My Body Keeps Your Secrets: Dispatches on Shame and Reclamation

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Lucia Osborne-Crowley
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SKU: 9781911648130 Category:

2 September 2021
304 pages
ISBN 9781911648130
Cover Design © Laura Thomas

Winner of the Somerset Maugham award 2022

In her first full-length book, Lucia Osborne-Crowley, author of the acclaimed Mood Indigo essay I Choose Elena, writes about the secrets a body keeps, from gender identity, puberty and menstruation to sexual pleasure; to pregnancy or its absence; and to darker secrets of abuse, invasion or violation. 

The voices of women, trans and non-binary people around the world, and the author’s own deeply moving testimony, cohere into an immersive polyphonic memoir that tells the story of the young person’s body in 2021. In this boldly argued and widely researched work about reclaiming our bodies from shame, Osborne-Crowley establishes her credentials as a key intersectional feminist thinker of her generation. 

Praise

‘The rigorously controlled use of subconscious memory. The very act of remembering. The attempt to reconcile not only with life, but one’s self. The complicated, exhausting discipline of internalized shame. The nearly unbearable burden of fearful abuse. The weight of forgiveness. All of this in Lucia Osborne-Crowley’s MY BODY KEEPS YOUR SECRETS. It is a profound, harrowing, enlightening book.’
Susanna Moore, author of Miss Aluminum

‘A deeply important book about the wide, deep ocean that is pain and trauma, about the reverberations through our lives individually and collectively, psychically and physically, that we are only just beginning to understand. How we can’t separate our minds and our bodies; how it builds within us, even, maybe especially, if we try to disregard it.’
Sophie Mackintosh, author of The Water Cure

‘This book brilliantly interrogates our relationship to our bodies but also to those around us, inhabiting each daily, hourly, minute-by-minute contradiction that having a body, and so being alive, entails. A testament to the power of externalising our own stories so as to understand them through others’ eyes, demonstrating how inextricably connected each of us ultimately is. Her writing is beautiful, unflinching and clear and, most importantly, it renders shame visible – a material thing that, having been sewn into the body, can also be cast off.’
Olivia Sudjic, author of Asylum Road

‘This book is a burning manifesto for the revolutionary act of articulating shame and trauma. It is a testament to the feminist praxis of listening to each other’s stories in collective solidarity as a refusal of erasure and a way to claim presence and power in the world.’
Jessica Andrews, author of Saltwater 

My Body Keeps Your Secrets will have forever shifted my perception of how shame works physically and psychically. Weaving her own personal experience with the testimony of others, Lucia Osborne-Crowley has written a singular work that I hope will inspire many more books like it. Imbued throughout with the author’s potential for empathy, care and generosity, as well as her skill in both research and storytelling, this book is indeed a reclamation, through which we might reclaim ourselves from the shame of others.’
Alice Hattrick, author of Ill Feelings

‘A tender, intimate and generous meditation on the burdens of structural and personal shame on bodies and lives; and a radical call for the transformational power of speaking and listening.’
Elinor Cleghorn, author of Unwell Women

‘A potent depiction of abuse and transmitted shame – the type of shame inscribed on our bodies, clinging to our insides and concealed deep inside our core.’
Nataliya Deleva, author of Four Minutes

‘A deeply affecting and eye-opening window into the world of shame, articulating exactly how you and others feel in a way that you may never have been able to say. Grace, style and empathy weave through this salient work.’
Kit Caless, Influx Press

‘If there is an opposite to gaslighting, this book is it. A powerful, vital, life affirming read.’
Alya Mooro, author of The Greater Freedom: Life as a Middle Eastern Woman Outside the Stereotypes

‘Lucia Osborne-Crowley writes through and beyond shame with clarity and lyricism in this timely book.’
Sinéad Gleeson, author of  Constellations: Essays on Bodies, Art, Illness

My Body Keeps Your Secrets

read once that if you want to forgive someone for something – I mean really forgive – something has to die. That grief and loss and acceptance are necessary ingredients of truly letting go. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s fly in the bottle. Wittgenstein said that systems of abuse are like putting a fly in a bottle. The fly can see out at the world because the glass is transparent. But the structure of the bottle is so vast and so consuming of the fly’s small world that it cannot see the glass it is looking through; it thinks it is seeing the world as it really is.

And because the fly cannot see the structure imprisoning it, it is useless to say: You are in a bottle! The fly trusts that its perception of the world is real; to it there is no bottle.

All you can do is help the fly escape the bottle. Only from the outside, flying above it, will the fly be able to see what was imprisoning her.

The body is a very lonely place, especially when it is under threat. And some bodies are always under threat.

As I write this, the world is facing a crisis, the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The UK is in lockdown. Boris Johnson’s government has closed all schools and cancelled GCSE and A level exams until further notice. The whole country has been ordered to work from home.

We are not allowed to go to friends’ houses. All the bars, restaurants and cafes have been ordered to close. A few remain open for takeaways only, but anyone lining up must stand at least two metres away from other people.

This morning, I went for a walk on my own in the sun. I grew up in Australia, and I desperately need vitamin D to stay happy. It is a spring day in London, 23 March 2020. There is not a cloud in the sky, and there are daffodils everywhere.

As I walk through the clear air and look at the fresh flowers, I feel a strange combination of positivity and dread. This really feels like the end of days, but I am calm.

Law and Crime Podcast, 11 January 2022: ‘Obviously, This Is a Big Deal’: Reporter Who Broke Ghislaine Maxwell Juror Story Opens Up About the Complicated Fallout

Lucia Osborne-Crowley for The Independent, 5 January 2022: Ghislaine Maxwell juror breaks silence to The Independent: ‘This verdict is for all the victims’

The YourShelf Podcast, 30 September 2021: Not Looking Away with Lucia Osborne-Crowley

Jessica Payn for The Arts Desk, 28 September 2021: 10 Questions for writer Lucia Osborne-Crowley: The author of ‘My Body Keeps Your Secrets’ on trauma, shame and community

Lucy Hall for the Guardian, 28 September 2021: I survived rape, but I didn’t understand what trauma would do to me

Lucia Osborne-Crowley for The Bookseller, 24 September 2021: Rosie Jones | ‘I wanted to write the book I needed as a child’

Freya Bennett for Ramona Magazine, 9 September 2021: My Body Keeps Your Secrets: Interview with Lucia Osborne-Crowley

 Emily Clements for Kill Your Darlings, 9 September 2021: Books Roundup: Small Joys of Real LifeThe Things We See in the LightLies, Damned LiesMy Body Keeps Your Secrets

BBC Radio Melbourne, 8 September 2021: Mornings with Virginia Trioli

Lucia Osborne-Crowley for Stylist, 2 September 2021: Author of My Body Keeps Your Secrets, Lucia Osborne-Crowley, on the lessons she learned after a devastating breakup

Lucia Osborne-Crowley for The Curiosity Club, 1 September 2021: How My Cat Helped Me Kick My Alcohol Addiction

Emily Bootle for New Statesman, 1 September 2021: Reviewed in short: New books from Carole Hooven, Kristian Shaw, Lucia Osborne-Crowley and Jay Parini

Lucia Osborne-Crowley for Vogue Australia, 31 August 2021: What if, in order to find true love, you need to be alone?

The Owl on the Bookshelf, 2 September 2021: Review of My Body Keeps Your Secrets by Lucia Osborne-Crowley

Lucia Osborne-Crowley for Meanjin Quarterly, 8 February 2021: What if We Never Recover?

Melanie Kembrey for The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 December 2020: The most anticipated books of 2021 

Australia & New Zealand Edition

Lucia’s recommended reading list

This is far and away one of my favourite novels of the year, and probably of the decade. Brown tells the story of a young Black British woman who has achieved everything she wanted to – an impressive job in finance, a steady boyfriend – but the book takes us through her reflection of the way every single interaction she has is tainted by racism and mistrust. She has done all the right things, followed all the rules, but it is never enough. Every sentence in this book does the work of an entire chapter. The writing is truly outstanding and the emotion is powerful and lucid and smart.

 

This book from the brilliant New Yorker reporter Patrick Raddan Keefe is one of the best works of long form journalism I’ve read in a long time. It takes a deep dive into the opioid crisis and the people who oversaw a cruel empire that profited from people in pain. Unlike so much other reporting on opioids, this book looks at how victims of chronic pain are so vulnerable to exploitation by the medical establishment. This is a must-read for anyone interested in pain conditions and how to treat them.

 

This is another one of my non-fiction picks of the year. Journalist Rachel Thompson takes a close look at the rise of “casual violence” – acts of violence and coercion that are creeping further and further into sexual culture – and what we can do about it. The book includes dozens of beautifully reported stories of people struggling with the greyer areas of sex and consent. In centring these stories, this book is a powerful argument for taking the next steps in our conversations about rape culture, and looking at the more insidious elements of coercion that don’t fit easily into black-and-white categories.

 

This book is by the journalist who almost single-handedly re-opened the investigation in Jeffrey Epstein’s child sex trafficking ring after it was purportedly closed by Florida law enforcement in the 2000s, when they let the billionaire as-good-as get away with pleading guilty to trafficking minor girls for sex and facing almost no consequences.

Brown’s reporting was relentless and led to a new criminal investigation, arrest, and charge. This book brilliantly dives into all of the detail in the Epstein case and at the same time gives really useful detail about how Brown went about the project. I will come back to this book again and again for reporting tips.

 

This book is an essential look at rape culture as we know it today. This beautifully written and meticulously researched work takes a clear and honest look at sexual violence and, importantly, its aftermath – the physical and psychological legacy it leaves with survivors, the way trauma lives on in the body and expresses itself through illness and pain. Morton uses her own stories of trauma and survival to examine the way these patterns play out again and again in our society, and this knowledge arms us with the tools to make things better. A truly important book.

 

This beautiful book explores the devastating legacy of dismissing women’s chronic illness and pain through the story of Alice and her mother’s experience with myalgic encephalitis, or ME. Hattrick’s non-fiction voice is stunning, and the book looks closely at how being disbelieved when we are sick can infect a whole life and can be passed down through generations, can reverberate again and again and again. This is another book I will be coming back to often.

 

This powerful memoir by Chanel Miller, the victim of Stanford rapist Brock Turner, really changed the way I thought about writing my own book. Miller’s voice is so clear and so powerful, and the way she narrates her passage through the criminal justice system and the shame and disempowerment she felt in becoming the unnamed victim of a high-profile rape trial is moving and unforgettable. Miller is such a wise writer and this book will always mean so much to me.

 

This is one of those books I re-read at least once or twice a year, and it’s one that I relied on very heavily while writing my new book My Body Keeps Your Secrets. This book is a collection of essays and speeches by Lorde, opening with my favourite essays of hers – a beautiful piece about her cancer diagnosis and how it forced her to come to terms will all the things she has not spoken up about, all the things she has kept quiet about – racism, sexism, violation – and how clearly she believes that she cannot let these secrets die with her.

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