My biggest gripe with the new book The (Other) F Word is that it was released sixteen years too late for me to read it in high school. At a time when Courteney Cox in a badly made fat suit was mainstream media’s idea of creating an endearing fat character, editor Angie Manfredi’s collection of poems, essays, and badly needed advice would’ve been balm for my soul and my fat body. Luckily for the next generation of fat teens, The (Other) F Word provides guidance, acceptance, and love in more than 200 pages of warmth and wisdom.
The book makes diversity the clear objective, not a marketing buzzword. Manfredi has collected top writers from across the spectrums of race, gender, sexuality, and ability. Contributor S. Qiouyi Lu’s essay “Fat, And…” sums up the message of the book beautifully: Being fat is not a singular experience. Being a fat woman is different than being a fat man, and different again than being fat and non-binary, yet all such identities will find themselves represented within the pages.
Fat love, body sovereignty, and joy
Author Lily Anderson teaches how to have a movie-worthy, affirming romance in her essay “How to be the Star of Your Own Fat Rom-Com,” and a few pages later, Laina Spencer normalizes asexual/aromantic experiences in “To All the Pizzas I’ve Loved Before.” Bitch Media editor-in-chief Evette Dionne frames the fat acceptance movement as a civil-rights issue, and provides various ways to join the fight against fatphobia. In “Body Sovereignty: This Fat, Trans Flesh is Mine,” University of Pennsylvania alum Alex Gino ponders how fat acceptance says we don't have to change our bodies, while trans-competent healthcare allows us to deliberately change our bodies—and both issues fall under the umbrella of our right to our own bodies. These are a handful of highlights among work alternating from spiritual reflection to humorous insights to solid, affirmative fashion advice.
More important than any one story is that each essay is followed by a short biography and photo, turning The (Other) F Word into a Who’s Who of fat representation in terms of beautiful, accomplished, happy writers. Fatness is not a barrier to success or an obstacle to overcome; it’s a joyful state of existence that inspires poetry, ignites the fires of progress, and dares everyone to give themselves over to radical self-love and self-expression. We do not need to wait until we are thin to be our best selves, and we don’t have to punish ourselves for deciding that dropped pounds are an unworthy cause to devote our precious time to.
The final pages offer tips from the authors on the best places to find fat-inclusive fashion. The saddest part of closing the book is realizing that the world outside isn’t up to speed yet. Philly’s new Fashion District (the rebuilt, rebranded Gallery at Market East) has only one of the stores listed in five pages of resources, because while both old and new media are making space for fat acceptance, our physical spaces are taking a long time to catch up. But the existence of books like The (Other) F Word is proof positive that no matter how slowly, we are making progress.
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What, When, Where
The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce. Edited by Angie Manfredi. New York: Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams Books, September 24, 2019. 224 pages, hardcover; $18.99. Click here.