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Butts: A Backstory by Heather Radke

June 29, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Heather Radke presents her cheeky new book, Butts: A Backstory now in Paperback! She will be joined by radio host Lulu Miller!

Book Talk 6-7PM, with book signing afterwards.

Books will be available to purchase in person.

“Delving into this history, Radke provides fresh insights into why butts hold such sway over society—and what that says about our relationships to race, class, gender, and power.” —TIME “A fun, fascinating, and surprisingly empowering exploration of the history and cultural significance of the butt.” —*Starred Review* Library Journal

In this “deeply thought, rigorously researched, and riveting” debut (Melissa Febos, author of Girlhood and Body Work), Radke presents a compelling case about how this particular part of a woman’s figure actually embodies her experience moving through the world, and how reclaiming it can help us move forward. BUTTS legitimizes the conversation and study of something that’s been typically considered uncouth.

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.


Accessible accommodations include a ramp entrance and elevator. If you need additional accessibility options or wheelchair seating please contact us at info@imss.org.

PARKING AND DIRECTIONS: https://imss.org/plan-your-visit/#nav

Questions? Contact us at info@imss.org

Author Bio:

Heather Radke is an essayist, journalist, and contributing editor and reporter at Radiolab, the Peabody Award­–winning program from WNYC. She has written for publications including The Believer, Longreads, and The Paris Review, and she teaches at Columbia University’s creative writing MFA Program. Before becoming a writer, Heather worked as a curator at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago.

Lulu Miller is the author of national bestseller Why Fish Don’t Exist and the co-host of Radiolab. She is the host and creator of Radiolab’s nature spin off for kids, Terrestrials. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Orion and beyond. She’s won honors from The Peabody Awards, The National Academy of Sciences, and The National Center on Disability and Journalism


June 29, 2023
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm


International Museum of Surgical Science
1524 N Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60610 United States


International Museum of Surgical Science
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