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Easy Beauty (Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster)
From Chloé Cooper Jones—Pulitzer Prize finalist, philosophy professor, Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant recipient—a groundbreaking memoir about disability, motherhood, and a journey to far-flung places in search of a new way of seeing and being seen.
“I am in a bar in Brooklyn, listening to two men, my friends, discuss whether my life is worth living.”
So begins Chloé Cooper Jones’s bold, revealing account of moving through the world in a body that looks different than most. Jones learned early on to factor “pain calculations” into every plan, every situation. Born with a rare congenital condition called sacral agenesis which affects both her stature and gait, her pain is physical. But there is also the pain of being judged and pitied for her appearance, of being dismissed as “less than.” The way she has been seen—or not seen—has informed her lens on the world her entire life. She resisted this reality by excelling academically and retreating to “the neutral room in her mind” until it passed. But after unexpectedly becoming a mother (in violation of unspoken social taboos about the disabled body), something in her shifts, and Jones sets off on a journey across the globe, reclaiming the spaces she’d been denied, and denied herself.
From the bars and domestic spaces of her life in Brooklyn to sculpture gardens in Rome; from film festivals in Utah to a Beyoncé concert in Milan; from a tennis tournament in California to the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh, Jones weaves memory, observation, experience, and aesthetic philosophy to probe the myths underlying our standards of beauty and desirability, and interrogates her own complicity in upholding those myths.
With its emotional depth, its prodigious, spiky intelligence, its passion and humor, Easy Beauty is the rare memoir that has the power to make you see the world, and your place in it, with new eyes.
Chloé Cooper Jones is a philosophy professor and freelance journalist who was a finalist for a 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing. Her work has appeared in publications including GQ, The Verge, VICE, Bookforum, New York magazine, and The Believer, and has been selected for both The Best American Travel Writing and The Best American Sports Writing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Ann Friedman is a journalist, podcaster, and author. She co-wrote the best-selling book Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close and co-hosted the podcast Call Your Girlfriend. You can find her writing in The Cut, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, ELLE, and The Guardian, and she is a contributing editor to The Gentlewoman. Subscribe to her email newsletter, The Ann Friedman Weekly, at annfriedman.com.
Praise for Easy Beauty -
"Easy Beauty is bold, honest, and superbly well-written. Chloé Cooper Jones is ruthless in probing our weakest and darkest areas, and does so with grace, humor, and ultimately, with something one seldom finds: kindness and humanity." —André Aciman, author of Call Me By Your Name
“What a gift of a book…Easy Beauty has the rigor and precision of Joan Didion and Maggie Nelson and a forthright humor and naked truth all its own." —Sarah Ruhl, author of Smile
"Soul-stretching, breathtaking... A profound, impressive, and wiser-than-wise contemplation of the way Jones is viewed by others, her own collusion in those views, and whether any of this can be shifted... A game-changing gift to readers." —Booklist (starred review)
“[In her] dazzling debut…Chloé Cooper Jones challenges society’s rules of attraction with razor-sharp wit and intellect….[and] makes a brilliant case for the beauty of complexity.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Perceptive, stylish, and darkly funny, Easy Beauty is an act of grace, and a reckoning. Chloé Cooper Jones is a remarkable writer—I would follow her mind anywhere." —Anna Wiener, author of Uncanny Valley
"I recommend Easy Beauty to anyone who has wanted beauty badly, even without knowing quite what it is, but who could never seem to access it. At least, I'm that sort of anyone, and I could feel and recognize parts of myself in every moment of this book. Chloé Cooper Jones' writing pierces right through and lets a light in." —Mitski
"In this ambitious and elegant book about seeing and being seen, Chloé Cooper Jones invokes thorny, theoretical material about identity, the social order, and how we measure human value, but her clarity and compassion invite all readers in. She has created a forceful and fresh point of view from which to anatomize power, access, and perception in her precise, unsparing prose. A necessary, relentlessly honest book that feels both of the moment and timeless." —Whiting Foundation Judges citation
"Chloé Cooper Jones is a writer whose work I don’t read, but enter: she weaves her brainy, crackling interior into the sinews of a reality that is forever reminding its participants of the difficulty of living inside a body. Easy Beauty is the most humane book I have read in a long time: in her insistence that we bear witness to each other, Jones calls forth a better, and indeed more beautiful world. I loved this book." —Kristen Radtke, author of Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness
"Jones is a magnificent guide, fiercely sharp and fiercely human. This book is for anyone who wants to immerse into a world of beauty, who wants to get real about the roots of their desire, and who can’t quite kick the habit of admiring the structures—and humans—who harm them. The questions she raises will resound in your head for a long time to come." —Lulu Fisher, author of Why Fish Don't Exist and host of Radiolab
"This book is utterly remarkable. I was spellbound by the style, the ideas, the vulnerability, the talent." —Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State
“[An] exquisite memoir. Here Pulitzer finalist Jones reflects on our standards of beauty from the perspective of a disabled woman whose rare congenital condition affects her stature and gait, and leaves her in constant pain. But it’s ultimately motherhood that liberates her, and prompts her to reexamine the limitations she has accepted as givens.” —O Magazine
“Cooper Jones challenges the unspoken social taboos about the disabled body, unpacking myths of beauty and our complicity in upholding those myths. Blending journalism, philosophy, and memoir, it’s a book that everyone will be talking about this Spring.” —Lit Hub