Author of ’A boob’s life’ wants to change society’s narrative around women’s breasts
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Breasts might be one of the most loved body parts of the female form, but an American author with a new hit book on the topic insists that it is not spoken about enough.
“Everyone loves boobs but we don’t usually talk about them, women anyway, so it’s a guilty pleasure,” Leslie Lehr, the author of the critically acclaimed book, ‘A Boob’s Life: How America’s Obsession Shaped Me… and You,’ told The Saturday Star.
“I’m hearing from women of all ages, from teens, college students, moms, older women – boyfriends and husbands, too. They come for the boob jokes and end up thinking differently about the women in their lives,” she said.
Lehr’s new book, which is her first project since undergoing breast cancer treatment, has been such a revelation to people from all walks of life across the globe that it even prompted Hollywood actress Salma Hayek to turn it into a comedy TV series for HBO Max.
“No matter your gender or age, you will never view this sexy and sacred body part the same way again after reading the book,” she believes.
Lehr, whose entertainment lawyer is South African Alan Sacks, explained that she began writing ‘A Boob’s Life: How America’s Obsession Shaped Me… and You,’ after her battle with breast cancer.
She hoped to motivate other women who are going through their own journeys with their bodies, but also to educate society at large.
“When I saw that my breasts didn’t match, I was so upset that my husband accused me of being obsessed.
“As a feminist, I was insulted but then I realised it was true and that I wasn’t the only one,” she said.
Lehr then decided to google “breasts” and found books on breast cancer, breastfeeding, and lots of chicken recipes.
But when she did the same with the word “boobs,” it was mainly related to porn.
“There was nothing out there that connected the dots between this organ that literally turns blood into milk, and how they have to look like they’ve never done that to make a woman feel beautiful.
“We want them when we are young, then show them to date, hide them to work, feed our children with them, consider implants, and then they try to kill us.
“These are stages of life for most women and when we are defined by our biology, it limits all women – and men, too,” she said.
Following this startling misconception about breasts, ‘A Boob’s Life: How America’s Obsession Shaped Me… and You’ was born.
“The book is a blended personal narrative, humour, and American history starting in the 1960s because I want to show how this obsession with the female form has affected the psyche of all women today.
“From women’s health, body positivity, censorship, abuse, family support, to politics, it affects both women and men,” she said.
Lehr might have already been acclaimed for her prize-winning fiction as well as her viral New York Times Modern Love essay but ‘A Boob’s Life: How America’s Obsession Shaped Me… and You’ was just an extension of her life-long passion to explore the challenges facing contemporary women.
“The most challenging aspect of writing this book was going deep into domestic abuse, and my breast cancer treatment was a lot harder than talking about getting felt up for the first time or my mom buying me a boob job.
“Every time a reader writes that ‘A Boob’s Life’ prompted a late-night discussion with her daughter or that she scheduled her mammogram after reading that I’d likely be dead without mine, that makes it worth it,” Lehr said.
In order to put the book together, Lehr had to pore through her old diaries and scrapbooks.
She also went through newspaper clippings, magazine ads, and song lyrics that mentioned breasts.
“I made a list of every topic I could think of related to breasts and researched them all, filling over two dozen file folders.
“Every day there was more boob news. I started to see patterns and discovered that my life paralleled the rise of Playboy and TV and advertising and plastic surgery and feminism in a way that made me the perfect example for this story,” she said.
As Lehr already admitted, speaking about boobs can be somewhat controversial and she feared exactly that when she released her book.
“I was a little nervous about my family, since the book gets personal but I use my life as an example to show the bigger picture - and it’s a very colourful picture,” Lehr said.
She also believes that her battle with breast cancer placed her in a good position to explore and write a book of this nature and to share her experiences with others.
“After all the hell of cancer treatment, I was shocked to still care about what my boobs looked like. I found an old photo of my mom and my one-year-old sister and three-year-old me, wearing matching red bikinis, and remembered how funny it was that my baby sister couldn’t keep the strip of red fabric over her nipples because covering your nipples was the rule, like brushing your teeth.
“Then I realised that if I knew at three years old that breasts were taboo, something fishy was going on and I had to learn more. When I learned far more than I anticipated, I had to share it.”