Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. I love reading books of many genres… historical fiction, horror, self-help, biographies, and YA fiction, to name a few. I have become especially passionate the last few years about reading books that have body positive characters in the central role and books that contain fierce, positive advice about body image. Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker changed my way of reading and my way of thinking. (See my previous blog post, This Book Totally Changed My Life.) Since then, I have sought out more body positive books and continually try to pass on my passion for these books to others.
Recently I picked up the book, The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce, edited by Angie Manfredi. This amazing YA self-love book is a collection of art, essays, poetry, and advice as it relates to fatness in a variety of social circles, ethnicities, and gender identities. It challenges beauty norms and encourages fierce fatties to love themselves out loud.
The book addresses underrepresentation in pop culture and literature. You know, how we are never the heroine… always a joke or the sidekick. Fat people are usually shown as greedy, plump, angry, slothful, clumsy, and villainous. We are taught and conditioned to believe the heroine must be beautiful and thin. However, the book introduces readers to characters in fiction, tv, movies, and musicals, who happen to be fat AND the hero… and who get the boy or girl in the end! (I see you Willowdean!)
The writers of the book pose this tough question to readers … What if, a decade from now, you were beautiful, achieving your dreams, and fatter than you’ve ever been? Write your own narrative!!! The essays challenge readers to love themselves BECAUSE of who they are, not in spite of it… that your body is worthy of love, simply because it exists. It reminds us that we are vast, infinite, and strong. It points out that even skinny people feel sad, out of place, and alone.
One of my favorite essays in the book was written by Julie Murphy, author of Dumplin’ (both a great body positive read and film!) In her essay, she talks about the power of Ursula the Sea Witch, a character I have come to love and identify with in my adult life. She points out that Ursula is a proud, back-fat embracing, red lipstick wearing, power woman. (Don’t underestimate that body language!)
At times this book made me feel like crying, giving me the feeling of being seen, acknowledged, and understood. It is absolutely what I needed to hear as a teen… and what I am trying to champion now. I hope to share a lot of this wisdom with my students at school. Love yourself fiercely… not in spite of yourself, but because of yourself.