Image: The cover of the book is a dirty pink color background with black abstract images in the foreground that resemble a person's body silhouette, their shadow, and patterns of lines over all of it that almost look like ribs from a chest x-ray. In large, capitalized, white letters that cover most of the space is, "OPPRESSION AND THE BODY." I smaller black letters across a dirty pink stripe at the bottom reads, "ROOTS, RESISTANCE, AND RESOLUTIONS." Below that in smaller white letters is, "EDITED BY CHRISTINE CALDWELL AND LUCIA BENNET LEIGHTON."
"Oppression and the Body," begins from a place of introspection and intentionality. Both editors took the time to explain where they are positioned in society via privilege or lack of it, how this may affect what they produce, and steps they took to even things out. Both editors come from a background of somatics and did make attempts to have representation across authors chosen for the book. There were some times where their language fell short, such as using "transgendered" instead of "transgender" on the back cover and elsewhere as well as taking Ta-Nehisi Coates quotes about Black peoples experiences out of context and generalizing them to everyone. I thought the former was because an Eli Clare essay from 2001 was included in the book using that term, but they also have another trans person in the book using updated terms. I found it a little strange that such an old (while excellent) entry from Eli Clare was chosen because he expands upon it and addresses some things he has changed his thinking about in his recent book, "Brilliant Imperfection." But, that could simply be a publishing/copyright issue. That said, it served an important function in discussing disabled, Queer, and trans bodies in Clare's consistently elegant ways.
The entries in the book are grouped into three main sections: Oppression of bodies in societies, marginalized bodies in society, and embodied action. The authors come at the topics using multiple mediums including descriptive analyses, therapeutic interventions, and poetry and other types of art. I really appreciated that some authors were inclusive of nonhuman animals in their discussions of somatic oppression and healing. Most of the essays are academic in style and nature. I am not a poetry person normally, so I am not sure if my distaste for it was because of preference or quality of the poetry. I really enjoyed and got a lot out of most of the other entries though. I also enjoyed that each essay contained both citations and bibliography offering the reader a lot of other sources that expand upon these topics.
The entries I enjoyed the most were the two at the beginning by each editor and those by Carla Sherrell, Beit Gorski, and Jen Labarbara. The first two gave me a better idea of studies in somatics and did well setting the stage for the rest of the book. Sherrell brought needed attention to the white centrism of many somatics practitioners and practices, leading many people to see the term "somatics" as meaning white. She explained how Black people suffer in unique and transgenerational ways, requiring tailored interventions such as those inclusive of their ancestors. Gorski shared xyr experience and knowledge as an intersex, nonbinary, trans person by explaining ways in which the medicalized binarism of sex and gender are problematic and harmful. Xie showed that it is not only gender that is socially constructed, but also sex. In xyr other essay, xie offered models for defining and coping with body and social dysphoria via "transforming distress" group intervention. Labarbara utilized her knowledge and experience as a Queer, Femme, woman to destigmatize Queerness as a response to trauma. She describes Queerness as a sublimation and "welcome effect" of sexual violence and other trauma, smashing ableist, rape culture ideas that stigmatize survivors and/or LGBT people or attempt to separate us from the whole of our lives. I chose to focus my review only on these entries because I enjoyed them the most, but do not take the intentional brevity as indication that the other entries did not have immense value as well.
While this book didn't hit on every demographic out there, there comes a point where attempting to do so can amount to destructive tokenism. Given that reality, I thought the authors did well finding voices across a pretty specific field of study. I also really enjoyed the graphic design of the cover and book, as a side note. You can judge this book by its cover.
This was also posted to my goodreads.