. Complete with vivid imagery, creepiness and potent emotions without an excess of verbiage. She writes dark, funny and tender.

freuds mistress

13. Freud’s Mistress by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack [Amy Einhorn]
–long rumored to have had an affair with his wife’s sister, Kaufman and Mack vividly imagine this sister’s character and life with the Freuds.


14. Montana by Gwen Florio [The Permanent Press]
–MONTANA drew me in immediately with its stellar page-turning plot, terrific characters and stunning descriptions of Montana scenery. Also Lola’s an independent feminist journalist determined to uncover the truth at any cost.

dirty love

15. Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III [WW Norton]– author interview
–one of my all-time favorite authors writes vignettes about love, sex, relationships and the gritty, sticky, messy aftermath.


16. Lillian and Dash by Sam Toperoff [Other Press]
–What a charming novel that delves into the long affair between playwright Lillian Hellman [Little Foxes, The Children’s Hour] and noir author and screenwriter Dashiell Hammett [The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man].

big brother

17. Big Brother by Lionel Shriver [Harper Collins]
–Lionel Shriver expresses so many thoughts about obesity epidemic, how we indulge, how food is a treat, a central focus for holidays, outings, dates, meetings etc. Dazzling writing, vocabulary and character creation up until the ending.

together tea

18. Together Tea by Marjan Kamali [ECCO]– author interview
–insight into the immigrant experience. Humor, love, respect and mother-daughter bonding make this a book you’ll long remember after finishing the last page. It’s a love story to Persia as well as an acceptance for the United States.

hypothetical girl

19. The Hypothetical Girl by Elizabeth Cohen [Other Press]– author interview
–in this astute story collection, Elizabeth Cohen writes about dating in the digital age.

nothing serious

20. Nothing Serious by Daniel Klein [The Permanent Press]
–brilliant meditation on print media and its changing format and relevance.

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Choice Quote: Eve Ensler

in the body of the world

“I was raised in America. All value lies in the future, in the dream, in production. There is no present tense. There is not value in what is, only in what might be made or exploited from what already exists. Of course the same was true for me. I had no inherent value. Without work or effort, without making myself into something significant, without proving my worth, I had no right to be here. Life itself was inconsequential unless it led to something.”

–Eve Ensler


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In the Body of the World: book review

in the body of the world

In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler. Publisher: Metropolitan Books (2013). Memoir. Hardcover. 240 pages. ISBN 978-0-8050-9518-0.

Eve Ensler has long been an advocate for women and women’s bodies. Traveling around the world, she’s empowering women to speak about themselves and value their bodies. Ensler founded V-Day—a global movement to end violence against women and girls. She wrote the award-winning The Vagina Monologues and The Good Body. Ensler writes about cancer in a beautiful, compassionate style that connects her body to the earth and connects her healing process to her plans to help other women to heal. She divides the memoir into scans of her body correlating with her experience creating a learning center/sanctuary for women in the Congo.

As one might expect when someone’s fighting off an aggressive cancer– surgeons removed seventy nodes, fallopian tubes, cervix, ovaries, sections of colon, uterus, rectum and part of her vagina—there are high and low moments. Humor. Love. Giving. Beauty. Anger. Loneliness. Regret. Sometimes this reads like a stream of consciousness diary. She’s extremely candid about uterine cancer and every aspect of her treatment process—from surgery to getting a buzz cut to having a central port line placed to chemotherapy to being surrounded by loved ones to being alone and scared.

“I am a pool of pus on a couch. I have two bags now: One drains the abscess, the other, poop. The infection and the antibiotics and Xanax have made me weak and I have lost my appetite.”

Not only is this a memoir in which a strong women shares her personal journey back from the worst possible experience but it’s a battle cry. It’s an urging to be involved in the community, to do more, to be impassioned, to speak up, to dare, to help others and to be the change within. It will move you beyond anything. I cried when I finished reading it.

“And those of you who can live without will survive. Those of you who can be naked, without a bank account, a known future, or even a place to call home. Those of you who can live without and find your meaning here, here, wherever here is. Knowing the only destination is change. The only port is where we are going. The second wind may take what you think you need or want the most, and what you lost and how you lost it will determine if you survive.”

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Henry Holt.

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