Here’s a tweet Shira Glassman sent me: That might be a good question for @canlesbrarian: fat positive f/f?
That is a good question for me! I was so excited to be asked this since I’ve never researched fat positive books, let alone looked for queer fat positive stuff. I love diving into a new area of LGBTQ+ fiction (and non-fiction) and discovering all these awesome reads that I had never heard about before. Here are some cool looking books that I found! For some reason, this list is pretty erotica heavy. I’d be interested if anyone has any insights into that!
Queer writer and scholar Lucas Crawford’s new book of poems Sideshow Concessions definitely fits the bill here. I saw Crawford read from this book at the latest Reverb Queer Reading Series in Vancouver, and the poems were alternately funny, smart, and moving. Funny and smart as in
You don’t know embarrassment until somebody has tried to fuck you in one of your fat folds, and of course I mean embarrassment for the other party and not myself. I felt bad for that person, but only because we were on camera. Can you imagine being documented for life as someone who couldn’t find the cunt of a morbid o-beast? Wouldn’t you just die?
Moving as in the poem called “Your Fat Daughter Remembers What You Said,” addressed to Crawford’s father: “I’m fifteen telling my parents I’m gay. Dad says: I know you think you are / ‘cause you’re a bigger girl / and the boys don’t like you”
Another thing that struck a chord with me about this book that might with others is Crawford’s rural Nova Scotian background: there’s a poem dedicated to Rita MacNeil, among other east coast and/or rural Canada references. It reminded me of the time I’ve spent in rural Nova Scotia.
An author you definitely want to check out is bisexual writer and historian Hanne Blank, who’s written erotica and non-fiction about sexuality and fat activism. In particular, The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts and Big Big Love: A Sex and Relationships Guide for People of Size (and Those Who Love Them) are considered non-fiction body positivity classics. Big Big Love is explicitly for all genders, sizes, and sexual orientations. She’s also written two books of historical non-fiction about sexuality which may or may not engage with fat issues: Virgin: An Untouched History and Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality. Either way, both of those look super interesting and well done.
If it’s fiction you’re interested in though, Blank’s erotica is where you should look. Zaftig: Well Rounded Erotica is a book edited by Blank focusing on “zaftig women, [who are] described variously as full-figured and pleasingly plump, [and who] have long been a source of fetish and humor in erotic literature.” This anthology then “turns the tables with surprising, steamy stories showcasing the sex lives of women of size and their admirers.” Blank has an entire solo collection of erotica called Unruly Appetites: Erotic Stories that sounds fabulous and like just the kind of erotica that I like: full of “tantalizing descriptions, smart writing, and fantastic imagination.” Blank has also edited Best Transgender Erotica and Shameless: Women’s Intimate Erotica which, while obviously not focused on fat issues, likely have some fat positive writing in them as well. Check out Blank’s website for more info on all her books!
Another must-check-out writer is Susan Stinson. She’s won the Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation and so far has published four novels and a poetry / essay collection, most dealing with lesbian and/or fat issues. I had shamefully never heard of her before Catherine Lundoff recommended her. Tip of the hat to you Catherine! Stinson’s earliest novel, Fat Girl Dances with Rocks, sounds AMAZING:
It’s the summer of drinking and driving, disco and diets, fake IDs and geology, and fat 17-year-old Char is wondering if she is animal, vegetable, or mineral. What does it mean when your best friend French-braids your hair, kisses you on the lips, and leaves town? Char gets a summer job in a nursing home, and meets people with bodies and abilities as various as the textures of the rocks her friend Felice collects. Fat Girl Dances with Rocks is a novel about the many shapes of beauty: the fold of a belly, the green swelling of seedlings, the sharp edges of granite, obsidian, and flint. Fat Girl Dances with Rocks is a coming of age story. It is a coming out story, and for Char, it is a story of coming into her own body – all the way to the edges of her skin.
Another older book by Stinson, Martha Moody, is a speculative western and an old-fashioned (lesbian) love story. It also looks great! A more recent novel is Venus of Chalk, which has been called “by turns tender and ruthless, dark and funny, haunting and starkly contemporary.” Here’s the synopsis:
Take the trip of a lifetime with Carline, a lesbian home economist and woman-of-size; Tucker, a bus driver; and Mel, a retiree, as they journey from Massachusetts to Texas to unload an old city bus. In the process, these friends also leave behind their preconceived notions about one other, drop their inhibitions, and become fully who they were meant to be.
A Harvest of Ripe Figs (I love the title) by Shira Glassman is the third book in a fantasy series and features, as one Goodreads reviewer Jess calls her, “A FAT PROTAGONIST WHO IS NOT DEFINED BY HER WEIGHT AND HAS THINGS TO DO BESIDES LOSE WEIGHT.” Actually it looks like this book has one fat (straight) character and a chunky (bi) character. In what sounds like amazing fantasy world building, in this novel we have a lesbian detective queen Shulamit helping a musician find her beloved stolen violin; in addition to fat positive representation, there’s also apparently a great trans male character. Some readers describe this book as queer comfort food, a kind of LGBTQ domestic fluff–without the negative connotation of that term–that we sometimes don’t get enough of!
YA novel Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy sounds really rad, although the queer characters are on the sidelines, not in the spotlight: apparently they are drag queen friends of the main character’s aunt. The book’s tagline is: “With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.” You had me at Dolly Parton. Adding that the main character is “self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed ‘Dumplin’ by her former beauty queen mom) [who] has always been at home in her own skin,” this sounds like a really fun read with a great fat-positive message. This review says that this is a rare story where “the fat girl gets to be funny, have friendships, have romances, and have challenges unrelated to her body/‘health’ of her body.”
Future Perfect by Jen Larsen is another fat positive YA book with a fat straight main character and not fat queer secondary characters! Damn! It sounds pretty cool though:
Every year on her birthday, Ashley Perkins gets a card from her grandmother—a card that always contains a promise: lose enough weight, and I will buy your happiness.
Ashley doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way she looks, but no amount of arguing can persuade her grandmother that “fat” isn’t a dirty word—that Ashley is happy with her life, and her body, as it is. But Ashley wasn’t counting on having her dreams served up on a silver platter at her latest birthday party. She falters when Grandmother offers the one thing she’s always wanted: tuition to attend Harvard University—in exchange for undergoing weight loss surgery.
As Ashley grapples with the choice that little white card has given her, she feels pressured by her friends, her family, even administrators at school. But what’s a girl to do when the reflection in her mirror seems to bother everyone but her?
Kellan Sparver recommend some stuff on Slipshine, which looks like a super cool website featuring comics about (explicit) sex of all variations of the rainbow. In particular, he recommends “Iothera” and “Jamie the Trickster.” You do need a subscription to access the material on this site, though, so I didn’t have a chance to check them out. If you know these comics or have a subscription to Slipshine, let me know what they’re like!
Xan West’s recently published collection of queer kink erotica, Show Yourself to Me, is another book to have a look at if you’re looking for some more erotica. The author tells me that many of the stories centre on fat characters. It also looks like there are people of colour and people with disabilities featured! If you’d like to check out some of West’s work (for free!) online, have a look at this story, “The Tender Sweet Young Thing,” which was published on the sugarbutch chronicles. Also have a look at this work-in-progress, about a fat activist queer woman in a poly romance. Reviewers on goodreads are praising this book for its prose style, the visceral first person points of view, and the beautiful way the stories have been crafted, among other things!
Some more erotica featuring queer fat people, although it sounds like it qualifies more as an erotic romance, is Rebekah Weatherspoon’s At Her Feet. Although you wouldn’t guess from the whitewashed cover, the two women featured are also people of colour (the main characters are Latina and Jamaican/Korean)! I’m taking Xan West’s word on this one, since I can’t actually find any references to either of the women in this book referred to as fat. There is BDSM in here too, specifically in an age-play, mommy / little girl kind of way. I have yet to read Weatherspoon’s work, but I’ve heard lots of good things about her sexy well-written erotica. (Trigger warning that there is a scene with sexual assault in At Her Feet, although not one positioned as ‘sexy’). Another book by Weatherspoon that qualifies here is Blacker Than Blue, which is not only fat positive but featuring lesbian vampires. ‘Nuff said.
Xan West also reminded me that there is a fat activist femme character in Imogen Binnie’s novel Nevada. I couldn’t remember who this character was (it was a few years ago that I read the book), but some kind folks reminded me that it’s the main character’s girlfriend! Whoops. But if you haven’t read the amazing Nevada, you are seriously missing out. Get your hands on it asap. Or if you already have it, maybe you should re-read it and look out for that character!
Merriam Hayden tells me she has more than one LGBT comic project with fat positive representation. You can access them on her website called Star Killer. Check them out! It looks like you don’t need a paid subscription to access them.
Another resource you must peruse is Bevin Branlandingham’s website, the Queer Fat Femme Guide to Life. There is a ton of awesome stuff on this site, including a blog, info about events, opportunities to see / host workshops by Bevin, and lots of snippets of wise words about “body liberation, travel, plus size fashion, sexuality, relationships, spirituality, authenticity, and having a really fun life following your own inner guidance.” Check it out!
I saved Fat Angie by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo for the bottom of this list even though it’s probably the book that I encountered the most during my search and that was recommended to me a few times. This young adult novel was nominated for a Lambda award and won a Stonewall book award and lots of people have liked it. It’s described as a “darkly comic anti-romantic romance” and deals with the Iraq war and suicide in addition to fat and lesbian issues. But—and that is a big but—some readers have said that the fat representation is … not so positive in the end. Mainly, it seems like Angie’s happy ending includes not being fat anymore. As in, the book begins with “There was a girl. Her name was Angie. She was fat.” and ends with “There was a girl. Her name was Angie. She was happy.” Happy = not fat, apparently? But some readers have said that it’s more that she’s stopped defining herself as fat only, and that the represenation if pretty good! So, take this one with a grain of salt, I guess! Please chime in with your opinion if you’ve actually read this one (I haven’t!).
Another book with an amazing title, Man Stealing For Fat Girls by Michelle Embree, may be iffy on the fat positivity–the fat character does feel bad about her body, but also she also gets love, friends, and confidence throughout the novel. Her (not fat) friend is a lesbian, and it looks like she is bi. It sounds like an intense, rollar-coaster kind of read:
This off-kilter novel centers on three girls who are definitely not part of the in crowd: one’s fat, one’s a dyke, and one is missing a breast. Nicknamed “Lezzylard” by her classmates, Angie is seduced by the prettiest girl in school, an anorexic who just wants to make imaginary grocery lists. Inez, the school’s pot dealer, can’t shoplift because security guards are mesmerized by her single enormous breast. Shelby and Angie can’t be together, because then everyone will think Angie’s only a dyke because she’s too fat to get a guy. Manstealing for Fat Girls explodes the locus where patriarchal and class violence intersect, while embracing all that is magical — and dangerous — about adolescence. Set in a working class suburb of St. Louis in the 1980s, the book is replete with music and pop culture references of the era, but the bullying, lunch table treachery, and desperate desire to fit in ring true for every generation.
Trigger warning this book does have a rape and a fair amount of other violence in it as well.
Readers, please add any other books you would recommend or any thoughts if you’ve read some of these ones! This list is low on people of colour, so I’d especially like to know if readers have recommendations in that vein!
Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian is a Book Advice Column where you can send me your LGBTQ+ book related questions and recommendation requests. Send me an email: email@example.com and put “Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian” in the subject.