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Of Books, Fat Positive AND Negative
wingsfromashes wrote in fatshionista
Hello everyone!

For a project at work I need to find a book with a cover I identify with in some way, and after considering favourite novels I've decided I would rather shake things up a little bit and use a book that makes a statement. I was looking for feminist books at first, but the ones I wanted weren't available at my library, so I then thought I wanted to choose a title that spoke of fat acceptance. I know there's been a great discussion on here about books, but I only found 3 entries for the "literature" tag and none of them were it.

Can you remind me what some of the fabulous books are that are out there on the topic of fat acceptance, healthy body image, etc?

I also have a very different question that is book-related. I just finished a novel earlier today where one of the main characters was described as an incredibly fat woman. There was a lot of description of her fat rolls, jiggling rear, and flapping waves of cellulite. In the middle of the story, she hits on one of the main characters and he has a mental monologue about how he would only get with her if he drank too much beer and so he swears off drinking for a while. In the meantime, there is a "petite" female character who is described as never being refused by men and half the males she comes across in the story are practically drooling over her.

I could go on, but the main point is that the author can't refer to this character without some bevy of negative adjectives about her size or fat. And there is even a part where he vaguely intonates she is about two hundred pounds. I can't figure out whether he just has no idea what he is talking about, or really views 200 pound women as being that fat, but there's no way the description he gives is of a 200 pound woman. But the numbers mean nothing anyway-- the point is that the fat woman is supposed to be hideous.

Now I know this is not the first time this has happened in a book, or a movie, or a story of any type marketed for public consumption, but it's the first time I've read such a thing in any sort of memorable history for me. And I feel very much like writing the author and telling him what I think, but then I hesitate. He might very well just write me off as "some fat woman offended just because she's fat". And I'd be lying if I didn't say that was part of it. But it's more than that. I am offended in defense of fat women EVERYWHERE.

If you were me, would you try writing to the author? Or would you chalk it up as yet another pop culture attack on fat and not waste your time trying to change one person's mind?

i wouldnt write to the author, if he is that fat negative? you would just be opening yourself up to a lot of abuse.
however i would make sure i wrote up a scrupulously fair review that mentions his anti fat bias and lack of clue about weight, and post it on amazon and etc.

and 200 pounds doesnt have "rolls of fat" like that unless she is also 5 foot tall..
kirsten, who doesnt own a scale, but figures she is probably 220

Hee, trust me, I'm 195ish at 5'3" and I definitely have rolls of fat :)

I wouldn't write the author. I don't think you could change his mind.
But on a side note? I like cheesy mysteries and Amazon recommended to me a series based on my liking of the Hannah Swenson novels, the Goldy culinary mystery series by Diane Mott Davidson. I could barely finish the first novel because the main character had an overweight friend, who was not only described in detail just as in the book you'd read, but was ALWAYS found to be EATING something. It drove me batshit.

The only book I could recommend off the top of my head is 'Good In Bed' by Jennifer Weiner!

I kind of have an issue w/Jen Weiner stuff too b/c of the unrealistic fat girls - they are again, usually smaller than I think of when I think of OMG FAT!

OMG, I hate that! I'm so tired of the fat friend eating all the time, or wearing caftans, or being described so unattractively and in a way that makes it clear that the author is freaked out by the number but has no idae what that number looks like in person. There was a book, um, _She's Come Undone_, in which the main character is supposed to abt 200 or so and then the author notes that when she gets into a pickup truck, the truck dips under her weight. My head exploded. It's just like that terrible CSI ep where they determined that the victim was killed by the fat girl passing out on him and suffocating him. And they have Grissom say that with a straight face, a guy who weighs more than that. Guys who weigh 200 or more don't tip trucks or suffocate ppl, it's just chicks, because 200 on us is like 500 on a guy. Sorry for the off topic rant. :)

Maybe you could write the author and suggest that one, s/he is turning off an audience with their biased descriptions and that two, they visit the slideshow that shows how ppl look at different weights to readjust their perceptions.

ugh, i hated that book, for several reasons, but that one being one of the greatest. though i think she was supposed to be more like 300 lbs, but the point still remains

ques. 1: Fat Girl Dances with Rocks by Susan Stintson

ques. 2: I did once write to an author who had a lot of fatphobia in her books--the mystery writer Nevada Barr, for those who are interested--and she was really defensive and hostile in our email exchange and ended up being very personally insulting. I've never picked up one of her books again, so I don't know what if any impact our exchange had on her.

I don't think it's had an impact, but good of you to try. I love listening to her audiobooks though!

May I ask the name of the offending book?

I second that... I'm very curious.

And hey, Katchoo!

was that she's come undone that you described? because that exact thing happens in that book, and it totally broke my heart. see, i was really loving it and identifying with the main character and struggling through some intense body shit, and then she says that she weighs 200lbs and i'm like "SHIT! i weigh 100 more pounds than that! that's like a whole other small person! what the fuck?!?!?!" so, yeah, i fucking feel that.

While you were posting this, I was posting my comment, which says that I love "She's Come Undone". I admit it's been many years since I read it, and I am sorry if someone finds it a troubling book. I had no problems with it.

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb is one of my favorite novels with an overweight main character.

The "Jemima J" book, was full of weirdness about size. Lots of unfamiliar data... like, triple chins and rolls upon rolls of fat at (OMG!) 200 pounds.

I never bothered to write the author... because the book was published and there was no stopping the signal... But I do recall being annoyed. Even though there was a super secret "love yourself, kinda" message in there.

Edited at 2009-06-15 04:01 pm (UTC)

I read that a long time ago.

At somewhere around 200 pounds myself at the time, I remember feeling like OMG the whole world things of ME like that like i´m this big rolling blob of disgusting blubbery FAAATT!!

I actually internalized it, instead of getting angry or annoyed.

very glad i´ve grown up since then :)

Le sigh. Folks are completely clueless. I just posted my actual weight in my blog and I got the following comment: "I disagree completely, you are overweight and you look over weight. IT'S NOT HEALTHY! you will die sooner than me. Thats the bottom line. It doesn't matter how good you feel or look, the extra fat will clog your arteries and kill you."

Okay, then!

Oh, man. That's just nasty. Sorry that happened to you!

It's lazy writing to depend on those numbers to sketch out your character. I always notice when the size and weight are mentioned and it rarely synchs up to real life. The heaviest women in novels usually hover around 200 lbs, and the big men are 250, fer reals.

Dorothy Allison's books and short stories usually portray fat women positively. Hm, now that I think about it, most of the positive and or realistic depictions of fat women that I can think of off the top of my head are written by lesbians (Leslea Newman, Joan Nestle, Becky Birtha, Pat Califia.) I feel like "The Stone Diaries" has a fat main character who is realistic.

I would probably not write the author, but mention it in any online reviews.

(Deleted comment)
I looove Bet Me - I'm actually listening to the audio book after reading it at least 20 times.

In fact all of Jennifer Crusie's heroines are curvy girls (although I get the impression that Min from Bet Me is the 'largest') - she's such a fantastic author <3

Hm, was the novel a romance novel? It sounds like something it'd be really interesting to hear Smart Bitches Trashy Books discuss-- it just seems like a discussion topic they could get into. They've done a lot of discussing of whether or not to contact authors when you have concerns about their books, and whether or not the author's response should determine your future reading habits, etc.-- so I wonder if it would be interesting to write to them with your question?
I consider this because, since they're more of a review site and book discussion blog, they wouldn't be dismissed as a fat girl who got mad, y'know? That's my thought on it.

I'm going to disagree about She's Come Undone as being fat-positive. It's a good book from a story standpoint/construction, but the main character spends most of the book hating herself for her body and is generally treated like crap by other people when she's fat.

I'm quite a fan of Good In Bed by Jennifer Weiner; yes it's total chick-lit, but ultimately the whole point of the book is that you can be happy in the body that you're given, and that happiness and success isn't all about being skinny.

She's Come Undone was troubling to me in exactly the ways you described--that she was only 200 pounds and yet described 1. so hideously and 2. so fat it was clearly not based in reality.

However, I will say that reading that book changed my life. I was 19 and suffered from ongoing, intense depression and self-hatred and I decided that it scared me that I identified so intensely with the self-hatred of the main character that I decided to stop hating myself.

Obviously, it wasn't a magic cure, but it got the ball rolling for me to deal with intense depression and move towards loving myself. And I've come a really long way in the last 11 years.

Write the author if you feel inclined. Might as well and if he disagrees with you, it's not likely he'll write back and so what? He should know what he does has an effect on people and probably by now understands how to take criticism professionally and eloquently.

As for your other questions, Fat?So! is a great book with a great cover, of course the recently released Lessons from the Fatosphere and more book listings here:

totally agree with Fat?So!, one of my favorites! I'm waiting for my copy of Lessons from the Fatosphere to come :)

I just wish that authors would be required to use the photographic height weight project, so that they can look and see that someone who is two hundred pounds isn't as huge as they think. Like someone said above, it's like authors have a mental shorthand for weight and 200lbs is where women start to be OMG!fat.


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