Peggy Shinner

Author of
  • You Feel So Mortal
    University of Chicago Press (2014)

Peggy Shinner is a life-long Chicagoan. She writes both nonfiction and fiction, and her work has appeared in The Southern Review, Colorado Review, The Gettysburg Review, Daedalus, TriQuarterly, Another Chicago Magazine, Alaska Quarterly Review, Fourth Genre, and Bloom, and been anthologized in The Oldest We’ve Ever Been: Seven True Stories of Midlife Transitions (University of Arizona Press, 2008) and Her Face in the Mirror: Jewish Women on Mothers and Daughters (Beacon Press, 1995). She has been awarded two Illinois Arts Council Fellowships, residencies at the Ucross and Ragdale Foundations, and a fellowship at Ausable Press. Currently, she teaches at Roosevelt University and Northwestern. As a trained martial artist, she taught Seido karate for seventeen years. You Feel So Mortal, a collection of essays, will be published by the University of Chicago Press (2014).

Books by Peggy

You Feel So Mortal

Essays on the Body

Feet, bras, autopsies, hair—Peggy Shinner takes an honest, unflinching look at all of them in You Feel So Mortal, a collection of searing and witty essays about the body: her own body, female and Jewish; those of her parents, the bodies she came from; and the collective body, with all its historical, social, and political implications. What, she asks, does this whole mess of bones, muscles, organs, and soul mean? Searching for answers, she turns her keen narrative sense to body image, gender, ethnic history, and familial legacy, exploring what it means to live in our bodies and to leave them behind.

Over the course of twelve essays, Shinner holds a mirror up to the complex desires, fears, confusions, and mysteries that shape our bodily perceptions. Driven by the collision between herself and the larger world, she examines her feet through the often-skewed lens of history to understand what makes them, in the eyes of some, decidedly Jewish; considers bras, breasts, and the storied skills of the bra fitter; asks, from the perspective of a confused and grieving daughter, what it means to cut the body open; and takes a reeling time-trip through myth, culture, and history to look at women’s hair in ancient Rome, Laos, France, Syria, Cuba, India, and her own past. Some pieces investigate the body under emotional or physical duress, while others use the body to consider personal heritage and legacy. Throughout, Shinner writes with elegance and assurance, weaving her wide-ranging thoughts into a firm and fascinating fabric.

Turning the category of body books on, well, its ear, You Feel So Mortal offers a probing view of our preoccupation with the body that is both idiosyncratic and universal, leaving us with the deep satisfaction of our shared humanity.

Praise for You Feel So Mortal

Peggy Shinner writes with self-critical candor and an often rueful wit to combine the intimate with the historical, the deeply private with the Google-able in an engaging, endearing, and wholly unexpected way. This is not a memoir, but we get to know her very well; we emerge feeling we’ve watched a woman grow up and learn some important things about the reach and the limits of her needs and her daring. And, as in the best writing, we thereby discover a great deal that pertains to us.

Rosellen Brown, author of Half a Heart

Shinner is a witty and insightful storyteller and brilliant thinker, attentive to the ways the body shapes up in your mind and the world. You Feel So Mortal makes you feel so alive.

Alexander Hemon, author of The Lazarus Project

Like the transparent pages of fine anatomy books that peel apart the strata of the body, the nested essays in Shinner’s You Feel So Mortal get under our skins. She excavates, in spades, the indicative and intricate nature of our layered and larded corporeal selves. Lyrically adept, she effortlessly reanimates Schwartz’s heavy bear, making the big beast of the body dance the horah, turning the ‘withness’ of our heft into a helium meringue, a gauzy heartache, a lost lost.

Michael Martone, author of Four For a Quarter
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