Longlisted for the 2023 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay Foreword INDIES Bronze Winner in Essays
How do we reckon with our losses? In Animal Bodies Suzanne Roberts explores the link between death and desire and what it means to accept our own animal natures, the parts we most often hide, deny, or consider only with shame—our taboo desires and our grief. In landscapes as diverse as Salamanca’s cobbled streets, the Mekong River’s floating markets, Fire Island’s windswept beaches, Nashville’s honky-tonks, and the Sierra Nevada’s snowy slopes, Roberts interrogates her memory and tries to make sense of her own private losses (deaths of people and relationships), as well as more public losses, including a mass shooting in her hometown and environmental devastation in the Amazon rainforest.
With lyricism, insight, honesty, and dark humor, these essays illuminate the sometimes terrible beauty of what it means to be human, deepening the conversation on death and grief, sexuality, and the shame that comes from surviving the world in a female body with all of its complexities.
The Essay Determines How It Will Begin The Grief Scale Eight Hours The Same Story Becoming Bird A Kiss for the Dying Bone & Skin Wearing Her Eye Shadow A Love Letter to My Hometown after the Shooting The Red Canoe Traveling with Ghosts Friending the Dead
Keep Your Numbers Down In Love with the World Sportfucking This Far from Desire Traveling Alone Winter Travel The Hungry Bride Breaking the Codes My Mother’s Daughter Funerals, Safety Pins, and Flaming Saddles The Good-Time Girl What She Must Do
Animal Bodies The Queen of the Amazon A True Story about Jealousy The Last Goodbye Rites of Passage Traveling with the Dead The Disappearing Act Honky-Tonk Woman Auntie Suzanne The Danger Scale Words Etched into Skin Mother Keeps Daddy on the Shelf Ways to Speak the Unspeakable Dreaming in the Time of Wildfire
Suzanne Roberts teaches English at Lake Tahoe Community College and for the low-residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College. Named “The Next Great Travel Writer” by National Geographic Traveler magazine, Roberts is the author of four collections of poetry, and has published work in numerous journals and anthologies.
“Personal and heart wrenching, the essays of Animal Bodies concern control and surrender.”—Dontaná Mcpherson-Joseph, Foreword Reviews
“[Animal Bodies] is beautifully observed and realized, heartfelt and informed, self-deprecating, and often wryly witty. These essays explore how the bodies we inhabit bring pleasure and shame. How the planet which hosts us is beautiful and terrible. How sometimes we cherish it, and sometimes we treat it as carelessly as we would a disdainful ex. How grief is the residue of love.”—Elizabeth Bales Frank, Brevity
"Fierce, bright, and connected to this moment in time, Roberts's Animal Bodies will remain with the reader for the way it channels clarity amid despair."—Jennifer Sinor, Western American Literature
"In the essay 'Rights of Passage,' Roberts writes, 'The parts of our bodies that betray our animal natures and remind us of our animal bodies . . . are off-limit topics in polite conversation. We deny the most natural parts of ourselves—our hunger or desires, our vulnerabilities and frailties, and even our grief.' Animal Bodies is both a response and a remedy to that denial, an example of how to behold with tenderness the parts of ourselves we are most inclined to hide."—Lucy Bryan, Prairie Schooner
"For readers who have experienced grief—and that's all of us—Animal Bodies by Suzanne Roberts will resonate. Readers will not have had all of the same experiences as the author, but we certainly have felt the same sorts of confusion and pain, and this connection, this bond between reader and writer can make us all feel less alone in our own grief."—Pam Anderson, Portland Review
"Animal Bodies is a fierce accomplishment, full of varied formal experiments with the essay yet dedicated to precise readable prose. It is a book to take on an airplane, to bring on long travels, to leave in some exotic place for the next traveler. Though you may not want to leave it, due to the circumstances, you are forced to travel light, and you feel its void in your pack, even though you have picked up another book to read on the way home."—Heavy Feather Review
"How do we grieve? How do we look at the most shameful parts of ourselves? How do we reconcile with our contradictory nature? In Animal Bodies: Death, Desire, and Other Difficulties, Suzanne Roberts's newest book of lyrical, poignant, and daring essays, the author takes us into the trenches."—Vilune Sestokaite, terrain.org
“In Animal Bodies, Suzanne Roberts offers surprising insight, both intimate and universal, into death, desire, and how we all move through this difficult world. Her essays are ruthless, beautiful, graceful, and endlessly fascinating. A wonderful book.”—Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic and Desire
“Suzanne Roberts’s essays are eloquent and vibrantly imaginative. They are lyrical in the best sense: the language is rhythmic, pulsing on the page, but never poeticized, flowery, or vague. Roberts’s wisdom and humor are evident throughout. I so welcome a collection of her essays, all in one place.”—Carolyn Forché, author of What You Have Heard Is True
“No one travels the depths of place and experience more phenomenally than Suzanne Roberts. In these essays that explore being, beauty, desire, death, and our collective animal journeys on the planet, Animal Bodies gathers our questions about life and brings them to the only place where meaning might emerge: adaptation. This book is a triumph that transcends humans and gives us a chance to re-story ourselves into the larger world.”—Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water