2 September 2021
Cover Design © Laura Thomas
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.
‘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
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.