Gross Anatomy: Dispatches from the Front (and Back) (G.P. Putnam's Son's)
For every woman who has ever heard the phrase, “That’s so gross!” aimed in the direction of her hairy legs or sweaty pit stains, Mara Altman gets it. As a newly pubescent eighth grader, those three words simultaneously indicted her bare, unshaven legs and sparked a lifelong obsession with the female body and its many (often-embarrassing) excretions.
Arranging the collection into two parts, Altman takes readers on a wild and relatable ride from head to toe. In Part One, “The Top Half,” she tackles topics such as body hair, lice, facial features, sex sounds, sweat glands, boobs, and belly buttons. In Part Two, she investigates “The Bottom Half”—why dogs sniff crotches, why butts are considered attractive, if anal sex worsens hemorrhoids, whether PMS is real, and much, much more. Why, for example, wasn’t evolution smart enough to build us with buttholes made of out something more durable, like lead piping?
Altman’s journey to answer this and other questions take her to an inventor’s workshop, a plastic surgeon’s exam table, a menstrual retreat, and nudist colony. She interviews doctors, scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, researchers, historians, and scholars. Along the way, Altman uses her personal experiences as springboards and her own body as guinea pig, laying bare her innermost anxieties and physical foibles. Altman unsparingly documents the weird, quixotic, and downright icky aspects of bodily functions in her quest to diminish the sting of shame and find space for self-love and acceptance—gross parts and all.
Praise for Gross Anatomy
“I love how Gross Anatomy delightfully reveals Mara Altman's upbeat and life-affirming obsession with the human body—our lovelinesses and not-so-lovelinesses. Lots of people will soon feel far more body-positive because of this book.”—Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test
“Forget that old fake news about sugar and spice. With wit and candor, Mara Altman tells us what girls are really made of – and it’s a hair-raising revelation.”—Tom Robbins, author of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
“Gross Anatomy is a charming, deeply-researched, whole-hearted embrace of our imperfections, the things that women don't talk about because we feel they mar our societally imposed notions of femininity. But after reading Mara Altman's exploration of her body (and ours) you'll feel more comfortable with yourself, from head to toe.”—Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles
“In all its hairy, stinky, belly button lint-y glory, Gross Anatomy anoints Mara Altman at once the Mary Karr of sweat, the David Sedaris of head lice, and the Frank McCourt of nudist resorts. Furthermore, thanks to her, I’ll never judge someone for their pit sweat, take my anus for granted, or purchase a neck pillow at the airport. What more could you ask for in a book?”—Sarah Knight, New York Times bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck
“Mara Altman boldly goes where no man has gone before. With this collection of hilarious and honest stories, I’m hoping that will change.” ––Lesley Arfin, author of DEAR DIARY and co-creator of Netflix's Love
Mara Altman enjoys writing about issues that embarrass her (e.g. chin hair), because she has found that putting shame on the page diffuses the stigma, leaving her with a sense of empowerment and freedom. Her first book, Thanks for Coming, an investigation into love and orgasm, was translated into three languages. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon and New York Magazine among other publications. Before going freelance, She worked as a staff writer for the Village Voice and daily newspapers in India and Thailand. She is an alumna of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and lives in San Diego with quite a few other hairy beings.
Chandra lee Schwartz/Breslow is a stage actress and singer known for her role as Glinda on Broadway and National Touring productions of the musical Wicked. Some of her other notable Broadway performances were in Hairspray, and Gypsy. She has dabbled in TV and commercial work here in LA and teaches acting and musical theatre at AMDA College. Producing this short film series for Gross Anatomy was Chandra’s debut into the world of producing; she had a great time.
Mara Altman photo by Pablo Mason
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