In January of 2021, I read Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade. It is a romance between a fat woman and the star of her favorite show, for which she also writes fanfiction. At first, I was drawn to the fanfiction aspect and considered the fact that she was fat as a bonus. When I read that book, though, something in my head just clicked. It was the first time I had read a fat character who had confidence. April exudes confidence. She is body positive and sex-positive. She never questions her worthiness. She doesn’t question that this movie star is attracted to her. When she encounters fat shaming and fatphobia, she doesn’t internalize it; she addresses it as other people’s problems. She holds strong boundaries and refuses to be shamed, and she does that from the very beginning. We don’t get a story about someone finding their self-worth, we get a story with a character who is already fully conscious of her worthiness and will not settle for treatment that doesn’t reflect that.
While the plot of this book is good, you love the characters. You root for the characters. You have happy sighs when they get together. It is your average, cute, fluffy rom-com with a decent amount of spice. Such a story entertains but doesn’t change lives. The respect this book gives to fat characters and the ability of fat women to see themselves in a story and still feel good about themselves, though, is groundbreaking for a fat character. That does change lives.
I had, of course, read other fat characters in other books. When I think about them, I don’t feel good. They are Vernon and Dudley Dursley from Harry Potter. They are Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. They are Delores Price from She’s Come Undone. And let’s not even get into fat representation in film. Being fat has become a shorthand for being gross and lazy. Media told me I was the last thing on earth anyone would ever want to be. My only hope was to be the funny best friend or someone’s really nice, sexless mom. I would never be the main character in my own life. If by chance, I did manage to find a book where the lead character looks like me, she either spends the whole book doubting her worth because she looks like me, or she does everything she can to stop looking like me, which is even worse. Before I read Spoiler Alert, there was never a narrative not filled with shame.
I needed this story. I needed to feel genuinely seen. I needed to see a character who looks like me living a fully-formed life, not the half-life of weight loss. When we cling to a narrative of weight loss, we forget we are living a life right now, weight on. We deserve happy endings with the weight on. We deserve to see fat women finding love as they are. That is what Olivia Dade and Spoiler Alert did for me.
I knew there had to be other books like this. There had to be more books where fat girls are living their lives. Fat girls dating movie stars and quarterbacks. Fat girls slaying dragons. Fat girls solving mysteries. Fat girls falling in love with vampires. Fat girls saving the world. I wanted to read those stories, so I did.
I have spent the last year reading every fat girl story that I could get my hands on, sharing the positive representation of fat girls in fiction I find with friends on TikTok, and making lists of fat girls and reviewing their stories. There are some really amazing and powerful fat girls in fiction and I am glad to have learned their stories. I have read about fat girls falling in love, saving their communities, and fighting power. Of course, there are still books that fall into harmful stereotypes, but those that raise the bar on representation are exactly what fat people deserve.
I want more people to read these stories. I want more people to write these stories. I want more companies to publish these stories. I want a place where these books are easily found and a community can be made. This is why I started Fat Girls in Fiction, and this is why I do this work.