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“Butts is a delightfully engrossing piece of cultural history about one of our most talked (and joked) about body part.”LeeAnna,
Blue Cypress Books
“Potential listeners might already know Radke from her work as a contributing editor and reporter for Radiolab, and the narrative voice in Butts echos the intellectual curiosity and humor of that podcast. Voice actor Emily Tremaine embodies Radke's spirit: part puckish, part professorial, a mix of deep-nerd research and creative synthesis, like grabbing a beer with that cool professor from college. Aforementioned fans of Radiolab will love this listen, as will fans of Freakonomics, Revisionist History, and The Anthropocene Reviewed, and if you love Maria Popova's Brain Pickings (love it enough to know its called The Marginalian now, duh!), then you will love Butts: A Backstory.”Adam,
Prairie Lights Books
“What a surprising and incredible book! Heather Radke delves into humans' complex and often strange relationships with butts from the perspective of eugenics and racism, fashion and pop culture, music and workout videos. Mindful of society's scrutiny of women's bodies, Radke brings a unique insight by sharing her personal experiences with her own body, and the way others' praise or judgement influences how she views herself. Written with wit, honesty, and historical clarity and context, Butts is a fun and intelligent work worth checking out.”Mikah,
“Winning, cheeky, and illuminating….What appears initially as a folly with a look-at-this cover and title becomes, thanks to Radke’s intelligence and curiosity, something much meatier, entertaining, and wise.” —The Washington Post
“Lively and thorough, Butts is the best kind of nonfiction.” —Esquire, Best Books of 2022
A “carefully researched and reported work of cultural history” (The New York Times) that explores how one body part has influenced the female—and human—experience for centuries, and what that obsession reveals about our lives today.
Whether we love them or hate them, think they’re sexy, think they’re strange, consider them too big, too small, or anywhere in between, humans have a complicated relationship with butts. It is a body part unique to humans, critical to our evolution and survival, and yet it has come to signify so much more: sex, desire, comedy, shame. A woman’s butt, in particular, is forever being assessed, criticized, and objectified, from anxious self-examinations trying on jeans in department store dressing rooms to enduring crass remarks while walking down a street or high school hallways. But why? In Butts: A Backstory, reporter, essayist, and RadioLab contributing editor Heather Radke is determined to find out.
Spanning nearly two centuries, this “whip-smart” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) cultural history takes us from the performance halls of 19th-century London to the aerobics studios of the 1980s, the music video set of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” and the mountains of Arizona, where every year humans and horses race in a feat of gluteal endurance. Along the way, she meets evolutionary biologists who study how butts first developed; models whose measurements have defined jean sizing for millions of women; and the fitness gurus who created fads like “Buns of Steel.” She also examines the central importance of race through figures like Sarah Bartmann, once known as the “Venus Hottentot,” Josephine Baker, Jennifer Lopez, and other women of color whose butts have been idolized, envied, and despised.
Part deep dive reportage, part personal journey, part cabinet of curiosities, Butts is an entertaining, illuminating, and thoughtful examination of why certain silhouettes come in and out of fashion—and how larger ideas about race, control, liberation, and power affect our most private feelings about ourselves and others.