I have always been fat, though it took me until my mid-twenties to not just accept that fact, but begin to embrace it. Like many of the contributing writers and artists in editor Angie Manfredi‘s fat-positive anthology, The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fabulous, I rarely saw positive fat representation in the media I consumed. I certainly didn’t find or experience fat community; it was par for the course to be mocked and belittled for my weight all through elementary, middle, and high school — even in college, I was hyper-aware of taking up “too much” space, especially in those tiny desks that always squished my stomach and made it hard to breathe.
Had this incredible anthology been available to me as a kid, I have no doubt that it would have changed my entire life. I admit, I’m biased: several members of the extended Fatventure Mag family are involved in this anthology, including two of our contributing artists, Jiji Knight and Shelby Bergen. But that’s not the only reason this anthology feels so radical. As Manfredi puts it in her introduction:
“[T]here’s another moment more and more fat people are getting to experience: the first moment they realize there’s nothing wrong with being fat.”
Much of The (Other) F Word deals with fatphobia in its various forms: social, medical, pop-cultural, et al. Alex Gino writes about body sovereignty as both a fat and trans person; Jana Schmieding writes about growing up as a fat, Indigenous girl who experienced hatred for her body at her mostly white school and then got to embrace it in powwows with her family and Native community; Sarah Hollowell and Adrianne Russell write letters to their younger selves recounting all they have learned as fat adults; Miguel M. Morales enumerates upon fatness in nature through several poems and an incredible list of “50 Tips from a Fat and Fabulous Elder”; Hillary Monahan examines why and how fat bodies are used as cheap shots in horror films; Evette Dionne examines the roots of the fat acceptance movement and how it has progressed in the present; Bruce Sturgell writes about failing to find, and then creating a community of people like him, including indelible resources that mainstream fashion doesn’t seem keen to create or sell. This is just a smattering of the incredible work featured in this book, which is overall very uplifting, affirming, and warm.
So many stories about fat bodies are about the ways in which they experience violence, or how they are humorous, or how they are grotesque — sometimes all at once. Although several of the writers in this anthology do tackle those topics, often through a first-person lens, each of them offers an antidote to these experiences; repeatedly, the reader is told that they are fabulous, that they are competent, and that they can do whatever the hell they want in the body they have right now. Diet culture is a scourge; don’t listen to the people who tell you to change the size of your body, no matter who they are and no matter what reasons they cite.
The (Other) F Word is intended for young, fat readers, and it is an invaluable resource for them. Not only does this anthology completely dismantle the mythos of diet culture — especially as it is targeted at kids as young as 8 — it espouses and upholds the fact (and it is a fact) that fat people can live our best lives while we are fat. To a teenage, preteen, or even elementary-age Samantha, a book like this might have stopped me from hating myself so much. It might have given me new ways of looking at myself, especially through the positive self-talk and inner work ideas provided by Saucyé West or the self-care kit ideas from Rachelle Abellar.
Honestly, even just the number of happy, thriving fat folks included in this anthology — 31 of them! — would have changed my life. I know what kind of impact it will have on its intended audience, because I was that audience; even though I’m 29 now, in many ways, I am still that audience. It will never fail to take my breath away to read about fat folx who are living their best lives and pushing back against the narrative that we’re too big to do so. I feel seen in this book, and grateful for the voices included in it, especially because they are not homogeneous.
The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce is available everywhere books are sold on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. Fatventure Mag partnered with Abrams Books to give away one hardcover copy to a lucky Instagram follower, along with some Fatventure Mag swag — the giveaway ends Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. PT. Click here to enter.