Marilyn Yalom

A HISTORY OF THE BREAST

By Sally Lehrman


When Marilyn Yalom sat down to sign books after a reading in San Francisco, one, then another, then a third set of bare breasts dangled and bounced at eye level as their owners asked for her signature.

In her book tour across the United States this winter Yalom, a senior scholar at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford, encountered the breast in all its vibrancy as a symbol of female identity today. A History of the Breast, published by Knopf, traces the breast as a sacred, erotic, political and practical object in Western culture from prehistoric times. The book, extensively reviewed in the national media, rose rapidly to the best-seller list with women embracing it as empowering and important.

Marilyn YalomMarilyn Yalom

Women took their shirts off at a couple of readings, and men proclaimed their obsession for an ample bosom. Talk radio callers discussed breastfeeding, cancer, implants and reduction and told jokes about both female and male anatomy.

“Women seem to love the book. Women feel like I’ve done something valuable for them,” says Yalom. “Men are embarrassed, titillated by it, they don’t quite know what it’s about. Men feel that women’s power is somehow incarnated in the breast,” she says. “They love and fear the breast.”

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