Thin Skin: Essays (Hardcover)

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This incisive new work—examining capitalism’s toxic creep into the land, our bodies, and our thinking—is “a visceral exploration” (Katherine May, author of Wintering) from a National Book Award finalist and a powerful literary mind.

"A wrenching, loving and trenchant examination of feminism, nuclear weapons production, healthcare, queerness and American life" —Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

For Jenn Shapland, the barrier between herself and the world is porous; she was even diagnosed with extreme dermatologic sensitivity—thin skin.

Recognizing how deeply vulnerable we all are to our surroundings, she becomes aware of the impacts our tiniest choices have on people, places, and species far away. She can't stop seeing the ways we are enmeshed and entangled with everyone else on the planet. Despite our attempts to cordon ourselves off from risk, our boundaries are permeable.

Weaving together historical research, interviews, and her everyday life in New Mexico, Shapland probes the lines between self and work, human and animal, need and desire. She traces the legacies of nuclear weapons development on Native land, unable to let go of her search for contamination until it bleeds out into her own family’s medical history. She questions the toxic myth of white womanhood and the fear of traveling alone that she’s been made to feel since girlhood. And she explores her desire to build a creative life as a queer woman, asking whether such a thing as a meaningful life is possible under capitalism.

Ceaselessly curious, uncompromisingly intelligent, and urgently seeking, with Thin Skin Shapland builds thrillingly on her genre-defying debut My Autobiography of Carson McCullers (“Gorgeous, symphonic, tender, and brilliant” —Carmen Machado), firmly establishing herself as one of the sharpest essayists of her generation.

About the Author

JENN SHAPLAND’s first book, My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Publishing Triangle Award, among other honors, and has been translated into Spanish, French, and Polish. Shapland has a PhD in English from the University of Texas at Austin and she works as an archivist for a visual artist.

Praise For…

A Most Anticipated Title of Summer from Goodreads, Electric Literature, and Autostraddle

“A visceral exploration of the thin membrane between the self, the body, and the systems that control them.”
Katherine May, author of Wintering

“In her introduction, Shapland refers to the ability of the essay to do anything or go anywhere as a part of her love for the form—and in the essays that follow, she shows us she meant it. A wrenching, loving and trenchant examination of feminism, nuclear weapons production, healthcare, queerness and American life unlike any I can think of, in essays that give lessons in pushing this form to the limit. The resulting collection is iconoclastic, electric, illuminating, and the honesty and art in these essays bring with them a series of welcome awakenings. A book to keep for a long time.”
Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

“Jenn Shapland's mind is a marvel. In Thin Skin, she puts it to work on our permeability to one another, and the result is a stunning, urgent, and layered consideration of our climate-catastrophe, pandemic-laden day. As each essay considers vulnerability in a different form, Shapland proves herself a brilliant and compassionate guide through loss and the enduring need to find hope. She offers no easy answers, but something far more valuable: deeper, more acute understanding—the best kind of balm.”
Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body

"This book is a miracle! Whether writing about her migraines, ‘karens,’ the environment, Buddhism or deciding not to have children, Shapland takes on each subject with tenderness and depth. Every essay roams in a wild and thrilling way, holding to the author's own spiritual advice, to yield again and again and to both accept and ‘indulge the universe.’”
Darcey Steinke, author of Flash Count Diary

Thin Skin confirms that Jenn Shapland is one of the most exciting American writers working today. She simultaneously crisscrosses and dissects topics as enormous as personhood, colonization, and climate change with such virtuosic verve and control I’m still marveling over how she does it. Thin Skin expands our sense of what essays can be and do.”
Jeannie Vanasco, author of Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl

“[A] blazing book about the permeability between personal history and the sociopolitical systems that bind us…[Shapland] investigates many significant questions of our current age—climate change, capitalism run amok, female autonomy—and our ‘utter physical enmeshment with every other being on the planet.’”
Electric Literature

“Exhilarating…It’s hard not to marvel at how the author draws unexpected conclusions from a diverse array of anecdotes, illuminating the profound ways in which individuals and the world shape each other. This is a gem.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Even more beautiful and thought-provoking than I’d imagined. I’m savoring this one and underlining like a lunatic, so if you’re looking for your next essay collection to adore, I highly recommend.”

“Breathtaking in their sharp synthesis of a variety of ideas and experiences, Shapland’s essays are a truth-telling balm for mind, body, and spirit. An eloquent and vibrantly lucid collection.”
Kirkus, starred review
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593317457
ISBN-10: 0593317459
Publisher: Pantheon
Publication Date: August 15th, 2023
Pages: 288
Language: English