What the Body Holds: Its Shame and Its Pleasure | Mechanics' Institute

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What the Body Holds: Its Shame and Its Pleasure
a discussion and reading with memoirist Isidra Mencos and fiction writer Leslie Kirk Campbell

Isidra Mencos and Leslie Kirk Campbell will discuss what drew them to writing books that investigate the topic of the female body. They will share ways women (themselves included) have felt shame about their bodies and how both societal expectations and abject repression (political, religious, and/or gender-based) affect womens' attitudes toward their bodies—including how women may self-repress as a consequence of external oppression. Finally, they will broach how their protagonists came to a point of acceptance of their bodies, opening to pleasure. Each of these three topics will be illustrated with short readings from their books. The event will end with a Q & A with the audience. A reception, mixer, and book signing with light refreshments will follow.

Isidra Mencos' Promenade of Desire: A Barcelona Memoir, narrates a young woman’s journey from repression to liberation in tandem with Spain’s transition from dictatorship to democracy. As the country transforms itself, the shy María Isidra evolves into the alluring Isadora, whose passion for books and salsa dancing sustains her as she discovers what it means to be lustful and loved and reclaims her whole self. Promenade of Desire has won a Silver Medal for Multicultural Non Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2022, among other honors.

"A brave and unblinkingly honest portrait of a young woman’s sensual and sexual awakening." Joyce Maynard
"…Unique and Intriguing…" Julia Scheeres
"Page-turning…Vivid…Gutsy…" Aaron Shulman


Leslie Kirk Campbell’s short story collection, The Man with Eight Pairs of Legs won the 2020 Mary McCarthy Prize for Short Fiction (Sarabande). The collection is a 2022 Women’s National Book Association Great Group Reads Selection, a finalist for American Book Fest's 2022 Best Book Awards for Short Story, and a 2022 Foreword INDIES finalist in short fiction. Campbell’s short stories have won first place awards at Arts & Letters, Briar Cliff Review, Southern Indiana Review, and The Thomas Wolfe Review. She is also the author of Journey into Motherhood: Writing Your Way to Self-Discovery (Riverhead). A native Californian, she teaches at Ripe Fruit Writing, a creative writing program she founded in San Francisco in 1991.

At its core, A Man with Eight Pairs of Legs is about body-memory, the way we hold our pasts on our skin, visibly – bruises, scars, tracks, tattoos – and invisibly, over generations. In small towns and cities across the US, characters reckon with their body’s relationship to grief, illness, technology and genocide. Three of the eight stories focus on the violation of women's bodies and the risky decisions we make when pushed to the extreme.

"Marvelous…sexy…harrowing...both timeless and timely." Anthony Doerr, All the Light You Cannot See & Cloud Cuckoo Land
"A meaningful and utterly devastating collection…cements Campbell as a leading short story writer." BuzzFeed
"A tour de force…Campbell’s stories slap us awake." San Francisco Chronicle

Books will be sold onsite.

Mechanics' Institute presents this discussion in collaboration with The Women's National Book Association (WNBA), an organization founded in 1917 to support women and marginalized voices in the literary world. Its San Francisco chapter, established in 1967 by Effie Lee Morris, a pioneering Black librarian, hosts literary events that foster connections and support among authors, writers, publishers, librarians, and women in the world of words.

Mechanics' Institute Members and Co-Sponsors FREE
Non-Members sliding scale $5-$10

Meet the Author(s)

Members of Mechanics' Institute Free
Non-Members sliding scale $5-$10
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4th Floor Meeting Room
Information Desk - 415-393-0102
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