Fat Revolution

I’ve struggled for most of my life with my weight – for awhile with trying to lose weight, with thinking that I had to lose weight, and eventually with learning to love my body as it is, however it is. This journey hasn’t been helped by all of the hate and abuse that I – and most fat people – get thrown my way. I get nasty messages. People retweet my selfies to mock my weight. It’s nearly impossible to find awesome fat YA characters, and people question whether it’s appropriate to include fat characters in books for kids.

This is one of my many attempts to fight back.I’ve had this piece kicking around for months, waiting and waiting to be read. I finally got that chance at the Ball State Writers’ Community’s first reading, and a friend was kind enough to record it.

I’m indecently proud of this reading, so if you like it, please share it.

Content warning for extensive talk about fat oppression/stigma/abuse, and for mentions of rape and rape culture.

How Do You Continue Enjoying a Book That Offends You?

TW: Mentions of homophobia, transphobia, rape, and victim blaming

Say that you’re reading a book and generally enjoying it – right until it hits you with some pretty offensive opinions. They aren’t the main message of the book and they don’t come up often, and there are definitely other messages in it that you love, but you still can’t get those offensive lines out of your mind.

So what do you do? Stop reading? Keep reading? Does it depend on how far into the book you are? Does it depend on how strongly offended you are?

Let me tell you about my situation and maybe you can tell me what you’d do – because I honestly haven’t figured out a good solution. Before I start, I want to say that I don’t expect to agree with every author that I read. I don’t expect them to be perfect and without their biases and bigotries. Everyone has them. However, that’s not going to stop the offense from bothering me and leading me to question what I should do.

stranger in a strange landThe book that inspired this post is Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. It’s classic scifi but just in case that’s not your deal and/or you don’t know what it’s about, here’s a quick Amazon summary:

…the story of Valentine Michael Smith, born during, and the only survivor of, the first manned mission to Mars. Michael is raised by Martians, and he arrives on Earth as a true innocent: he has never seen a woman and has no knowledge of Earth’s cultures or religions. But he brings turmoil with him, as he is the legal heir to an enormous financial empire, not to mention de facto owner of the planet Mars. With the irascible popular author Jubal Harshaw to protect him, Michael explores human morality and the meanings of love.

My parents have been trying to get me to read it for years, and my boyfriend included it in a stack of scifi books that he thought I should read. Finally, I gave in. For the most part, I enjoyed it. It has some amazing messages about sex positivity and body positivity. I wasn’t super crazy about the obsession with female youth and traditional gender roles, and towards the end the characters all sort of meld into this same personality, but I was mostly digging it.

And then, with only about a hundred pages to go, Heinlein hits me with this:

…[Jill] had explained homosexuality…and had given him rules for avoiding passes; she knew that Mike, pretty as he was, would attract such…fortunately Mike’s male water brothers were decidedly masculine, just as his others were very female women. Jill suspected that Mike would grok a “wrongness” in the poor in-betweeners anyhow – they would never be offered water.

Ouch. I was really growing to love Jill, and then she says that? First, we have an idolization of masculinity and feminism when assigned to the “proper” or traditional genders, which would imply that feminine men or masculine women would be wrong. We don’t need to figure that out for ourselves though, because Jill goes ahead and tells us they’re wrong and calls them “poor in-betweeners”. What?

(For reference to those who haven’t read the book: “water brothers” are people that Mike has shared water with and essentially formed an intense, unbreakable bond with; “grok” is a Martian word that means many things, but in this context we can basically say that he’d sense it.)

I was just shaking that off when, less than a page later, Jill tells Mike this about saving her – or other women – from men making unwanted sexual passes.

“Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it’s partly her fault. So don’t be hasty.”

Oh, god. Homophobia (and I would say transphobia) and victim blaming right after the other. Not only that but, “It’s partly her fault, so don’t save her.” Mike takes most things very literally and trusts Jill implicitly, and she knows it – so she knows very well that if he senses a girl being raped, he might not stop it because of what she’s told him.

It was difficult to keep reading the book. On the one side, I had really enjoyed it up to that point and was very near the end. These weren’t messages that had come up before and didn’t come up again (though admittedly I could have missed it; I was a little out of it when I finished the last 100~ pages). I also keep thinking – well, this was written in a time when these ideas were pervasive, and even then, they only come up this once.

But wow, they hurt. You probably already know that rape culture is a pretty big deal to me, and LGBT issues are right up there with it. I also find it much harder to handle women who spread rape culture. If we don’t support other women, who will?

I ended up having some other problems with the ending and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet – but this whole thing is what I can’t stop thinking about. That little bit of internal narration, that little bit of dialogue, completely overtaking my ability to really think about the book.

What would you do? Have you faced a problem like this before? Hit up the comments.

Tuesday Reads: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

9668611New year, new Goodreads challenge. I ended up decreasing the 2012 goal to 70 for practical reasons. My grand total for 2012 was 74 books. My goal for 2013 is once again 100, and I am currently at 4/100.

The first book I read in 2013 was The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels there by Catherynne M. Valente. If you follow me on any of my three big social medias (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr), then you probably saw me going a little happy-crazy over this book. I referred to it more than once as a “bookgasm”. If you like fairy stories, you’ll probably feel the same way.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is the sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Let’s just take a moment to let those titles sink in. Let’s appreciate the beauty of these titles. God, I love long titles.

Valente is an amazing writer. Her descriptive passages give me shivers, not to mention a standard to live up to in my own writing. And if that weren’t enough, the stories and characters are just as beautiful.

The books are about September, a girl who in the first, gets whisked off to Fairyland, and in the second, makes her own way there. She meets all sorts of interesting creatures falling all across the scale of good and bad. There are very few – if any – absolutes in Fairyland, which is one of the things I most love about it. There is both corruption and redemption. Even characters that you meet for just a little while have amazing depth. There are characters that were only around for a few pages that I long to see again.

In September you’ll find a daring, bold little girl who can be selfish and make mistakes, who is intelligent and inquisitive, and when it comes down to it, gives her all into her adventures. The growth between books is something I found to be particularly pleasing. You watch her heart bloom and grow as you follow her. She learns empathy and that not all things are what they seem.

Be proud of me, readers, I got through this without too much fangirl squealing. These are two of my favorite books and I will force them on anyone who gives me half a chance. So go read them, love them, and share them.

Favorite Quote: “Why should I care about your First Kiss? You can kiss anyone you like. But if you sometimes wanted to kiss me, that would be all right, too.”

Medium: Hardcover

Stars: 5/5

Tuesday Reads: Top 10

Before we start looking forward to the new year, I propose that we reflect back on 2012. In this case, I’m going to talk about my top 10 books of 2012 out of the 74 that I read.

Presented in alphabetical order:

BlackHeart_3-678x1024Black Heart by Holly Black

This is the final book in Holly Black’s Curse Workers trilogy. You should obviously read the whole trilogy, but this is the one that I read this year. They are wonderfully funny and dark urban fantasy novels, and definitely my favorite of her books. Let me put it this way: After I finished Black Heart, I rolled around on my bed squealing and proposed to Holly Black on Twitter. She accepted.

Blindsight by Peter WattsBlindsight

I’ve already written about this, so I won’t say much here. The short of it is that this is an intelligent scifi book that will send your mind reeling and probably make you doubt your own place in reality.

8490112Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Ah, more YA urban fantasy. I kind of have an addiction. This is set largely in Prague, and is about a young girl raised by magical creatures. She travels the globe collecting items, using doors that instantly take her wherever she needs to go. Also, there are angels.

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThe_Fault_in_Our_Stars

Do you want to laugh and sob and generally read something beautiful? Read anything by John Green. But mostly read this. No, seriously, read this. It’s about adolescents dealing with cancer. It’s full of humor and wit, and you’ll feel you’ve learned something. Also you’ll cry. Like, a lot.

100K2The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

Political intrigue and drama between feuding gods. There’s romance, magic, violence, an adorable trickster god, and a polyamorous god triad. Why aren’t you reading it right now? (Really, it’s beautiful. This is one of my favorite books of all time.)

Kindred by Octavia Butler8310

Kindred is about a young black woman from the 70s who finds herself drawn back into the 19th century deep South. You can see how that would be not so ideal. She faces her trials head on, and discovers both how easy and difficult it can be to change people.

TheNightCircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but why wouldn’t you when the cover is this gorgeous? I really love both magic and circuses, so a book about a mysterious traveling circus and magicians training apprentices to win a bet was definitely going to be my thing. It should be your thing, too.

Shade’s Children by Garth NixShade's_Children

I’m definitely late to the party on this one. Almost all of my friends had already read this book. When I started asking for post-apocalyptic novels, this got suggested a million times. If you want to read a book about a team of kids with mysterious powers fighting to live in a world where all adults have mysteriously disappeared, this is one for you.

towelhead-novel-alicia-erian-paperback-cover-artTowelhead by Alicia Erian

This is one of the most difficult books I have ever read. It’s about a young girl in 1990 who deals with racism, neglectful and abusive parents, and sexual abuse, all while attempting to find herself. You will want to throw this book against the wall and you will cry, but it is so worth reading.

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelmwhere late the sweet birds sang

Sometimes scifi doesn’t age so well. The technology can be horribly dated. This book, though? I didn’t realize that it was written in the 70s until I checked. It doesn’t feel dated at all. Instead, it’s just wonderful. It’s a book written in three parts about how most of humanity is wiped out and then replaced by clones until it all comes back around to the return of humanity. This will make you think about what it means to be human.

What books did you love in 2012?

A Writer’s Resolutions

You go, sloth.

You go, sloth.

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions. They always seems like just another promise to break. I’ve never made resolutions for my writer side, though, and that’s what I want to try this year. These are my (hopefully reasonable) resolutions for 2013.

  • Write every day
  • Read at least one book a week
  • Keep sending stories out, despite my fear of rejection
  • Take risks in my writing
  • Care less about what other people might think about my ideas, and just write them
  • Be a better blogger (post regularly, read more blogs, get involved in conversations on other blogs)
  • Be a better literary citizen

So what about you? What are your resolutions for the new year?