Bodies. Wowza. What a gift and a burden, am I right? Most people I know struggle forming a compassionate connection with their bodies. We see ourselves as too much or too little; have suffered unspeakable traumas and relentless microaggressions; and vary in physical ability. Everyone has their own story to tell regarding their body.
As we grow older, we learn to better appreciate our body for its gifts. Unfortunately, body trauma and misinformation barrages adolescents, causing a lack of connection and few positive models to look toward. Reclaiming one’s body is radical act: taking it back from patriarchal structures, people who claim it as theirs, or even taking it back from painful parts of ourselves is not only difficult, but against the grain of nearly everything Western society teaches us.
Young adult authors rock at tackling this topic: if you or someone you love (even an adult) needs some help reclaiming their body, here are some places you might start. Of course, all of these warrant a trigger warning. But, if you’re ready to approach these topics, dive right in. You won’t be disappointed.
This debut novella from El Paso author Rios de la Luz flips white supremacy on its back, defeating rapists, racists, and border wall supporters. Using magical realism, de la Luz chronicles the stories of generations of water witches traversing rites of passage, trauma, and conflicting definitions of home.
No list of YA books about consent or body reclamation would be complete without Speak. Laurie Halse Anderson’s landmark novel about a teenager who called the police to break up a party because she was assaulted created waves in schools across America when it was published in 1999. Because the girl called the police, other students isolated and bullied her, though they never understood her motive for doing so. This book illustrates relatable moments of strength and vulnerability, as well as the complex pressures of sharing (or not sharing) one’s trauma.
I’m a Texan and a zine-lover, so naturally I adore this book about Vivian, an enraged young feminist who’s tired of being harassed by the jocks at her school. By publishing and distributing her own zine in secret, she fights toxic masculinity, finds power in her own body, and defeats sexist policy (like the dress code) and biases on campus.
Yes. Y-E-S, YES! That’s most of what I have to say about Dreadnought, April Daniel’s debut where ability diversity and gender realization are portrayed as super powers. Daniel’s transgender protagonist (Danny) inherits the ability to inhabit her ideal body. Though Danny faces bigotry, she overcomes the hate. In the way The Hate U Give approaches racism and social justice through vivid depictions of realistic micro and macroaggressions, Dreadnought does this regarding the transgender experience. Nuanced characterization and a compelling superhero plot make Dreadnought a must-read.
Intuitive eating changed my life. As an athlete and young woman who’s struggled with weight most of my life, I was trapped in the diet cycle. I believed to be attractive and pursue athletics, I had to eat a certain way. I counted calories, carbs, sugar, electrolytes, points, meals, and anything else I possibly could. The original Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole examines how tuning in to our body and emotions should dictate how we eat, not a diet plan. Years later, Resch released this workbook that puts those concepts and practices into a digestible (pun intended) and specific format for teens.
If you are here, you’re probably a feminist. When I first read this book, I was underwhelmed because, like her other books, I expected a tough and detailed narrative to take slowly and ponder. We Should All Be Feminists, and the TED Talk of the same name, instead shares clear, illustrative stories from Adichie’s own life that act as a primer or affirmation for budding feminists. Her stories clearly portray women’s issues from around the world: depictions young people need to observe.
Kate Bornstein rocks and rocks and rocks and keeps rocking. Heads up: if you couldn’t tell from the title, profanity and candid discussion of difficult topics doesn’t just pepper the pages, but dominates them. Bornstein bluntly (and hilariously) shares stories of her transition from a young Jewish boy into the woman and activist she is today, and the depression, anxiety, and body issues that came with it. As a cis woman, this book was of great benefit to me. Although much of Bornstein’s experience is a result of being a “gender outlaw,” she offers advice and stories relevant to everyone.
If you’ve read a book that’s helped you reclaim your body, please share!