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BODY WORK: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative

By Melissa Febos

(Catapult)

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For her latest book, acclaimed memoirist Melissa Febos offers a master class for would-be writers looking to find their voice. The text is divided into four parts, each of which tackles one specific area of memoir writing, focusing in particular on the sort of raw and intensely personal writing that Febos is known for. The first part of the book starts off with powerful words of encouragement as Febos discusses the importance of sharing one’s story, hitting back at those who dare call writing about personal trauma “navel-gazing.” She notes quite aptly that, “the resistance to memoirs about trauma is always in part...a resistance to movements for social justice.” Febos’ words of advice are wisely peppered with bits of her own life experiences and past struggles as a budding writer, making this an engaging read. Her discussion of writing about sex is particularly compelling, as she emphasizes the importance of dismantling the patriarchal heteronormative sexual norms and finding new ways of thinking about intimacy. Overall, Body Work is a riveting read full of encouragement and inspiration that will drown out your inner critic and help you see that your story is valid and worth writing.–ADRIENNE URBANSKI

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Women Talk Money: Breaking the Taboo

Edited by Rebecca Walker

(Simon & Schuster)

Money, like politics and religion, has long been considered a taboo topic, one that you don’t talk about in mixed company. Rebecca Walker’s new essay anthology bucks that tradition—and for good reason. Over the course of 320 pages, writers including Rachel Cargle, Tracy McMillan, and Sonya Renee Taylor get honest about how staying silent about our finances is hurting women—especially women of color and transgender women. “The way money moves in women’s lives, mysterious and mystified, shuts us down just as we begin to speak,” Walker notes.

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To break this cycle of silence, the collection shows how money impacts our relationships, health, and identities in ways we never imagined. In “Money Wounds,” Latham Thomas recalls how her money stresses stemmed from seeing her successful mom get arrested at their bank when she was young. Lily Diamond offers an insider’s look at the inauthenticity surrounding the “whitefluencer” movement. And Nancy McCabe’s essay on financial tips for single mothers quickly becomes a brutal look at the failures of a system that prioritizes profits over people. Women Talk Money shows why honest conversations about money need to happen—and the sooner the better. –SHANNON CARLIN

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You’ve Changed: Fake Accents, Feminism, and Other Comedies from Myanmar

By Pyae Moe Thet War

(Catapult)

A debut collection of personal essays perfect for fans of the podcast Armchair Expert and the Netflix show Never Have I Ever, You’ve Changed reveals Pyae Moe Thet War’s attachment to her name, her love of baking (and indifference toward cooking), her family, and—in a standout essay—her unique appeal as a woman from Myanmar. “I have to remind myself that I shouldn’t be one of the voices that frames my ethnicity as my unique selling point, or at least, as my only selling point,” she writes, “and that the weight of representation will be much easier to bear if and when I can share it with others.”

You’ve Changed is a portrait of someone who is mostly unapologetically—though sometimes mildly apologetically—herself. For example, after a section on how to pronounce her name, Pyae with a soft P, she delves into how she chose to pursue nonfiction writing because of her nosiness. There should be way more books by relatable people who describe themselves as “pretty average,” and who celebrate “fluff,” but who don’t shy away from heavy topics—and Pyae Moe Thet War does just that. –ROBYN SMITH

 

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