Hello, from the Book Club!
Welcome to the third cycle of the UPlift Black Book Club! Every two(ish) months we will select a book of Black excellence to read as a community in an attempt to amplify and UPlift the Black Voice within Simcoe Muskoka. This month, we have chosen to read The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love. Each cycle, we will send out a discussion guide (this one you are reading is the first one ever!) as well as attempt to host one virtual group discussion near the end of the two month period.
Thank you so much for coming on this journey with us!
The book UPlift has chosen for the February/March cycle of the book club is The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor!
*If you are having difficulty participating because the cost of the book club is inaccessible and you are a BIPOC member of Simcoe Muskoka, or if you would like to sponsor a book for someone who would like to join but cost for whom is a barrier, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
In other less-than-exciting news, we have had to postpone the next cycle of the youth book club. We are currently planning to relaunch in June/July for a summer reading club, rebranded and better than ever! Stay tuned, and get your kids excited!
Reflections from an UPlift Black Member
The Radically Unloved Checklist
by Gwyn Beaver
- Hair too nappy/kinky
- Skin too dark
- Nose too round
- Lips too big
- Waist indention…WHAT indention?!?
- Tummy bulge
- Hips too wide
- Thighs are touching – and splatter when I sit!
- Knees – Good, Lord! The knees are knocked! Knock-knees?!?
- Too tall
This was the checklist of what I considered to be my physical faults for quite a few decades. I still struggle with a couple of them. Those ugly negative self-perception thoughts pop into my head as I’m getting dressed in the morning, or if I catch a glimpse of my reflection as I’m walking past a building with a lot of windows or glass doors. Remember the pre-COVID days when we could try on clothing at our favorite department store? Who knew shopping for a pair of jeans could cause such heartache and frustration? Yes, in my experience, jean shopping was just as frustrating as trying to find the right color of foundation and powder for my mocha complexion.
Sonya Renee Taylor’s The Body Is Not An Apology, caused me to think about how often I have those negative thoughts, and more importantly, how many YEARS I’ve had some of them! Since reading the book, I have made an effort to monitor my thoughts, and I tell you, those negative thoughts pop in before you realize what is happening – it’s like muscle memory. My Radically Unloved Checklist has been reinforced and supported by society, accepted and believed by the younger, more impressionable me and was etched into my psyche. I am well into my fifth decade of life, and I. Am. Done! Those last couple of items on my ‘unloved checklist’ are in the process of being removed – unapologetically!
Why We Chose This Book
The Body Is Not An Apology is a book about radical self-love, and we thought that was so important and integral to the concept of UPlift Black itself. Community care is self care!
As an individual, you are but one aspect of a diverse and beautiful community. You are part of the community, inseparable from it, but shaping it at the same time. Your love of self is therefore inseparable from your love of community. We thought, what better way to change a community than to start from within!
You are beautiful, you are loved, and you have a birthright to be that love in all its wonder. We thought we would use this book as a way to break us all open, let the love in, and help us to dismantle the oppressive structures that hold us down and give us that nagging need to apologize for our bodies.
But as we know now, our body is NOT an apology!
Live out loud, authentically, and lift others up! Be free, and be radical self love!
- Epigenetics are mentioned in this book. The field of epigenetics is an emerging and expanding field of study that looks at how the environment affects our DNA, and how biology isn’t as easy as being born with a certain set of genetic material. As well, it is currently looking at how intergenerational trauma shapes our children’s DNA in profound ways. For example, the trauma of slavery are found to be passed down from generation to generation, literally in our DNA, regardless of whether an individual has themselves experienced it. Have you heard about this concept? What would you like to know about epigenetics? What concepts do you think epigenetics will help to prove?
- “How we are treated during puberty can be not only be life-altering but life-threatening for some young people.” Discuss how this is true. How were you treated during puberty? How has it affected the ways in which you navigate the world in your body?
- In the section entitled A Government for, by, and about Bodies within chapter 2, there is a list of ways that body shame has been legislated around the world. Did any of these shock you? Which one affected you the most? Are there any pieces of legislation where you live that uphold body shame?
- In the medical field, you need an official diagnosis of having the DSM outlined disorder of gender dysphoria before you can access life saving body confirmation surgeries, or having your body match your internal idea of self. How does this uphold body shame?
- Throughout this book, we are being informed that we need to “expect and accept discomfort.” What does this statement mean to you? In what ways do you avoid discomfort? Do you ever find yourself shutting down a conversation because it is uncomfortable subject matter?
- Before we are given tools for radical self love, we are told that we are not a car. Our bodies are treated as objects, and our society does not currently treat objects very nicely. In what ways do you treat your own body as disposable?
- “All our body rules are made up!” What rules have you made about your body that affect your daily life? Think of all the rules – do you have to cover up a zit? Do you have to eat a certain way at a certain time? Do you have to take the stairs instead of the elevator? In what ways are these rules made up? Why are you following these rules?
- “If we stopped buying beauty supplies, …we would not only collapse the Body-Shame Profit Complex; we would tank the global economy.” This is a very obvious way that body shame is upheld by needing to keep the economy going. In what other ways does body shame play into the economy? What other items are you buying that may be contributing to the Body-Shame Profit Complex?
- “Our refusal to host body shame in secrecy and isolation is the death-knell of this dis-ease.” First question – why do you think a dash was used in the word disease? This was intentional. Second question – in what ways does being part of a community help you to uplift yourself and your beautiful body? In what ways does the quarantimes hinder our ability to connect and therefore abolish the shame we have for our bodies?
- In the conclusion, Taylor states her idea of liberation. What is your own personal idea of liberation? If we were living free, what would the world look like? What does your personal liberation look like, and how is it inextricably linked to the liberation of others?
Did you know that Sonya Renee Taylor is an international award winning performance poet? She has incredible slam poems that will rock your world, just like this book did. Check out some of them here!
What is cool about radical self love is that it touches all intersections of humanity. Within the book, Taylor discusses many different intersections of identity that are touched by the cultural conception that the body is wrong or unacceptable as it is now. Because of this major theme throughout the book, Sonya has a great number of resources on her website that help to understand just how intersectional the power of radical self love is. Check out some of the stories and resources below!
Heroes and Holidays
As well, check out these lists of influencers who are Black and unapologetically body positive to diversify the fat activism and body positive movement!
Call to Action
Your call to action is this: diversify your understanding of what a body “should” be. Challenge your assumptions about what makes a “healthy” body and why.
Have you heard of Kelli Jean Drinkwater? Check out her TED Talk below.
It’s time to join the fat acceptance movement. Bodies are bodies, regardless of their size, shape or colour. All bodies deserve love and dignity.
Get out there! Use your voice! Activate yourself in favour of the radical love of ALL BODIES, including yours!!
PS: Another option – join UPlift Black as an advocacy volunteer!
The very ending of this book provides its own set of Radical Resources, so to honour that, we have found those sites and made them clickable links for you! Easy peasy! Check them out below!
Please note that some of these links are directed at Americans. Some may not be applicable. As well, we like to use the more full and inclusive acronym 2SLGBTQPNIA+ to encompass a broader set of identities. This list is also not exhaustive. If you have resources you would like to share with the book club, please email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Intersectional Feminism Media
Weight Stigma Resources
Racial Justice Resources
Disability Justice Resources