Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Memoir or Autobiography
A New York Times Notable Book of 2022 * Vulture’s #1 Memoir of 2022 * A Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA TODAY, Time, BuzzFeed, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and New York Public Library Best Book of the Year
From Chloé Cooper Jones—Pulitzer Prize finalist, philosophy professor, Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant recipient—an “exquisite” (Oprah Daily) and groundbreaking memoir about disability, motherhood, and the search for a new way of seeing and being seen.
“I am in a bar in Brooklyn, listening to two men, my friends, discuss whether my life is worth living.”
So begins Chloé Cooper Jones’s bold, revealing account of moving through the world in a body that looks different than most. Jones learned early on to factor “pain calculations” into every plan, every situation. Born with a rare congenital condition called sacral agenesis which affects both her stature and gait, her pain is physical. But there is also the pain of being judged and pitied for her appearance, of being dismissed as “less than.” The way she has been seen—or not seen—has informed her lens on the world her entire life. She resisted this reality by excelling academically and retreating to “the neutral room in her mind” until it passed. But after unexpectedly becoming a mother (in violation of unspoken social taboos about the disabled body), something in her shifts, and Jones sets off on a journey across the globe, reclaiming the spaces she’d been denied, and denied herself.
From the bars and domestic spaces of her life in Brooklyn to sculpture gardens in Rome; from film festivals in Utah to a Beyoncé concert in Milan; from a tennis tournament in California to the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh, Jones weaves memory, observation, experience, and aesthetic philosophy to probe the myths underlying our standards of beauty and desirability and interrogates her own complicity in upholding those myths.
“Bold, honest, and superbly well-written” (Andre Aciman, author of Call Me By Your Name) Easy Beauty is the rare memoir that has the power to make you see the world, and your place in it, with new eyes.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Chloé Cooper Jones lives with sacral agenesis, a congenital condition causing abnormal spinal development—something that impacts her height, limits her ability to move, and keeps her in chronic pain. Her disability is clearly visible to the outside world, and in this personal account, she shares her experiences in how her differences are often perceived by others. Throughout these essays, Jones also brings us with her on adventures that challenge her own assumptions about what she “should” be able to experience, from visiting the killing fields in Cambodia (where genetically atypical people like herself were among the murdered) to musing about beauty standards while seeing Beyoncé perform in Italy to meeting Peter Dinklage at the Sundance Film Festival. Jones’ writing is thoughtful and deeply felt, and her stories will fascinate anyone who wants to look at the world in a new way.
Jones, a 2020 Pulitzer Prize finalist for feature writing, takes aim at beauty standards in her dazzling debut. Born with a rare congenital condition that left her with a curved spine and "mismatched hips," Jones became accustomed early on to "triggering pity" and stares from others around her. "Measure and proportion are everywhere identified with beauty and virtue," Jones writes. "My body did not fit into any narrative of order, proportion, plan.... disorder threatened beauty." But just as she defied doctors' claims that she'd never walk or stand on her own (even getting the "classic college experience" and, later, having a child), she challenges society's rules of attraction with razor-sharp wit and intellect. Framing her physical appearance within the context of British philosopher Bernard Bosanquet's theory of "easy beauty"—which describes the "plain straightforward pleasure" brought by the "apparent and unchallenging"—she makes a thrilling defense of "difficult beauty," where "one often encounters intricacy, tension, and width." As Jones explores this paradigm, she experiences the "blunt, triumphant beauty" of Beyoncé at a concert in Milan and the "energy of the aggrieved" of Bernini's Proserpine, while a Cambodian massage moves her to consider her own complicity in the "fixed distance" she seeks to dismantle. This makes a brilliant case for the beauty of complexity.