“Oh, the things we do to our vulnerable and resilient bodies—wound and embellish, train and remake, hide and expose—and, if intent on an authentic and ever-deepening relationship with them, we learn, finally, to lavish them with care and attention, and strengthen them, as Megan Baxter writes in her wild-ranging and intimate collection, for this ‘beautiful mess of living.’” —Lia Purpura, author of All the Fierce Tethers
“Twenty Square Feet of Skin grapples with what it means to be a body moving through this world in this moment—these essays wrestle with what it means to be radically alive. Life is a bloody business, and the best one we’ve got. Megan Baxter shows us this in a collection filled with marvels.” —Joni Tevis, author of The World Is on Fire
“What a pleasure to turn a page and end up in some unlikely corner of this thoughtful writer’s experience: in the tattoo parlor, along the running trail, in the museum, on the radio, or under the surgeon’s knife. Smart, literary, and patient, these essays show how a life story might best be told in fragments.” —Elena Passarello, author of Animals Strike Curious Poses
The essays in Twenty Square Feet of Skin tell their stories through the body—encased as it is in “that greatest of organs, that membrane that protects the individual from the universe”—as Megan Baxter’s entrée to and home within the larger world that surrounds her. What does a tattoo mean? How can plastic surgery transform? What is the history of pedicures? Where does the mind wander on a long run? Through every example, Baxter writes toward a greater understanding of how self-knowledge is forged through physical experiences.
With the input of Prince, Walt Whitman, Don Johnson, Andrew Wyeth, Meriwether Lewis, and others, Baxter reflects on love, identity, and belonging by looking closely at her skin, toenails, and DNA. Playful, wandering, and deeply felt, Twenty Square Feet of Skin weaves a strange, rich tapestry of flesh and bones, art and body, skin and scar. In embracing the beauty and peril of physicality in crystalline detail, Baxter asks us all to ponder what makes us human within these frail, flawed, powerful, and wonderful bodies of ours.
Megan Baxter holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a BFA in Poetry from Goddard College. She is the author of The Coolest Monsters and Farm Girl: A Memoir.
A Deliberate Thing I Said Once to My Skin
On Plucking White Hairs
On Teaching Brian Doyle’s “Leap” to Students Born after 9/11
A Model Home