Lynne Murray says:
Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012). had such an appealingly “fat, hot and in your face with it” cover that I knew I needed to read and review it.
Heroes and stories teach us who we are and what we can do. In Hot & Heavy, fat women share stories from their heroic journeys. And I do think the Joseph Campbell myth metaphor is totally appropriate, despite the comparative lack of sequins and pecan pies in most Campbell-endorsed myths. As fat women, we’ve been force-fed myths that the only kind of heroism available to us is the passive role of conforming sheep, following the herd toward a mirage of sustained weight loss down to an arbitrary size. That goal happens to be “mythical” in the sense that in actual life it is overwhelmingly imaginary.
When Campbell says, “Follow your bliss” he’s speaking to the women in Hot & Heavy, who have all left the herd to find their own paths, seeking joy in life. These women tell powerful stories of dangers, pitfalls and escapes from traps both mental and physical. The reward was reclaiming their own bodies, living fully and happily. Oh, yeah, and having fun.
The book delivers a very high FQ & FA (Fun Quotient & Fat Attitude).
Let’s call it the glitter factor. These storytellers all glow with Attitude and many also sparkle with unashamed adornment of their openly displayed bodies in outrageously attention-getting clothing. Getting to know the women as they talk about their lives shows clearly how living in a fat body can be wonderful.
To sample the flavor of the book, check out “Pecan Pie, Sex, and Other Revolutionary Things,” the piece written by editor, Virgie Tovar, a fat activist, sexologist and coach with a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality with a focus on women and body image:
I am one of those progressive, fat-loving, fat-activist fat girls. I’m one of those whoopie-pie-in-one-hand-vibrator-in-the-other kind of fat girls. I’m one of those take-no-prisoners, potty-mouthed, kiss-my-ass, guerilla fatties, and my weapons of choice are pink, glitter, cleavage, and impossibly short dresses.
And, no, I’m not sorry.
People often want to know how exactly a fat, brown girl manages to learn to love a body that is perpetually under attack. Well, falling in love with my body took a long time. Like any good love story, there was drama and tears, false starts and heart break, pecan pie binges and dirty sex. (p. 167)
All the entries provide hard-won, heartfelt insights and some highly useful ideas on finding your inner Fierce Fat Girl.
When I saw the word “Fierce” in the title I thought of singer, Beyoncé’s creation of a fearless, aggressive, uninhibited alter ego Sasha Fierce. The singer describes waiting to go on stage in a 2008 interview:
I take my last sip of water, clear my throat, close my eyes, and tell myself, You are fierce. You are fierce. You are fierce! And the second I take that first step and hear that crowd, I kind of transform. By the time I get up to the stage, I’m in the zone. I don’t feel anything anymore. Like if I’m in pain or if I’m nervous it kind of becomes, I don’t know how to describe it, I become that other thing. It’s like I’m ready for war.”
From a V Magazine interview with Beyoncé quoted on Just Jared.
The women in Hot & Heavy have taught by our fat-hating culture to be at war with their bodies, and each of them shares how she found her way to a positive relationship with her own fat body and how she learned to flourish and to flaunt it in the face of a hostile culture.
Those who share their stories are writers, activists, performers, and poets—including April Flores, Alysia Angel, Charlotte Cooper, Jessica Judd, Emily Anderson, Genne Murphy, and Tigress Osborn discussing subjects ranging from fat go-go dancing to queer dating to urban gardening.
Hot & Heavy is organized in three parts–Part 1: Life, Part 2: Love and Part 3: fashion. Some essay titles give you an idea of the contents:
“Shiny, Sparkly Things” – Erin Kilpatrick
“I Came to Femme through Fat and Black – Sydney Lewis
“No Really, It Isn’t Me. It’s You” – Marcy Cruz
“The Fat Queen of Speed Dating”– Golda Poretsky
“BBW Party” – Tigress Osborn
“Voluptuous Life” – April Flores
“Journeying into a Fat, Fleshy Vulva” – Shawna Peters
“Fat on the Beach: A Mother’s Battle Cry” – Christa Trueman
“Fat Sex Works!” – Kitty Stryker
“Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Fat”
“On Dressing Up: A Story of Fatshion Resistance” – Kirsty Fife
“Who Wears Short Shorts?” – Margitte Kristjansson
Some of the pieces are provocative in the manner of depth charges. In “Public Stretch Mark Announcement,” Emma Corbett-Ashby & Goldie Dartmouth talk about how the power of art leads us to confront fears we wish we didn’t still have, yet need to deal with:
Body shame runs deep. Even the most upbeat and self-loving fatties feel they’re on shakey ground every now and then. Sometimes this stuff can surprise us and emerge from somewhere deep we thought was long behind us.
In fact, many women situate almost all of their unlovable feelings in their fat. It’s okay to know this. There is no point in denying it. Use it as a guide and own it. Tough, nuanced women aren’t afraid to go deep. Loving your body is empowering, but admitting to yourself that there are times when you don’t and making your peace with that—this is what is true for most of us—is powerful on a whole other level.
At the end of the book, Tovar provides many links and resources for those who, as she puts it, may be saying to themselves: “I’ve read about body liberation, desserts, fashion, and love, and I’m ready to be a fierce fat girl now; where do I start?”
The “tool kit” of resources aims to help a reader who wants to accomplish what Tovar calls
“Hate Loss Not Weight Loss,” the philosophy that guides my coaching practice. I developed this practice as part of my commitment to working with people of all ages who want to relinquish shame and body hatred.
To make a long story short–which, being a novelist I rarely do–you’re gonna love this book. I did.