In 1970, Boston Women’s Health Book Collective published the stapled-together booklet that would eventually become Our Bodies, Ourselves. Fifty years on, the culture at large is catching up to the book’s message of empowerment. “It’s really exciting to see people in their teens and early 20s being sex positive,” says Rachel Hiles, senior editor at Chronicle, “and talking so openly about things that before had shame or confusion attached.” Given this level of candor, she adds, it’s time to revamp the content as well as the look of women’s health books. Several forthcoming titles, all heavily illustrated, celebrate the diversity of bodies with vaginas at every stage of life.
50 Things You Need to Know About Periods
Baker, who calls herself “your friendly neighborhood period coach,” aims to help women better navigate their menstrual cycles. Using seasonal metaphors to describe the body’s rhythms, Baker guides readers in making a monthly to-do list in accordance with their hormonal peaks and troughs. Illustrations of joyous, strong women “provide a visual sense of empowerment to the reader,” says Pavilion publisher Helen Lewis, and embody Baker’s philosophy of “finding your flow and living in sync with your cycle.”
More than two dozen contributors share their experiences with the physical and emotional changes brought on by menopause in this comics anthology edited by Czerwiec, a comics creator and registered nurse. The illustrators, representing a spectrum of ages, ethnicities, and gender and sexual identities, take on topics including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and evolving body image. “While it may be comforting to find humor in the absurdity of some of our symptoms,” Czerwiec writes, “it’s important to remember that menopause itself is no joke.” PW’s review called the anthology, part of Penn State University Press’s Graphic Medicine series, “informative, sometimes moving, and ambitious in its frank talk of what is oddly taboo.”
The Vagina Book
Billed as an “owner’s manual,” this volume includes input from ob-gyn Conti and self-described “period solutions” brand Thinx. More than 100 illustrations enhance the personal essays and bite-size health 101 explanations, which offer advice on the best yoga poses and sex positions for alleviating menstrual cramps, share experiences with birth control and infertility, and dispel myths (bears are not, in fact, more likely to attack people who are menstruating). Contributors include author Roxane Gay and comedian Margaret Cho, who wrote the foreword.
Ob-gyn and health blogger Bagot offers a back-to-basics guide, beginning with what exactly the vagina is and precisely where it’s located, and progressing through its many functions and possible malfunctions. Puberty, contraception, pregnancy, and pleasure all get their due in a matter-of-fact presentation that, with the aid of diagrams and graphs, aims to demystify a “part of the female anatomy that we speak very little, and often poorly about,” Bagot writes.