Review of Boobs: Women Explore What It Means to Have Breasts

I was the first girl in our grade four class to get a bra. My mother took me to The Bay one day after school and bought me white cotton underpants with a training bra to match, the kind that hooked in the front. When I showed up for school the next day, all the boys stared at the white straps sticking out from under my shirt, then turned red and looked away. The girls gathered around me at recess, excited to ask questions: Do you have to wash it? Does it hurt? Where did you get it? I was the womanly sage of my class, answering each question with the wisdom of somebody who had been wearing bras for 16 years, rather than a mere 16 hours. At lunchtime, I set up camp in the more spacious wheelchair accessible stall in the girl’s bathroom, where a neat single-file lineup of girls had formed, wanting to see the now infamous bra.

This is just one of the many stories about bras and breasts that I have accumulated over my years as a boob-carrying individual. The thing is, everyone who has had breasts at some point in their lives has stories about them: some will make you shake your head and chuckle, some will make you cry, some will make you nod and start telling your own experiences. But they are all significant, they are all telling, they are all part of who we are. And that is why Boobs is a must read. The book introduces the question: why do we, as a society, place so much importance on breasts?

Boobs is an engaging collection of stories of what it means to have breasts. There are stories of early bloomers and late bloomers, of wishing to have smaller breasts, bigger breasts, no breasts at all. There are stories of rape, of shame; but there are also stories of self-acceptance, breastfeeding.  There is Allison Jane Smith’s “Opening and Closing” about finding a lump in her breast. There is Devin Casey’s story, “Skin Deep,” about top surgery and the complex experience of having breasts while working through gender identity. There is Sierra Skye Gemma’s harrowing story of trauma, “So Big Men Can’t Help Themselves.”

The stories  represent the diverse experiences that surround breasts: the coming of age stories, the struggles with gender, the trauma, the self-love, the experience of motherhood, the early sexualisation, the struggles of not feeling like enough or feeling like too much—too much of a woman, not enough of a woman, too much cleavage, too little. For those who have breasts, it is about the complex camaraderie that these shared experiences bring; for those without, it is a glimpse into how much more there is to breasts than Victoria’s Secret ads.  But no matter what your personal experiences with them, Boobs will engage you and make you feel things—in the breast possible way.