On Beauty, Disability, and Motherhood: Awakening in Art, Philosophy, and Travel

Image is of a hand beaded three-dimensional brown-toned human head and neck with a part of the head's form unfilled

Locally rooted author Chloé Cooper Jones reveals her powerfully candid debut memoir, Easy Beauty, publishing on April 5, 2022. Early acclaim includes starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. This book is also on highly anticipated lists in Oprah, Lit Hub, and The Millions; all the praise is well-deserved! If you haven't read the reviews, let me tell you why you'll want to pick up Easy Beauty.

Beauty and pain are viewed from many perspectives. In succinct prose Chloé’s experiential journey of self-examination is vulnerable, relatable, and revelatory! She shares her story in non-linear, hard-earned and inspired wisdom to reconnect our human understanding to see ourselves and each other in more real complexity while exploring relationships, philosophy, art, aesthetics, and disability.

Born with sacral agenesis, a rare congenital condition, Cooper Jones walks with a wide, rocking motion that is painful and unfortunately arouses inhumane comments from some people. In defense she uses humor and intellectual dexterity.

We learn in her prologue, titled “The Neutral Room”, another coping strategy she has relied on to endure physical and emotional pain is a kind of detachment to focus internally and avoid being fully present and experiencing discomfort or discrimination. When she sees her son Wolfgang has learned to emulate similar dissociative behavior patterns, this becomes an awakening. The impetus for her pilgrimage comes from seeing Wolfgang’s anguish. Inspired by philosopher Iris Murdoch, Chloé uses art as a tool to reflect, transform, and be more present — especially to model better strategies for her son.

Cooper Jones shares vivid solo travel adventures – this juxtaposition of isolation provides deeper introspection and allows Chloé to step out of marginalization. She experiences physical restoration in Italy at Lake Como, enjoys a Beyoncé concert in Milan, deep reflections in Cambodia as she visits the memorial museum for the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh. Afterward, returning to reconnect with her loved ones, she gleans healing support and insight from her husband Andrew as well as her mom with proud Filipino heritage. And notes with touching resolve that her next trip will include Wolfgang.

Image is of the book Easy Beauty: A Memoir by Chloé Cooper Jones

The audiobook is narrated by the author; I enjoyed reading the advance review copy and yet, I'm anxious to listen as soon as possible!

An insightful freelance journalist and philosophy professor, Dr. Chloé Cooper Jones grew up in Tonganoxie and attended KU before moving on to graduate school, and eventually landing in Brooklyn, New York. She’s earned recognition for sports and travel writing.

Most notably as a journalist, Cooper Jones was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for a feature story about Ramsey Orta; Orta documented the police killing of his friend Eric Garner and suffered persecution. The story “Fearing For His Life” was published in The Verge.

A Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant supported the work for this book. Thanks to Chloé Cooper Jones, I found these esteemed citations from her website:

  • Pulitzer Prize Committee citation: "For her gripping portrait of Ramsey Orta, who recorded the NYPD killing of Eric Garner, using restrained yet powerful language and courageous reporting to show the police retribution endured by a forgotten figure in a story that horrified the nation."
  • Whiting Foundation Judges citation: "In this ambitious and elegant book about seeing and being seen, Chloé Cooper Jones invokes thorny, theoretical material about identity, the social order, and how we measure human value, but her clarity and compassion invite all readers in. She has created a forceful and fresh point of view from which to anatomize power, access, and perception in her precise, unsparing prose. A necessary, relentlessly honest book that feels both of the moment and timeless."
Image is of Chloé Cooper Jones smiling into the camera with dark shoulder-length straight hair wearing a black leather jacket, opens a new window
Chloé Cooper Jones, photo by Andrew Grossardt

Discover more about the author from her website: https://chloecooperjones.com/, opens a new window

Two celebrations are planned with Chloé Cooper Jones, on April 5 in New York and in Lawrence, Kansas on April 6 at Raven Book Store. Preorder from the Raven and get a signed copy with exclusive artwork! Link to details about the event at the Raven, Chloé Cooper Jones: Easy Beauty LIVE IN PERSON, opens a new window

Finally, I’m looking forward to congratulating Chloé Cooper Jones directly. I hope her book reaches many readers! I’m grateful to her for sharing provocative experiences that are insightful and relatable on many levels!

My gratitude to Danny Caine of Raven Book Store, Chloé Cooper Jones, and Simon & Schuster / Avid Reader Press for sharing an advance review copy of Easy Beauty!
Photo of Chloé Cooper Jones by Andrew Grossardt

Cover image credit: Perception by Ursula Minor. I am honored to pair Perception, the newest creation by Lawrence-based artist Ursula Minor, with this apropos blog post.

- Shirley Braunlich is a Readers' Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.

-Shirley Braunlich is a Readers' Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.