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Gross Anatomy
Cover of Gross Anatomy
Gross Anatomy
A Field Guide to Loving Your Body, Warts and All
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An honest, funny, neurotic, and totally gross love child of Mindy Kaling and Mary Roach.
Mara Altman's volatile and apprehensive relationship with her body has led her to wonder about a lot of stuff over the years. Like, who decided that women shouldn't have body hair? And how sweaty is too sweaty? Also, why is breast cleavage sexy but camel toe revolting? Isn't it all just cleavage? These questions and others like them have led to the comforting and sometimes smelly revelations that constitute Gross Anatomy, an essay collection about what it's like to operate the bags of meat we call our bodies.
Divided into two sections, "The Top Half" and "The Bottom Half," with cartoons scattered throughout, Altman's book takes the reader on a wild and relatable journey from head to toe—as she attempts to strike up a peace accord with our grody bits.
With a combination of personal anecdotes and fascinating research, Gross Anatomy holds up a magnifying glass to our beliefs, practices, biases, and body parts and shows us the naked truth: that there is greatness in our grossness.
An honest, funny, neurotic, and totally gross love child of Mindy Kaling and Mary Roach.
Mara Altman's volatile and apprehensive relationship with her body has led her to wonder about a lot of stuff over the years. Like, who decided that women shouldn't have body hair? And how sweaty is too sweaty? Also, why is breast cleavage sexy but camel toe revolting? Isn't it all just cleavage? These questions and others like them have led to the comforting and sometimes smelly revelations that constitute Gross Anatomy, an essay collection about what it's like to operate the bags of meat we call our bodies.
Divided into two sections, "The Top Half" and "The Bottom Half," with cartoons scattered throughout, Altman's book takes the reader on a wild and relatable journey from head to toe—as she attempts to strike up a peace accord with our grody bits.
With a combination of personal anecdotes and fascinating research, Gross Anatomy holds up a magnifying glass to our beliefs, practices, biases, and body parts and shows us the naked truth: that there is greatness in our grossness.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book Bearded Lady

    It was the turn of the century. I was nineteen years old and a student at UCLA, a school bathed in milky young complexions and spicy Mexican food. I joined friends for dinner at a taco joint on Sepulveda Boulevard, where a dark and deeply handsome young waiter named Gustavo took considerable notice of my face. I will never forget that name, Gustavo. We flirted over the horchata and made googly eyes over the guacamole. My friends evaporated into the atmosphere until it seemed like there were only two of us left in the room. Every time he passed our table, he glanced furtively in my direction, and I returned his interest with the dividend of a smile and the promise of much, much more. It even seemed possible that, at some point in the evening's marathon mating dance, we would speak about more than the Thursday-night specials.

    Finally, the check-and our moment-arrived. Gustavo placed the bill in front of my friends and leaned down to my expectant ear. I tingled with excitement about what he might whisper. A phone number . . . an address . . . a marriage proposal . . .

    And then they came tumbling from his luscious lips, like poop from a pi–ata-five simple words that have seared themselves forever into my memory.

    "I like your blond mustache," he said.

    It is now eleven years later, and IÕm on the cusp of marriage to a wonderful man who is covered in hair. He not only makes me feel happy; he also makes me feel smooth. I am writing this story for him, because I have something to tell him.

    Dave, I have something to tell you.

    I am a bearded lady.

    No, not like those women you see at the circus. More like those women you see on the street, in magazines, at the corner coffee shop. Yes, Dave, they're bearded, too. You don't realize it, though, because we are all (except for quite a few Southeast Asians; I'll get to that later) engaged in an endless process of removing the additional and unwanted hair we inexplicably, annoyingly came with.

    You see, evolution played a cruel trick on the supposedly fairer sex. It involves chin hair, nipple hair, mustache hair, thigh hair, and-yes-even toe hair. Dave, by God, it's true-we have fucking toe hair! Just like you! But the difference is that we spend millions, no, make that billions, of dollars to have it waxed, lasered, shaved, and otherwise removed from our bodies so that when you see us naked, you won't run screaming into the night.

    I'm telling you this now, before we get married, because I am, unfortunately, plagued with two parallel conditions: an inordinate amount of body hair and a genetic predisposition toward brutal honesty. These would seem to be contradictory forces, particularly since I've spent thousands of my own precious dollars in a futile attempt to look as though I'm not a hairy beast. I strapped myself to a wall in Spain and endured the pain of hot wax; I went for monthly laser treatments from a doctor in Bangkok who almost turned my face into a failed lab experiment; I own enough pink disposable razors to affect the quarterly income of Gillette. I've scraped, shaved, yanked, tweezed, and plucked nearly every visible surface of my body, not to mention certain sections I discuss only with my therapist.

    I guess I'm telling you this also because I'm trying to figure out why I care. I know you love me no matter what. I realize no one-even you-will ever see the silky brunette strands that occasionally emerge from my nipple. I acknowledge that I'm not the victim of some cruel hormonal joke; I know that plenty of women have it worse than I do.

    That raven-haired beauty in front of me at Vinyasa Yoga on Nineteenth Street, Thursdays...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 7, 2018
    Altman (Thanks for Coming) boldly explores parts of her body that are both a source of shame and wonder in this delightfully crass collection of essays. From nipple hair to hemorrhoids, from the evolution of mammalian sex noises to why dogs are frequently drawn to “vag scent,” nothing is off-limits in Altman’s line of interrogation. She manages to keep readers engaged by polishing her bodily exposition with journalistic details, pausing her narrative for interviews with experts on every subject at hand. In one essay, on “copulatory vocalizations,” she consults an evolutionary biologist, two psychologists, a neuroscientist, and an anthropologist. “Maybe if you aren’t busy hollering during sex, you have the space in your brain to develop advanced sensory sensitivity in your vagina,” she posits after a conversation with the neuroscientist. It is this level of research coupled with her unique shade of humor that sets her series of essays apart. Agent: Erin Hosier, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency

  • School Library Journal

    July 1, 2018

    Though some of the content in this compendium of essays about the most cringe-worthy aspects of living in a female "meat suit" pushes the boundaries, many will find it illuminating and liberating. Young women often have burning questions about why they grow hair here and there, sweat, farting, camel toes, butts, breasts, sex, and PMS and periods, and these 15 confessional essays shed light on many of those hidden parts of one's emotional and physical self. The author's voice is comfortingly confidential, as if unburdening herself to fellow millennials about subjects that often go unaddressed in public discourse. Altman spoke to experts in a variety of fields to clear up confusion about myriad topics. The book winds through mysteries of culture and anatomy via topless bicycle rides in New York City, visits to doctors who perform labiaplasty, and a triumphant stay at a nudist colony. VERDICT Teens who pick this title up will come away with a healthier attitude toward their bodies. An empowering addition for collections willing to offer adolescent patrons materials that are forthright about sexuality and anatomy.-Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Sugar Hill, GA

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2018
    A journalist/author explores the whys and hows of the female body as she confronts the "volatile and apprehensive relationship" she has with her own body parts.Altman (Thanks for Coming: One Young Woman's Quest for an Orgasm, 2009, etc.) grew up with two hippie parents who eschewed all bodily enhancements. Her mother "never wore any image-altering materials" and never shaved; her father "turned his nose up at anything he deemed unnatural," including perfume. This led to the author's hyperawareness of corporeal expectations for women and the nagging sense that she was somehow a misfit. Drawing on research and interviews, Altman considers everything about the female body that society often shames women into hiding. In "The Top Half," the author discusses some of her favorite top-of-the-body fixations, such as body hair and its removal. Her investigations did nothing to cure her of her own depilatory compulsions, but at the same time, they revealed that the reasons behind shaving, waxing, and tweezing were rooted in everything from cultural/patriarchal norms (which equated hairlessness to sensuality) to biology (which equated hairiness to age and infertility). Altman then goes on to ponder other personal issues--e.g., hairy nipples, overactive sweat glands, protruding belly buttons, head lice, and the inability to vocalize sexual pleasure--with which she has struggled. In the second section of the book, "The Bottom Half," Altman considers what inevitably draws dogs to the human vulva, why buttocks, the site of the grossest of all bodily functions, are also "one of the most sexualized parts of the human body," and why society too often maligns features of the female body like labial lips (the so-called "camel toe") and menstruation. By turns neurotically perverse and hilarious, Altman's doodle-illustrated book is not just a memoir of her own quest to embrace physical imperfection. It is also an endearingly outrageous attempt to demystify the female body while shedding light on the causes of female corporeal insecurities.A simultaneously funny and informative memoir about the wonder of the human body.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Gross Anatomy
A Field Guide to Loving Your Body, Warts and All
Mara Altman
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