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Straight sized authors writing about fat trauma.

I have been reading primarily books with fat main characters for almost a year now. At the time of writing this, I have read over 70 books with fat main characters. I have read some truly inspirational, life changing representations and I have also read some that left me reexperiencing the trauma I have spent a good portion of my adult life healing from. 


Representation is important. It is. We all need to see ourselves in media and art. We all deserve to see our experiences mirrored back so we can feel seen and validated andknow that we are not the only people out here living our experiences. I want to make sure I mention this because this might sound picky. It might sound like I am scolding authors who are trying to do the right thing. I’m not. I appreciate any attempt at inclusivity. As we all grow and aim for inclusion and diversity, there will be bumps along the way. I am speaking as a member of the fat community and as a reader and lover of books.


I have read many books that lean into the fat trauma experience: stories that explore bullying, insecurities, fetishizing and other negative aspects that go along with the fat experience. While addressing trauma in stories can be healing, it can also be further damaging. Authors like Olivia Dade write about the fat experience, including fat trauma and leave me feeling seen and heard. Some authors write about it, and I feel tired and self conscious. I have noticed the books that leave me with the yuck tend to be written by thin people. I know they are trying to include marginalized people in their books, and I commend them for that, but I have a few thoughts on how to do it better.


First,  do not center the fat trauma. I know it seems like an easy place to generate conflict, but if you have not been on the receiving end of fat trauma, the best sources available will be second-hand, at best and colored by your own fat phobia. You may be very good at putting yourself in other people’s shoes, but you can not know the pain and shame associated with fat trauma and how to explore these themes safely without retraumatizing your readers.


You can even touch on the insecurities they may feel, but it can not be the crux of your story. If we compare Blindsided by Amy Daws and Muffin Top by Avery Flynn, you can see the difference in  balance I am talking about. Both of these books were written by authors who appear to be straight sized in photos on their websites. In Blindsided, Freya has insecurities about her body, but she also has insecurities about other things too. Her body insecurities pop up at times where anyone would have those same insecurities, like the first time taking her clothes off in front of someone, but for the rest of the book, that particular problem is a nonissue. It adds depth to the character, but it isn’t an active part of the plot. Muffin Top on the other hand, makes many harmful tropes central to the main plot. She is convinced the romantic lead in the story could never be attracted to her because of her body. She goes to a high school reunion and talks about old bullying scars and receives some fresh ones. There is talk of her being easy because her size makes her desperate. All of this is fat trauma. These are things fat women experience. People who don’t live in a body that has been on the receiving end of this behavior cannot fully grasp how it needs to be handled for it to be the full plot of a book.


Finally and foremost, authors write books to earn money. Yes, authors write books for the craft and the love of writing. We write books because we have stories and characters inside of us, and we hope other people will like the stories and worlds and characters as much as we do, but we publish stories and assign a monetary value to those works and worlds and characters because we expect to get paid for this labor of love. It is a job. Knowing that someone in a straight-sized body is profiting from the appropriation of trauma I have experienced in a world that is hateful and abusive to me as a fat person is troubling on so many levels. The cumulative effects of past and childhood fat-based trauma and lived fatphobic discrimination have drastic effects on the lives of fat people. There are emotional, physical and even financial obstacles associated with being a person in a fat body. If there is anything positive to be obtained from telling their stories of trauma, it deserves to be squarely in the hands of those most affected by it. As authors, we must not profit from the pain and oppression of any marginalized group, including fat people.


Please write about fat people. Fat people live in the world and should exist in your books, but write stories about other aspects of their lives. We are just as multidimensional as everyone else and have dreams and conflicts that have nothing to do with our fatness. There are straight-sized authors featured throughout this site. Authors like Amy Daws and Talia Hibbert portray their fat heroines as fully-fleshed out people who happen to be fat. It is always a delight to read books that represent my experiences and a tiny, quiet relief when they don’t retraumatize me. 

an illustrated fat woman dancing, the fat girls in fiction logo. Says "I am joyful. Not jolly.