For the latest chapter of our Papier Book Club live event series, we’ll be joined by Emily Ratajkowski to discuss her debut essay collection, My Body. Writing about her own experiences as a woman and cultural icon, Ratajkowski’s essays explore the politics and power of female beauty. Part unflinching memoir, part searing social commentary, My Body is a compelling debut.
What can people expect from your book?
People can expect very honest, personal experiences that have impacted my belief systems and evolved my politics around feminism and power.
What were your reasons for writing the book?
I wrote this book because I wanted to explore the ways that my politics had evolved. I wanted to write a book that discussed male desire, internalised misogyny, beauty and power in the way I talk about those things with my close friends.
Which book have you reread the most?
Self-Help by Lorrie Moore I’ve probably read four or so times in my life.
Which book reminds you of home?
I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird with my mom. A Wrinkle in Time, The Great Good Thing and Walk Two Moons were all seminal books in my childhood.
Which book do you think every school child should read?
I need to start thinking about this for my son! I like the idea of him reading a lot of fantasy. I think books like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter have incredible lessons in them and are wonderful for the imagination.
What are your reading habits like?
I read very fast. Once I start a book, I don’t put it down until it's finished.
My Body explores feminism, sexuality, and power. Did you find that you uncovered new perspectives you'd not previously considered once you started writing the book?
I don’t think that the book provides answers, but when I set out to write the book it was more to be able to put things down in writing so that I could gain some perspective on my experiences and ideas. Now as I revisit the text and have begun to hear other people respond to it my ideas are continuing to evolve. My essays are meant to start conversations.
Is non-fiction something you’ve always read and been interested in?
I’ve always loved non-fiction and essays in particular. There’s quite a few books of essays that I’ve read and thought a lot about when I was writing this, including Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams, Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee and The Reckonings by Lacy M. Johnson.
Which 3 other authors or literary characters would you choose as housemates?
I’ve been reading so much non-fiction lately it’s hard to say! Can I choose writers instead? bell hooks, Rebecca Solnit and Hilton Als.
Beside books, what other cultural things are you currently enjoying?
I really do enjoy TV. I just finished Scenes From a Marriage and thought it was excellent.
How would you describe your writing process in 5 words?
Exhausting, exciting, manic, editing, editing.
What do you think non-fiction can do which fiction can’t?
I think that there’s something to be said for knowing that a story is lived and real. There’s sort of a risk in non-fiction, a vulnerability, that can be striking in a way that fiction can’t always be.
Emily Ratajkowski’s essays were written with the aim of sparking discussion. Join the conversation by tuning into our Papier Book Club on Wednesday 15th December, tickets available here. Read our previous Book Club Q&A with Lisa Taddeo here, and follow us on Instagram @papier to hear about future Book Clubs.