MixedThe Chicago Review of BooksI hoped Body Work would offer tools, exercises, questions, organizing principles, and creative approaches to building a story in sentences and paragraphs, the stuff that makes up a masterclass. At the very least I wanted something that would legitimize calling the collection of these four essays a craft book ... The aim to tell \'stories so that specificity reveals some larger truth\' is no secret of high quality writing and the idea is so often repeated in adult writing centers, workshops, and in craft books it appears trite no matter how applicable it is ... One of Febos’ strengths as a writer is to make connections among poetry, philosophy, psychology, religion, and art. In her earlier books, her essays surprise and delight with ideas from writers and thinkers across disciplines and add depth and dimension to her first-person narratives. Sources cited in Body Work are paltry in comparison and include a CDC study, a New Yorker article here and there, the poet Eileen Myles, and the Torah among others. Febos’ body of work is unique and interesting because she uses extensive research into ideas across genre and time period and connects them to larger, more complex points about her experience. The threads connecting to bigger ideas in this slim volume are fewer and further between than her previous books, and the lack rhetorical heft that might make this book as instructive as it claims to be.
RaveThe Chicago Review of BooksRembert’s memoir is not just a lens through which we can view American history; at its heart it is a love story ... documents racial and economic violence under white supremacy as a living history. It also gives us an example of how to live without bitterness or seeking revenge. From Rembert’s abandonment by his birth mother to the forced labor on the cotton fields and the abuses of the prison wardens, he remembers his struggle with acceptance, forgiveness, and often gratitude for the lessons he learned from his mistakes ... He was never going to outrun his blackness in Jim Crow or even in post-Civil Rights America, in the South or the North. Instead, he picked up some tools and paints and changed the arc of his story, placing black history at the center of it, transforming hate and humiliation into love and forgiveness.
RaveThe Chicago Review of BooksFebos layers research from historical, literary, and cultural texts within her personal narratives––a technique familiar to readers of her other books––to deepen and enrich Girlhood’s ambitious aims to define the creation of gender within the patriarchy ... Febos not only offers herself a new playbook, scrutinizing the assumptions she has placed upon herself, she also examines how our culture prizes the narratives of boys over girls, often erasing the girl altogether in favor of a more understandable story. By looking at the social and cultural context in which we become women, this multileveled narrative affirms that our shared attitudes and beliefs about girls and the women we expect them to become are more important than whatever benefits we gain by denying and distorting them. Girlhood offers the plausibility that on the other side of personal and collective awareness lies the choice to play a different game.