Hey all! Been a while, hasn’t it? Rest assured, I am still alive and kicking, still being fat all over the place. In fact I’m being fat at you all right now. But I am aware that I have been very quiet here on Fat Heffalump compared to in the past. This is mostly because my paid job is so much more intense than it has ever been before, with so many projects going at once, that I just don’t have the free time outside of work that I used to have. I was just lamenting yesterday that I really miss having a life outside of my job. I need to get better at finding that work/life balance – it’s not good for anyone to lose their recreation time and the time they give over to the things that they are passionate about.
I am however, changing in my activism. Don’t worry, I’m not going soft on fat hate, or misogyny, or racism or any other form of prejudice. It’s just that I’m finding myself really over being expected to educate people in how to be decent human beings. I’m tired of being expected to justify our existence, our validity as human beings. I’m tired of the same 101 conversations over and over and over again. Instead, I want to promote visibility of fat people as part of society, not for those who hate fat people, but to benefit US… we fat people ourselves. I want to create and promote people who are living large so to speak, getting on with their lives and being fabulous, in whatever way. Which means the way I engage with fat activism is changing.
Which leads me nicely to the next topic – the fab fatty zine. It’s almost finished! I have been picking away at it as best I can in limited time, and I’m just about to run off the first copies. I am just finessing the last bits of it and writing up the credits etc and I’m still not 100% happy with the cover, then I’ll be good to launch it. I have enough material for future editions already, it has been SO difficult to choose which ones to use this issue and which to hold off on. Watch this space for further news.
But what I’m really here to do today is review a book! A couple of months ago author Tracey L. Thompson contacted me asking if I would be willing to read her novel, Fatropolis. A novel about a world where fat people are considered “normal”? Bring it ON! She arranged for a review copy to be sent to me and I got stuck into it as soon as it arrived.
Fatropolis is a fantasy/sci-fi story about a Jenny, fat woman from New York City, who falls through a portal into an alternate universe, one where fat is considered the norm for society, and thin people are pressured to gain weight to meet that norm. An opposite world in fact, where fat is considered attractive/healthy/normal. Jenny is used to the way our world treats fat people, and is suffering with her own low self esteem from internalised fat phobia, so Fatropolis (which is in fact New York City in the alternative universe) is a massive cultural shock for her.
She quickly makes friends and has a lot of questions about the portals, why this world is so radically different from her own, and about herself as a fat woman, questioning her assumptions and the dominant paradigm around fat and health and attractiveness. Jenny goes on many adventures with her new friends, both in Fatropolis and back in our own world, and embarks on a relationship with an acquaintance who has his own connections to Fatropolis, while also dealing with a young man named Argus who makes it clear from the moment he sees her that he has feelings for her.
Fatropolis is about discovering that fat is not a dirty word, and asking questions of the dominant cultural paradigm we live in today.
I enjoyed Fatropolis. I will have to admit, at the beginning I really didn’t like Jenny, but as I read further, I realised the reason I didn’t like Jenny was that I used to be Jenny. Judgemental, fixated on being acceptable/attractive to men, jealous of anyone who she perceived as having something that she didn’t, and mostly just rock bottom self esteem. It shows how far I have come that I no longer identify with a character like that, but find them really unpleasant.
The story is well paced, the characters identifiable and the descriptions of sights, sounds and smells are vivid. The only thing I can really find to kind of criticise (or more that it made me uncomfortable rather than true criticism) is the fixation on food in Fatropolis because it did feel a little like the “fatties all eat lots” thing a bit much, which we know is patently not true. But when I thought about it more, we are so obsessed with NOT eating here in our world, it makes sense for Fatropolis, which is the opposite world, to be fixated on eating.
Tracey Thompson manages to weave in a whole lot of fat activism 101 in to this story and does so without it being preachy or pushy. Instead she has the knack of having her characters question things that the reader then questions themselves.