Body Work

The Radical Power of Personal Narrative

By Melissa Febos

Body Work


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6584-8
  • Pages: 192
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £12.99
  • Published Date: March 2022
  • BIC Category: Writing & Editing Guides, Literature, Memoirs, LITERARY COLLECTIONS / Essays, BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs, LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Writing / Nonfiction (incl. Memoirs), Language / Creative writing & creative writing guides, Memoirs


In this bold and exhilarating mix of memoir and writing guide, Melissa Febos tackles the emotional, psychological, and physical work of writing intimately while offering an utterly fresh examination of the storyteller's life and the challenges it presents.

How do we write about the relationships that have formed us? How do we describe our bodies, their desires and traumas? What does it mean to have your writing, or living, dismissed as "navel-gazing"-or else hailed as "so brave, so raw"? And to whom, in the end, do our most intimate stories belong?

Drawing on her journey from aspiring writer to acclaimed author and writing professor-via addiction and recovery, sex work and academia-Melissa Febos has created a captivating guide to the writing life, and a brilliantly unusual exploration of subjectivity, privacy, and the power of divulgence. Candid and inspiring, Body Work will empower readers and writers alike, offering ideas-and occasional notes of caution-to anyone who has ever hoped to see their true self reflecting back from the open page.


One of Glamour Magazine's 'Top 30 books that everyone will be reading in 2022'

One of Lit Hub's 'Most Anticipated Books of 2022'

'Melissa Febos declaws shame in this stunning shrine to memoir and the art of confession. A book to thump whenever someone questions your audacity to gaze upon your own navel.'
Jenny Valentish, author of Everything Harder Than Everyone Else and Woman of Substances

'Melissa Febos has written one of the most liberating books on the subject of writing that I can think of. A tender, urgent intelligence, a wisdom that is hard-won, and a rigor born from a love for the craft preside. [...] I learned so much reading Body Work that I can't wait to teach and use on the page.'
Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

'Ferociously smart and piercingly insightful, Body Work is an instant classic of the how-and-why-do-we-write form. With candor and clarity, Melissa Febos explores the complexities of writing courageously and honestly about our lives. It's a book I'll return to again and again.'
Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

'Body Work is the most necessary book about memoir I've read. Daring, honest, psychologically insightful, and absolutely whip smart. A must read for anybody shoving a pen across paper or staring into a screen or a past.'
Mary Karr, author of The Liars' Club and The Art of Memoir

'As far as I am concerned any new book by Melissa Febos is an event, such is her power to reconfigure the way you see things. Body Work is no different. In wrestling down the hows and whys of writing the self, the accountability it calls for and the veil-tearing it demands, Febos displays characteristic fearlessness. Best of all is the company of her voice, which manages to be at once tender and searching, urgent and insightful. Reading Body Work, you suspect Febos might just be able to see into your soul.'
Marina Benjamin, author of Insomnia

'Exhilarating. A book that fuses the art of writing with the politics of being, the body's witnessing. Essential reading for anyone who writes, anyone who reads, anyone who breathes.'
Helen Mort, author of Black Car Burning

'A deft, fearless assertion of the right and to tell our own stories. Melissa Febos shows us just how necessary this is.'
Katherine May, author of Wintering

Febos dedicates this volume to her students, but it will be of interest to all readers, writers and potential writers of personal narrative, as well as anyone interested in the mysterious way the creative spirit moves through an artist brave enough to engage it, and embrace it in return.'
Carmel McMahon, The Irish Times

'This is a wonder.'
Publishers Weekly

'Sharp insights from a passionate practitioner and champion of memoir.'
Kirkus Reviews

'Unlike most craft books that are either lacking in practicality and process or personality, this book is the best balance of both. A must for non-fiction writers and essayists.'
The Rumpus

'Wide-ranging in its theoretical and historical breadth yet intimate in all ways, Febos's book offers the tools readers need to identify, access, process, and articulate hard-won stories of trauma and of love that their flesh holds.'
Library Journal

In Body Work, Febos offers a compelling rebuttal of the accusation that a memoir is simply a diary in print.'
Oprah Daily

I read Body Work much as I read her third book, Girlhood: feverishly, drinking up the frankness and nuance with which Febos documents the subtle and secreted pains of living in an unequal world.'
Electric Lit


1 In Praise of Navel Gazing
2 Mind Fuck: Writing Better Sex
3 A Big Shitty Party: Six Parables for Writing About Other People
4 The Return


Melissa Febos is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, Whip Smart, and the essay collection, Abandon Me, which was a LAMBDA Literary Award finalist, a Publishing Triangle Award finalist, an Indie Next Pick, and was widely named a Best Book of 2017. Her second essay collection, Girlhood, a National Bestseller, was published in 2021.

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