Podcast review: What Page Are You On? - Fat books

What Page AreYou On! is a podcast that debuted in September 2017 with an episode titled ‘Fat Books’.

Had I read the episode description usefully given on audioboom.com I wouldn’t have been quite as surprised as I was when the two lively hosts of the show, Alice and Bethany, started talking about books with fat characters in them. I was expecting a discussion about fat books as in ‘books with a lot of pages’!

I am glad I was wrong though as this is a topic I had never heard being talked about before and I am keen to learn.

I am not going to mention everything that was discussed but here are a few comments and questions, which I hope will be a starting point for interesting conversations below in the comments or on Twitter.

Let’s begin…

Two autobiographical books are mentioned: Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay and Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West. The podcast hosts agree that they enjoyed more the latter as it was more relatable. This leads me to ask… do you expect autobiographical books to be relatable? After all, you are reading about someone else’s life and experiences, which are bound to be different from yours. I remember reading Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi and, despite never having suffered from eating disorders myself, I found it an incredibly good book.

In general, this podcast has opened a whole world I didn’t know existed… I mean, I have never taken any notice of the size of a writer or character. That’s not because I imagine all writers and characters being tall and skinny but because I care very little about their appearance. I must admit that - sometimes - my eyes glaze over when reading physical descriptions of characters in a book. I want to know what they feel, what they do… not what they look like. Although I can now see that these things can be interlinked.

I am saying this because one of the hosts points out that she couldn’t tell that Roxane Gay was fat from reading her book, Bad Feminist, and my first reaction was ‘Does it matter?’. Perhaps it does – especially if her feminism is somehow connected to her body shape… just like Portia De Rossi’s eating disorders were somehow connected to her homosexuality.

Both Bethany and Alice also agree that only fat authors can create credible fat characters. Again, my first reaction was to not agree. I don’t have any expertise in this field but is this not a little like saying that male authors can’t write believable female characters? They can if they are good writers and I’ve read plenty such examples. Some people might also say that you have to be gay to write a credible gay character but – without naming names – I have read some representations of female same-sex couples written by lesbians that are cringe-worthy to say the least.

In any case, this episode includes many reading recommendations to help you get started in your fat books education! YA fiction is apparently the place to start and I like the sound of Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. Adult fiction is apparently lacking in fat main characters and Bethany and Alice will welcome any pointers that are not Bridget Jones or Stephen King’s Carrie.

As I said, I don’t really pay much attention to the looks of fictional characters but I can think of a positive example in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by AlexanderMcCall Smith. Mma Ramotswe describes herself as ‘traditionally built’. That’s another word for ‘fat’, right?

Now, to listen to this episode of the podcast, look no further and click here! Happy listening!

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