On the heels of her book Hunger, in which she excavated her own body image issues, Roxane Gay has curated a pop-up magazine on Medium that features essays from 24 authors whom Gay prompted with the question, “What does it mean to live in an unruly body?”
Authors from divergent backgrounds, genders, races, and LGBT identities submitted stories to the magazine, titled Unruly Bodies, including Iranian-American poet Kaveh Akbar, who wrote about his body in relation to alcohol; comedian Samantha Irby, who took on her body and menstruation; and S. Bear Bergman, who contributed an essay titled “Conformation: The Body No Longer Policed by Gender.”
“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,” Gay writes in the editor's note for the pop-up magazine. “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.”
Gay writes that following the release of Hunger, she was inundated with intrusive questions from the media and offensive, unsolicited advice from strangers on how to tame her “unruly body.” Given the public response to her book, the magazine offers a wider platform to foster discussion about people's relationships with their bodies.
“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," Gay writes.
Unruly Bodies has been dubbed a “month-long magazine” in which a new set of essays will be released each Tuesday. Some of the other authors who contributed are Casey Hannan writing about epilepsy, Terese Mailhot on nude selfies and empowerment, professor Kiese Laymon writing about the body in relation to gun violence, and academic Chelsea G. Summers on accepting one’s self (and changing face) as one ages.
Regarding the experience of creating Unruly Bodies, Gay told The Hollywood Reporter, “The emotional experience of it was varied: Mostly I just felt a lot of empathy for different people and their lives and how they live in their bodies.”
“I was, again, pleasantly surprised by the range of experiences that people shared; there was just no repetition of theme because everyone is so different,” Gay added. “There was nothing that I felt was predominant in any of the essays. More that it was just honest, and sometimes the truths that people shared were painful, but it was important to bear witness to those truths nonetheless.”
Look for the next set of essays on Unruly Bodies Tuesday.