Our Bodies, Our Selves

At Medium, Hunger: A Memoir of My Body author Roxane Gay created Unruly Bodies, an excellent pop-up magazine, to be delivered in installments over four Tuesdays in April — “a month-long magazine exploring our ever-changing relationship with our bodies,” she writes in the introduction. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do — to create a space for writers I respect and admire to contribute to the ongoing conversation about unruly bodies and what it means to be human.”

She tapped a diverse group of 24 writers to contribute. This first edition features an introduction by Gay, and essays by Randa Jarrar, Kiese Laymon, Matthew Salesses, Keah Brown, S. Bear Bergman, and Mary Anne Mohanraj. Writers to be featured in the next three editions: Carmen Maria Machado, chelsea g. summers, Kaveh Akbar, Terese Mailhot, Casey Hannan, Samantha Irby, Tracy Lynne Oliver, Kelly Davio, Brian Oliu, Mike Copperman, Danielle Evans, Jennine Capó Crucet, Megan Carpentier, Kima Jones, the writer known as Your Fat Friend, Gabrielle Bellot, Mensah Demary, and larissa pham.

In creating Unruly Bodies, Gay was influenced by her experience after publishing Hunger. Readers reacted in ways that were intrusive, inappropriate, and hurtful. Unsolicited (and unqualified), they offered diet and exercise advice. They judged her. They insulted her.

I wrote about my body and strangers, with both good and bad intentions, generally missed the point of what I had to say. They viewed my body as a problem to be solved, as something they could discuss and debate. But I put myself out there. I wrote the story of my body so what could I do but grit my teeth and get through it?

After getting through it, she was inspired to ask others to write about their experiences living — in one way or another — outside the straight, cis, thin, white mainstream.

I first began thinking of the body as unruly after reading Hanne Blank’s collection Unruly Appetites. It was such a provocative, honest phrasing, this acknowledgment that the things we most want and crave are rarely easily ruled or disciplined. The bodies harboring our unruly appetites are unruly in and of themselves — they are as weak and fallible as they are strong. In many ways, our bodies are completely unknowable, but oh, how we try to master our unruly bodies, nonetheless.

When Medium approached me to curate a pop-up magazine, I knew exactly what I wanted to do — to create a space for writers I respect and admire to contribute to the ongoing conversation about unruly bodies and what it means to be human. I asked twenty-four talented writers to respond to the same prompt: what does it mean to live in an unruly body? Each writer interpreted this prompt in a unique way and offered up a small wonder.

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