I went to the library to return some books and couldn’t resist taking a quick peek to see what might strike my fancy (I never can).
Good thing I did – Dietland by Sarai Walker and Jane Steele by Lindsay Faye were just sitting there waiting for me to take them home. I expected long waitlists for these gems.
I started with Dietland.
This book is complex, so let’s let Goodreads give us the synopsis:
Plum Kettle does her best not to be noticed, because when you’re fat, to be noticed is to be judged. Or mocked. Or worse. With her job answering fan mail for a popular teen girls’ magazine, she is biding her time until her weight-loss surgery. Only then can her true life as a thin person finally begin.
Then, when a mysterious woman starts following her, Plum finds herself falling down a rabbit hole and into an underground community of women who live life on their own terms. There Plum agrees to a series of challenges that force her to deal with her past, her doubts, and the real costs of becoming “beautiful.” At the same time, a dangerous guerrilla group called “Jennifer” begins to terrorize a world that mistreats women, and as Plum grapples with her personal struggles, she becomes entangled in a sinister plot. The consequences are explosive.
I. Loved. This. Book.
I’ve been in the mood for some kicks heroines lately and while Plum Kettle might not fit the bill at first glance, I assure you she really, really does. I love that Plum was on a journey to be her true self. I love that she was nurtured and taught and given a swift kick in the ass by other kickass women. I love that there were almost no men in this novel. I love how Walker takes on the diet industry and shows her readers that being fat doesn’t mean being unhappy, that it doesn’t make you less worthy, that you can live a whole life anyway. I love that Plum starts taking on people who stare at her, who make vile comments, refusing to let them wound her with their assholery.
Plum has a lot of work to do to be happy in her own skin and we get to go along for the journey. And while Plum is working on herself, there is this whole other, completely unexpected storyline of a feminist guerrilla group taking on a world that treats women like disposable sex objects.
This little book (just 307 pages in hardcover) refuses to be what you think it should be. It is subversive and angry and a big f*ck you to anyone who dismisses it. Its message of body-positivity was what I was hoping to get from 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl. There were points where I pumped my fist reading it and other times when I hugged it close. Moments like this:
From the time we’re little girls, we’re taught to fear the bad man who might get us. We’re terrified of being raped, abused, even killed by the bad man, but the problem is, you can’t tell the good ones from the bad ones, so you have to be wary of them all. We’re told not to go out by ourselves at night, not to dress a certain way, not to talk to male strangers, not to lead men on. We take self-defense classes, keep our doors locked, carry pepper spray and rape whistles. The fear of men is ingrained in us from girlhood. Isn’t that a form of terrorism?
Yes. It is.
This book is the antidote I was looking for for the hard, necessary, work of having read things like Missoula and The Luckiest Girl Alive.
I’m returning it to the library soon and hope that it finds it’s way into the hands of someone who is looking to see that it’s ok just to be your own kickass self, extra pounds and all.