Writers of Book About Body Image Speak at FCLC


Published: October 16, 2008

“You’re about to meet 23 women who have agreed to write about the simple yet radical act of looking in the mirror,” said Christina Baker Kline as she read an excerpt of the introduction to the book “About Face.” Kline and Anne Burt, editors of the book, spoke on the evening of Oct. 9, at Fordham Law School’s McNally Amphitheater. Patricia Chao, Kym Ragusa, and Kamy Wicoff, three writers who contributed to the book, joined the two editors.

Baker began by mentioning a French woman who got a face transplant seven years ago. “That raised a lot of issues in the press. People began to ask what it meant for someone to have a new face,” said Baker. “I was just turning 40 when plastic surgery shows…were coming out.” She said that shows like these, and the media coverage of body image issues, were the reason she decided to create a book about women’s relationships with their appearances.

“About Face” features the writings of women ages 23 to 75 with a variety of appearances and cultural backgrounds. The book is described as women writing “about what they see when they look in the mirror.”  The work consists of a collection of essays written by women about their personal experiences and insecurities with their looks.

“The truth is, my reflection and I have not always seen eye to eye,” said Patricia Chao as she read a section of her essay, “On Reflection,” to the approximately 60 audience members present at the event. “When I was a child, I sometimes wished for a different face. I was often the only Asian in the crowd,” she read.

Following Chao, Kym Ragusa read from her essay, “Three Women, Three Photographs.”
“My features and my coloring have always raised a question,” she said. Ragusa then spoke about her diverse ancestry, which includes a relative who was a slave, a Chinese great-grandfather and both Italian and Irish relatives with “the bloodlines crossing and meeting in me,” she read.

Kamy Wicoff followed with a partial reading of her essay, titled “Coming out of the Curly Closet: Confessions of a Blowout Queen.” In the passage, Wicoff described a trip to a hair salon where she spent 3 hours attempting to get perfect curls. “We all have our thing when it comes to how we look,” said Wiccoff. “Why doesn’t my husband sit on the vanity chair as long as I do?” she asked.

Before they began their essays for the book, each contributor was asked to begin by looking in the mirror and describing what they saw. Chao stated that when she looked in the mirror she saw herself in parts. “When I’m in a better place, I see the images as more of a whole,” she said.

Ragusa stated, “Because I didn’t flinch, I also saw that pieces of me worked together for a reason.”

“I just knew I had to write about my hair,” Wicoff said, amidst laughter from the audience.

“There are so many things about our lives that have to do with how we look,” said Wicoff. An audience member asked the writers if they felt embarrassed revealing their insecurities.

“You have to have a willingness to go there,” said Wicoff. “I’m not trying to embarrass myself, I’m just trying to reach the truth.”