Fat in Fiction – A Review Post

Published November 1, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

I think this post is going to be an ongoing one.

I’ve been working on it for ages now, slowly building up a collection of books with fat characters that I can review for you all, and I know there will be more in the future, I’m sure there are plenty that you can recommend for me that I haven’t covered here, which I will add to my To Be Read and Reviewed pile.  But we’ll start with the ones I’ve collected so far and go from there.

So what am I looking for when it comes to fat characters in fiction?  Well, let’s start with the main protagonist actually being fat.  Not a sidekick or sassy friend.  Not the main character’s mum, not a cliche villain (though I do love Ursula), not the peripheral character used for pity or to illustrate some awful point.  In particular, I am looking for fat women in fiction.  Positive portrayals of fat women in fiction.

Again, if you know of any that aren’t listed here yet, please do let me know in the comments.

Corinna Chapman – Kerry Greenwood

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I simply must start with Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman series.  I will never forget the first time I read the first book, Earthly Delights – I was completely blown away by being able to read a story where the heroine was a fat woman.  A successful, happy, beautiful, loved fat woman who was smart and funny and clever enough to solve mysteries that other people couldn’t.  Set in Melbourne, Corinna Chapman is a baker who inadvertently finds herself solving mysteries.  With her collection of colourful friends and colleagues, her gorgeous boyfriend Daniel (swoon!) and her regal cat Horatio, I fell into these books and read them voraciously.  The whole series is excellent.

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell

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Let me start off by saying that there’s no real indication of how fat Eleanor is.  She thinks she’s fat, kids at school call her fat.  So I’m going with her as a fat girl protagonist.  Even though she may not actually be so.  The reason I put this one in is because it strikes so close to home for me.  I’m about the same vintage as Eleanor, I was a fat teenager picked on at school and from a pretty shitty home situation.  Eleanor is smart, and strong, and the relationship between she and Park is gorgeous (note, there are also some problematic elements about Park’s Korean family members).  Eleanor and Park is not a perfect book, but it is one that struck a lot of chords for me.

Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy

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Oh how I adored this book.  This is the book I needed to read when I was 15. Willowdean “Dumplin'” Dickson is an unapologetic fat girl, navigating the maze that is teenage life. Cute boys, spats with your best friend, the school bully, the loss of a loved one, a dud relationship with your Mum, not being able to find cute clothes, school and your first trip to a drag club.

Garnished with a liberal helping of Dolly Parton, red lollipops and cringe-worthy moments, I laughed, I cried, I cheered and I crossed fingers and toes with Willowdean.

 

 

Dietland – Sarai Walker

dietland Firstly, I found Dietland SUPER triggering.  That’s not to say it’s not a fantastic book – it is a fantastic book.  It just pushed some buttons for me.  But that said, it’s really compelling and subversive and has some of the most beautiful prose I’ve read in a long time.  Plum is a very fat woman.  Thank fuck for that, I’m sick of inbetweenies being as fat as it gets in fiction and being called radical.  Dietland is PROPER radical.  Described by some as “Fight Club for women”, Dietland goes where a lot of other novels fear to tread.

In Real Life – Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

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This one is actually a graphic novel aimed at younger readers.  But it’s super cute and nerdy, with a subtle ethics lesson running through it.  The artwork is as cute as hell, and while the central character is never referred to as fat or chubby or anything, she just is.

 

Everything Beautiful – Simmone Howell

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This book is a delight. It has so many things going for it. It’s Australian. It is set in a cheesy Christian holiday camp. The love interest is a disabled guy. The support characters are diverse and mostly really interesting. But the best thing of all… The protagonist is a fat girl and she gives ZERO fucks about it! She’s fat. She doesn’t hate herself. She’s confused and frustrated and sick of people treating her like shit, but hey, she’s a teenager. But she knows what she has got by way of her body and she fucking flaunts it. I loved Riley Rose so much, and Dylan, the love interest is hot and complicated and a bit of a jerk sometimes and pissed off and just gorgeous.

The only criticism I had was the very abrupt ending, which made me feel like I was being chucked out the back door and told to “move on”. I didn’t get any sense of resolution to several threads of the story, and I don’t quite know where Riley Rose was at as much as I would like to.

Fatizen 24602 – Philip C Barrigan II

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This is another really subversive one.  Quite a bit more violent than I would normally choose, but it is really engaging and with well developed characters.  Lots of in-jokes for people who have been around the fatosphere for a while.

It’s a dystopian future in which fat people have their citizenship revoked and are imprisoned – sometimes even snatched off the street or from their homes.  I was somewhat uncomfortable with the portrayal of fat people and food, but could also understand why the author went where he did.

I particularly loved the artwork in this one.

 

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This should give you all somewhere to start with fat characters in fiction.  Again, if you have other books you have read, please share them in the comments*, I’m always on the hunt for more books to read, and if they have positive portrayals of fat people, even better still.  I will attempt to read them and add them to this post as I do.

Happy Reading!

*Please keep comments to topic as I will be deleting anything that is not about fat characters in fiction.

23 comments on “Fat in Fiction – A Review Post

  • Thanks for reviewing these books! I have never read any of them & I will look for them at my local library. I might have walked right by them if you hadn’t recommended them. So thanks! As usual, you’re fabulous!

  • I just checked out your blog after reading you’re incredibly written post and I couldn’t help but press follow straight away because your blog is truly both amazing and beautiful! I am so happy I came across it (:
    I love it so much, as I am sure you can tell! So please keep writing so I can keep reading! Can’t wait to read more from you (:

  • I’m not sure whether Ursula Vernon’s Digger would count (Digger is a wombat) since as far as I can tell Digger isn’t actually fat – but she’s solid, she’s stocky, and she is NOT your standard Barbie shaped heroine (as previously mentioned – she’s a wombat!). The webcomic is still available online at http://diggercomic.com/.

  • Thanks for writing this list, I am definitely going to check these out. I actually have a series on my blog dealing with plus size representation in media (films, series advertisements etc) called “+Size Matters,” you should check it out. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

  • Thank you for these! I’ve read some, and am going to check into some of the others. I work in a library, and am going to see about making sure these are available to our patrons, too.

    I enjoy the Odelia Grey series by US author Sue Ann Jaffarian. Not only is the main character fat, she’s in a strong (yet realistic) relationship with a great guy who uses a wheelchair. (She does have a “sassy black friend,” but that character is likeable with a complex, independent life of her own, and I haven’t noticed any other icky, stereotypical vibes from the other characters.) Middle-aged Odelia has a complicated relationship with food sometimes, but for me it is more relatable than triggering. She spends a lot of time unapologetically enjoying the food she’s eating, which is fabulous. Like most serial mystery protagonists, Odelia can sometimes be annoyingly reckless (cause the big finale has to come from somewhere), but she’s also strong, loyal, brave and truly clever.

  • Have you read Viva Voluptuous? It has three feisty fat main characters who don’t sit around eating doughnuts and whining about being fat; they are all intelligent, funny and fun.

  • Do you know the Mma Ramotswe series by Alexander McCall Smith? She is a “traditionally built” woman in Botswana who owns a private detective agency. She mildly frowns at the new fad of women being thin (without ever being rude) and radiates positive energy. Throughout the series of many books she finds the man of her life and solves many cases brought to her that reveal a lot of the local fabric of Botswana life.

    Botswana is one of the countries in which fat women are traditionally adored. Sidenote: A thin woman who did some volunteer work in Botswana once told me that she was constantly asked if she came from a poor family. Thinness seemed so ununderstandable that it was equated to poverty.

  • In Terry Pratchett’s _Unseen Academicals_, the main female character, Glenda Sugarbean is fat and smart. She works as a cook at Unseen University, the school for wizards. She mothers everyone, especially her conventionally beautiful best friend. As the story progresses, Glenda moves away from the role of “mommy to everyone,” lets go of some of her limiting ideas about social class, and learns to go after what she really wants. The book is comic fantasy with sharp political commentary on class and race. There are human, troll, dwarf, vampire, and orc characters. At no point does Glenda attempt to lose weight. She also has a delightful romantic relationship with the coach of the University’s football team.

  • “Fat Kid Rules the World,” by K.L. Going. Beautiful story about a teenage fat boy who meets a very skinny boy and learns to accept himself in the process.

  • I think the series “Ruby the Rabbi’s Wife Mysteries” features Ruby as a fat protagonist, solving mysteries. Author Sharon Kahn.

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