Book Reviews, Fashion, Fat Fitness, Other Stuff

The Essential Fat-Positive Library

* This post is intended to be a work in progress. As I read books that I believe are essential fat-positive reads, I will add them to the post and push it to the top. I’d love any suggestions you may have for me to read and add.

Books are wonderful things, aren’t they? Books teach us, mold us, and transform us. Books take us to far away places and transport us to imaginary worlds. Books deepen our understanding of diverse voices and introduce us to perspectives that are different than our own. Books cause us to dream and to take action.

But let’s face it… representation matters. No matter what marginalized group you belong to, it is sometimes difficult to see yourself as the hero of any story. It is rare to find a book where the fat person is not a comedic sidekick, the frumpy butt of the joke, or the girl who magically transforms into a princess with a diet and a new haircut.

I’m on a quest to build a library of books that change the narrative. I want to find authors that honor bodies of all types. From memoirs that empower readers to love themselves and advocate against Sizeism, to fictional tales that allow fat characters to be front and center, achieving their dreams unapologetically… I want to fill my shelves with voices that represent me. I hope the list will grow exponentially over time. Here is the best of what I have read so far:

Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook For Unapologetic Living by Jes Baker

For real though… this book changed my life! It is the thing that set me on my body acceptance journey and shaped the way I think about the people in my life. The book champions the belief that ALL bodies are good bodies and challenges its readers to audaciously live their best lives out loud. Baker shares the tools necessary to fight fat shaming, addresses the lies the health and beauty industry feeds consumers, and brings readers to the realization that every body is worthy of love and acceptance. It empowers Plus-Sized people to reclaim the “f-word” and realize that being fat does not decrease a person’s value as a human. The end of the book includes a ton of connections to body-positive and mental health resources. And it challenges you to do all sorts of activities that defy convention and just live an amazing life… as a gorgeously fat person.

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Raw. Heartbreaking. Honest. Vulnerable. Beautiful. This book is not an easy read… in fact, it’s really difficult. Not because it is poorly written, but because it comes from such a place of shame and hurt. However, in this book, Gay opens up spaces for people to talk about bodies and how we take up space in the world inside of them. It is absolutely worth the time to read this.

What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon

This book takes an in-depth look at our cultural attitudes toward fat bodies and advocates for fat justice. It is NOT a self help book, but rather a book that encourages readers to stand up for the basic human needs of, and social justice for, fat bodies. It discusses the roots of the Body Positivity Movement, defines the vocabulary of Fat Justice, and shares the sad realities of the fat experience in America. The research and statistics shared within the book are both humbling and heartbreaking. Gordon shares heart-wrenching stories of people who are shamed and dismissed because they have the audacity to exist. The book poses a call to action, with steps that need to be taken immediately in order to ensure that ALL bodies are treated with dignity.

The Other F Word 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, introducing readers to characters in fiction, tv, movies, and musicals, who happen to be fat AND the hero. 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!!! This book challenges readers to love themselves BECAUSE of who they are, not in spite of it.

Happy Fat by Sofie Hagen

Part memoir, part research-laden social commentary, this book arms you with the ability to love your body and be happy as a fat person, living and taking up space in the world. Hagen is honest, a bit crass, and absolutely hilarious. Her writing is like talking to your brutally honest sister, that will tell you to shut the hell up and love you fiercely all at once. This book gives you permission to cuddle your fat body and love it just for existing.

Yes, You Can Wear That by Abby Hoy

If you are a Plus Sized person, who longs to dress joyfully, but are scared to take the first step, start with this book. I’ve been a long time social media follower of Abby Hoy (@thepennydarling.) Her feed has always been colorful and fun, and this book is very much the same. The pages are vibrant and beautiful and her style tips are simple and easy to adopt. Hoy’s philosophy of living out loud very much echoes my own feelings. Though some of the advice may not be revolutionary, it is fun and useful. This is a great gift for high school or college age people who are just discovering their sense of style and body empowerment.

The Dumplin’ Series by Julie Murphy

Welcome to Clover City, Texas… a small town steeped in tradition, with a big love for high school football and pageant queens. In this trilogy of stories by the brilliant Julie Murphy, we follow the lives of three fat students at Clover City High as they pave the way for self-love and learn how to take up space in a small-minded world. Willowdean Dixon defies tradition by signing up for a beauty pageant in Dumplin’. Millie Michalchuck navigates friendship and romance in Puddin’. Waylon Brewer sparkles on his way to achieving his dream of being a fierce drag queen in Pumpkin. Each book in the series is positive, joyful, and empowering. These characters are everything I wish I could have been in high school.

In her debut novel, Crystal Maldonado introduces us to the smart, funny, creative, and friendly Charlie Vega. Charlie is a high school junior who has aspirations of being a writer. She has a great job, is well liked by her teachers, and has a supportive group of friends. Charlie is also Plus Sized… a fact that causes a bit on tension in her world, especially in her relationship with her mother. Charlie has so many amazing things going for her, and she really WANTS to have a fat-positive story, navigating moments of amazing confidence… and moments where her mind gets in the way. Ultimately, this is a sweet, coming-of-age story that is honest and real. You will find yourself rooting for Charlie all along.

Dietland by Sarai Walker

A fat woman who plays the central role in a crime-thriller? Heck yes! This slightly, strange and wonderful book will have you hanging on the edge of your seat till the end. Plum Kettle works at a teen magazine, answering fan mail. As a fat woman, she struggles fitting in while working in the fashion and beauty industry, so she tries to remain largely invisible. Her life gets thrown into a strange tangle of suspense when a mysterious woman in colorful tights and combat boots begins following her. Soon, Plum is thrown into the world of Calliope House, an underground community of feminists, bent on breaking societal norms. She becomes caught up in a plot to terrorize a world that mistreats women. Trust me… it’s weird but wonderful.

Starfish by Lisa Fipps

Never in my life has a book made me feel as understood and seen as this one! Honestly, where this book when I needed it in junior high? In this series of poems, Fipps perfectly articulates what it is like to be a fat kid/teen/adult. The book tells the story of Ellie, a fat junior high student, living in Texas. Ellie’s classmates humiliate her. Ellie’s family is ashamed of her. Yet, Ellie is able to love and stand up for herself in a world that wants to make her feel small. Some of the poems were my actual words floating on the page in front of me. For every person who has ever been told, “you’d be pretty if…” and every person who understands the “Fat Rules”, this book is for you. And perhaps if you haven’t experienced the mockery fat people receive, you will gain a bit of compassion and empathy.

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