Airbags. Bee Stings. Bubbalas. Flying Saucers. Wawas. Women’s breasts have been called everything under the sun. In her book “A Boob’s Life: How America’s Obsession Shaped Me … and You,” novelist Leslie Lehr interweaves personal stories and research (including a massive list of nicknames for breasts in the back matter) to portray our culture’s obsession with this part of women’s bodies.
A mother of two daughters, Lehr has long written insightfully and achingly about women, motherhood, relationships and standards of beauty, including her popular Modern Love essay, “How I Got Here,” in the New York Times. In the essay, she writes about beauty and finding love again, then being diagnosed with breast cancer just a year after marrying her second husband.
“A Boob’s Life” feels like the book-length iteration of that 2016 column. In this memoir/national history, she explores her own and other women’s relationships with their bodies (as sex objects, as mothers), breast augmentation and breast cancer, and the very moment that she, as a flat-chested prepubescent, first became aware of the power of breasts (thanks to the response the young Lehr witnessed to a peer’s developing body).
Under this award-winning author’s pen, research and story come alive in sharp, revelatory and dramatic ways.
While she uses humor in the book, Lehr says this story is about intersectional feminism. Amazon has already categorized it as women’s history and feminist literature, rather than memoir. “I appreciate the book sounding light” at first glance, she says. “It has lots of humor and a light tone and I’m definitely using the fun stuff to draw people into the heavy stuff.”
From the cover that evokes the exaggerated images of the 1950s to chapters that delve into the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s and current conversations around what it means to be a woman, Lehr’s strategy is masterful. At press time, she was revising her final chapter to capture the results of the presidential election. With the election of our first woman vice president, perhaps America is ready to move beyond its obsession with women as objects and embrace the fullness of our humanity.
“A Boob’s Life” is available for pre-order on Amazon, and hits shelves March 2.