Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book Review: Lessons From the Fatosphere

Book Review: "Lessons From the Fat-O-Sphere" by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby

I picked it up at Barnes and Nobles, in the Diet section (ironic, but perhaps good since someone might grab it by mistake while hunting for new ways to starve themselves). JD flipped through it in the store, read a couple of paragraphs at random, then bought his own copy so he didn’t have to wait for me to finish mine. Every now and then I hear him laughing in the other room when he hits something witty.

The book is definitely an ideal FA 101, covering almost every major concept a newbie would encounter in the fatosphere and explaining it clearly in everyday language. They address health (physical and mental), media criticism, self-acceptance and defense, diversity, clothes, relationships, etc. and give resources for further reading and/or surfing. This is the book I’m lending out to every dieter I can convince to read it.


Chapter 12: “Don’t believe that only sick freaks would want to date fat women.”
This really, really struck home for me. I’ve been in discussions of the pros and cons of the fetishization of fat, feederism, fat-fanciers, etc. and still carried around a part of me that said if someone’s attracted to me, there must be something wrong with them. I’m still doing some wrangling with that belief, but this chapter is definitely a win.

Particular love goes out to this: “But unless everyone involved is cheerfully polyamorous, do not date people who aren’t single.” Having been in both monogamous and poly relationships, and having some poly friends in a group marriage who encounter not a few blocks because of it, I really love that line. Even if it was meant to be sarcastic.

Chapter 24: “Get over yourself! They really, really aren’t all looking at you!”
This chapter hit me with a clue-by-four right where I needed it right now. My summer is devoted to incorporating this concept into my paradigm; that what other people do, say or think has nothing to do with me.

Some of the other ideas in the book may not strike everyone as important until they get put into effect. Not watching TV? Having unplugged my cable and begun only watching shows I can get commercial free on DVD, I can attest to the difference it makes. A surprising amount of mental energy gets used up in the battle against the social dogma of dieting. That energy could be better directed if you weren’t bombarded by the constant diet ads on TV. I would personally add the suggestion to listen to CD’s or MP3’s instead of the radio, or listen to a commercial free channel like public radio that may occasionally cover fat-prejudiced “news” or “research”, but is generally safe. The ads aren’t as bad on radio as TV but they’re there, and most disk jockeys lay on the fat jokes pretty heavy (no pun intended).


The one thing I noticed is that there’s not a lot about/for fat men in here. Granted the authors are women, but they’re also white and manage to at least touch on the unique struggles with body image for women of color (in a fantastic guest essay by Julia Starkey). Were Paul Campos, Paul McAleer, or any of the other big men in FA (pun intended) asked for contribution, or did they just not want to participate? Of course the grain of salt in that criticism is that not every book can be everything to everyone, and the writers were sharing their own experience as women.

I think the authors’ blogs are better written than the book. There’s a dynamic flow and immediacy to a blog post that’s hard to re-capture in the static of print, where one chapter has to transition into the next and the reader doesn’t have the options of clicking around to read background information. For instance, the chapter in the book on not putting things off until you’re thin was powerful and inspiring, but the original Fantasy of Being Thin post still moves me to tears whenever I read it. Let me also say that just because I thought the blog posts were better doesn’t mean that I don’t think the writing in the book isn’t damn good.


Forever part of my FA library.

I’ve already loaned it out once and bought a copy for my Tante’ in California. The moment I finished reading it, the office Weight Watchers junkie saw it on my desk and asked to borrow it. I lent it to her, but I don’t think she more than skimmed it and I think she was looking for a “boost your self esteem while dieting” sort of thing. Maybe it planted a seed of doubt in her head, maybe not. Maybe one day she’ll even stop bringing food scales to the office potluck to weigh her servings of potato salad. In the meantime, in the midst of the office “Biggest Loser” contest, I think I’ll continue to leave it conspicuously out on my desk to see who else may bite.

P.S. I’d love to see this translated into Spanish!


The Rotund said...

Thank you for the review! I get the most amazing thrill hearing from people who have read the book.

To clarify a couple of things:
The poly line was not meant to be sarcastic - just true! *grin* The book is definitely focused on a female-identified experience of fat because that is the principle demographic of the blog readerships and who we (well, the publishing company) hypothetically saw buying the book. I'd really love to see more discussion of the male fat experience.

And it's being translated into Spanish! *grin* I'm not sure what the availability of that is yet (or even if the translation will be available in the US) but that's a good question to send to our agent, for sure.

Thank you.

Tante Terri - The Belly of the Ball said...

I don't think I've read this one. Well, once JD is done - send me his. And speaking of which, I have Linda Bacon's HAES book and the Fat Poets Speak to send to you. Haven't read Linda's yet, but LOVE Fat Poets Speak.