It has been with some considerable delight that I have been following Cat Pausé posting a lovely long list of fat studies book titles to her Tumblr over the past few weeks. I knew about a few titles, but at last count Cat was up to 30 titles. Which, needless to say, has created a very long “to read” list for me.
Cat and I got talking about just how many titles there are and what their availability is like, when it dawned on me – “You’re a librarian Kath! You know how to access books!”
Let’s face it, books are expensive to buy. Plus they take up space, have environmental impact and it’s not always necessary to keep them or read them again. So being able to borrow them from the library is a fantastic exercise in accessibility. Now I don’t know about your local library, but mine is free to join, you can borrow up to 20 items at any given time, can request books from other branches of our library service for a small fee, can have most items for four weeks AND has over 3 million items in the collection. Not to mention that there are multiple languages available, resources for people with disabilities and a whole bunch of other services you can take up. That does vary from library service to library service, but whichever way you go, it’s still a budget way to read all these great titles.
One of the things Cat and I have been talking about is the concept of having fat studies titles in a library collection as an alternative voice to the usual diet books and “you can lose weight too” pop psychology/self help books.
Now I know we have Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon PhD in our collection. If I take the Dweey number (Dewey is the classification by subject matter) of just that title alone, 613.25, and search our catalogue, I come up with 256 titles. All of them, except Health at Every Size, are diet books. So to one fat-friendly title, I get 255 weight loss/diet books, just in our collection alone.
When I search the Dewey of Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby’s book Screw Inner Beauty (US title: Lessons from the Fatosphere), 616.398, I bring up 19 titles, 17 of those are weight loss/diet help guides or titles about the “obesity epidemic”. The other fat-friendly title is Prof. Paul Campos’ The Obesity Myth.
The next search I ran was a subject search for “eating disorders”. I got 279 hits, only one of which could be considered fat-friendly, and that is Harriet Brown’s Brave Girl Eating. A search on “body image” brings up 64 titles, almost all of these focus on “looking good” or “you’re not as fat as you think you are” subjects (which excludes anyone who actually is fat). There is a very high focus under this subject heading on “flattering” clothing and “what not to wear”.
Next I decided to search the term “fat”. Over 450 titles came up, and most of these were diet books, low-fat cookbooks and “weight loss journey” stories. No fat acceptance/fat-friendly titles came up under “fat” at all. And don’t get me started on what comes up under “obesity” as a subject search. Aye! Aye! Aye!
So it goes to show that the prevailing message being sent is fat = bad/unhealthy.
But! Just by having these titles by Linda Bacon, Paul Campos, Harriet Brown, Marianne Kirby and Kate Harding, there is at least some alternative perspective available in the public library. Of course, read one and they refer you on to other titles.
The real magic though is these titles sitting on the shelves of libraries, quietly lurking in amongst the fat loathing titles. Along comes the humble borrower, hunting that “Lose the Fat and be Rich for Life”* title, and there it is. Health at Every Size. Or The Obesity Myth, or any of the other titles. So innocent looking but inside those covers… RADICAL AWESOMENESS!
If one person picks one of those titles up instead of the “Purple Food to Skinny Jeans!”** book, imagine the difference that could be made to their lives!
So, if you want to read any of the awesome books Cat has compiled in her list, get thee to your local library! If they don’t have it, request it. Many public libraries rely on customer requests to drive their collections. Plus every one they add, thanks to your suggestion, gets borrowed by other people to discover the fat acceptance message too. The same goes for fat positive fiction. It doesn’t just have to be non-fiction.
You can also ask your library about Inter-Library Loans as well. Many library services share their collections amongst each other, quite often for free, sometimes for a small fee. Plus if you’re a member of a public library, you can often get access to academic papers and journals as well through the library’s subscription.
Besides, libraries are definitely fat friendly spaces. Librarians care about your reading, not your body size. And libraries are accessible, have comfortable, solid furniture and are free!
What are you waiting for?
*Yes, I made this book title up.
**Ok I made this one up too.