"A girl learns that stories happen to 'beautiful' women, whether they are interesting or not. And, interesting or not, stories do not happen to women who are not 'beautiful.'"
- Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth
I've begun a new quest! No, no, don't worry. It's nothing quite so personally disruptive as giving up mirrors for a year. Yet, in some ways, my new quest also has life-changing potential. Here's the scoop:
What: Build a long list of body-positive adult fiction books, and read them all.
When: Now! This year! Forever!
Where: Wherever books are sold (or, preferably, borrowed, exchanged, or given away for free)
Why: Because before I was a writer, I was a reader.
It kills me to know that I'll never be able to read every great fiction book in my lifetime, but - given this fact - I may as well start filtering out the stories that make me feel like shit about my body. I'm also perfectly willing to give up books that reinforce the idea (the MYTH) that "stories do not happen to women who are not 'beautiful.'"
I'm SO SICK AND TIRED of reading books I've picked up specifically because they are rumored to have an amazing and complex female protagonist who doesn't fit mainstream beauty norms, only to find that the protagonist's happy ending only shows up after she loses weight or goes through some other sort of physical transformation. Of course, no writer has ever directly said "my character's life completely changed because she got that haircut!" No, they aren't that obvious. Instead, they show us that ugly duckling heroines who finally become swans, find happiness because of the confidence that comes along with becoming a swan. Yes, it is not beauty but confidence-brought-on-by-beauty that changes women's lives for the better. Ohhhh, right. I get it now; there aren't any other ways to build confidence other than by changing one's appearance! Anyway, you know what kind of books I'm talking about, the ones that teach us that, no matter how many good things we've got going on (exciting careers, fulfilling hobbies, loving relationships, pure dumb luck), our lives will only be as fabulous as our looks.
Well screw that. It isn't even true.
Zillions of REAL, LIVING, women have bodies that are ugly/plain/weird/fat/short/crazy-tall/hairy/big-footed/small-breasted/round-bellied/crooked-toothed/frizzy-haired/etc., and yet they still manage to find gorgeous love, exciting careers, and generally fabulous lives. YOU are probably one of these women!
But where are the literary stories that share this truth?
|Great book series! Start here.|
Instead, my searches on Google and on GoodReads.com have mostly landed on one of three not-quite-right categories:
(1) Lists featuring "books with plus-sized heroes/heroines" which are not, actually, body-positive, due to the fact that in many of these books, fat/chubby/plus-sized characters find happiness only after weight-loss (such as Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone or Doug Crandell's The Flawless Skin of Ugly People - which both happen to be amazing books with the exception of their subtle "get prettier then get happier" messages).
(I mean, I loved Judy Blume's scoliotic Deenie, back in the day, but I want the grown-up version for my grown-up life!).
|Wow, this 1991 cover really brings back memories! You too?|
|Headless Fattie Erotica: Exhibit A|
|Headless Fattie Erotica: Exhibit B|
In other words, I haven't yet found an already-curated list of truly body-positive adult fiction.
So, I'm making one. Can you help me?
I need book recommendations. ANY fiction genre is welcomed.
What are YOUR favorites?