Occupy This Body
OCCUPY THIS BODY: A Buddhist Memoir
By Sharon A. Suh
ISBN 978-1-896559-50-6 (softcover). 212 pages. 6 x 9
OCCUPY THIS BODY: A Buddhist Memoir is the story of Religious Studies Professor Sharon A. Suh’s struggle to overcome a childhood of forced-feeding, emotional neglect, and cruelty from her Korean immigrant mother who battled and eventually succumbed to her own eating disorders. As she matures and awakens to her own body, she must come to terms with her past suffering and how it shapes her experiences as a Korean American woman raised and educated within predominantly upper middle-class white America. In this memoir she shares her discovery, study, and embrace of Buddhism to help her heal from past trauma and lay bare the cultural silence surrounding abuse and mental illness in Asian American families.
Occupy This Body offers an intimate portrait of growing up in Long Island as a second generation Korean American in what appears to be a model minority household where respect for elders, sacrifice, hard work, and academic achievement hold sway. But beneath this veneer of success that takes her from the suburbs to Harvard and into a marriage of seeming perfection and eventual divorce, she struggles with the devastating effects of growing up with an abusive mother who suffered from anorexia, bulimia, and mental illness as she directed her wrath —and her eating disorders — onto her. To survive, she must learn to feel at home in her ever-changing body and begin to occupy her own space in the world that has often rendered her invisible as an Asian American woman. Tackling the myth of the Asian American model minority, the shame around mental illness and abuse in Asian American families, and the pervasive pressures aimed at disciplining female bodies, Suh strips away the psychic and social bandages that have shielded her wounds from public view, reimagining Buddhism as an empowering and transformative framework for reclaiming, and occupying, our imperfect bodies.
Occupy This Body thus confronts the heavy burdens of silence and invisibility that still threaten to ensnare Asian American women in America today. Appealing to readers interested in Buddhism, women of color, the Korean-American immigration experience, abuse and eating disorders, Occupy This Body contributes to the growing literature in memoirs about the body, second-generation immigrant experiences, and what it means to be a person of color in contemporary America. Theoretically grounded in Buddhist studies, feminism and the growing scholarship on the body, Occupy This Body is a deeply-nuanced personal memoir written in an accessible voice by a professor of religion who learned to keep her childhood trauma, and history of enforced eating disorders, a secret from all but her closest friends.
About the Author
Sharon A. Suh is a Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Seattle University. Suh earned her Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Harvard University and is the author of Being Buddhist in a Christian World: Gender and Community (University of Washington Press, 2004) and Silver Screen Buddha: Buddhism in Asian and Western Film (Bloomsbury Press, 2015).
In addition to her academic work, Suh completed her 200-hour yoga teacher certification training, Transcending Sexual Trauma through Yoga, Yoga for Trauma (Y4T training), and level I Certification in Mindful Eating – Conscious Living through the UCSD Center for Mindfulness. She serves on the board of directors of Yoga Behind Bars, advocating for transformative justice, and offering yoga for resilience and trauma recovery.
A popular speaker on the topic of feminism and Buddhism, she has also developed and presented workshops on mindful movement, meditation, body image, body acceptance, and mindful eating practices. She resides in Seattle with her two teenaged daughters, two dogs, and husband.
OCCUPY THIS BODY is a must-read work for the remarkable story of its author Sharon Suh, for what it tells us about critical engagement with Buddhist tradition – its history and practices, and for so many people – women and men – who are faced with the challenges of life with food and body image as core themes of their existence.
I could not put this book down. This is a story of the courage to be the artist of one's own life and to share it with others on the path, a story of skillful means that goes outside the box of Buddhist "tradition." Mark Unno, University of Oregon
Read an Excerpt
Read an excerpt from Occupy This Body in the April 2019 edition of Lion’s Roar magazine: www.lionsroar.com/eat-eat
Hear an interview from Occupy This Body from the Secular Buddhist Podcast: