Bite Your Friends: Stories of the Body Militant

Fernanda Eberstadt     Recommended by Staff    

I bite my friends to heal them. – Diogenes, c. 350 BC

The example of the Greek philosopher Diogenes, who lived “a dog’s life,” sleeping, teaching, having sex in the public square, sets the tone for this extraordinary, genre-bending memoir. Posing crucial questions about what drives certain individuals to risk physical suffering in the name of freedom, Bite Your Friends also asks what we ourselves might learn from such examples to become braver, more authentic individuals.

From a Roman amphitheatre in the 4th century, where martyrs are fed to wild beasts, to the S&M leather bars of New York in the 1970s and the programmatic defiance of groups like Pussy Riot, this sinuous and illuminating mix of memoir and social history explores the lives of uncommonly brave men and women-saints, philosophers, artists-who have used their own wounded or stigmatized bodies to challenge society’s mores and entrenched power structures. Running through her narrative of the body militant is Eberstadt’s own story, the life of her father, the photographer Frederick Eberstadt, and the vivid story of her mother, a New York writer and socialite of the 1960s, whose illness-scarred body first led Eberstadt to seek connections between beauty, belief, and the truths taught through the body.

Bite Your Friends is at once a subversive autobiography and a mesmerizing history of the body as a site of resistance to power.

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