The Other F Word takes on modern fatness with an intersectional eye and a spirit of joyful defiance.

The Other F Word:
A Celebration of the Fat and Fierce
edited by Angie Manfredi

GoodreadsAmazon B & NIndiebound

The definitive collection of art, poetry, and prose, celebrating fat acceptance.

Chubby. Curvy. Fluffy. Plus-size. Thick. Fat. The time has come for fat people to tell their own stories. The (Other) F Word combines personal essays, prose, poetry, fashion tips, and art to create a relatable and attractive guide about body image and body positivity. This YA crossover anthology is meant for people of all sizes who desire to be seen and heard in a culture consumed by a narrow definition of beauty. By combining the talents of renowned fat YA and middle-grade authors, as well as fat influencers and creators, The (Other) F Word offers teen readers and activists of all ages a guide for navigating our world with confidence and courage. 

Includes works by Rachelle Abellar, Lily Anderson, Jes Baker, Shelby Bergen, David Bowles, Mason Deaver, Ady Del Valle, Evette Dionne, Corissa Enneking, Alex Gino, Jonathan P. Higgins, Sarah Hollowell, Samantha Irby, P. S. Kaguya, Jiji Knight, S. Qiouyi Lu, Hillary Monahan, Miguel M. Morales, Julie Murphy, Isabel Quintero, Adrianne Russell, Jana Schmieding, Amy Spalding, Laina Spencer, Mel Stringer, Bruce Sturgell, Virgie Tovar, Jess Walton, Renée Watson, Saucye West

I’m so happy this book exists. I’m only sad that it took so long.

Editor Angie Manfredi deserves credit for her careful selection of topics and contributors. This anthology includes a wide range of perspectives with a thoughtful, intersectional approach. Not only does it include essays that speak specifically to the male fat experience (still hard to find in fat activism) but most of the essays discuss the ways that fatness intersects with identities along other axes of race, sexual orientation and gender identity, class and upbringing, and more.

Considering the number of contributors, The Other F Word is quite an easy read. Longer, denser essays are spread out and buffered by shorter pieces, poetry, and a number of illustrations.

While the anthology necessarily tackles tough subject matter, including frank discussion of bullying, discrimination, and shaming directed towards fat people, it always comes back to a bracing, hopeful tone. Even when discussing internalized hate, the contributors come from an angle of growth and resilience.

But The Other F Word doesn’t seem sure who it’s for.

The anthology’s greatest weakness is its uncertainty about its own audience. The contributors seem to agree that they’re writing for fat readers, but that’s about all they agree on. The description calls the book “crossover YA,” which sums it up pretty well if “crossover YA” means “we want to call this YA, but aren’t sure we actually want to be YA.” Some contributors, like S. Qiouyi Lu, Miguel M. Morales, and of course Julie Murphy, very effectively write towards a teen audience. Others seem to write for an adult audience, one with a great deal of life experience and fluency in online social justice terminology. A few don’t seem to have any idea who they’re writing for.

On that note, be aware that this is a very, very mixed bag. A good handful of pieces were poorly-written, meandering essays that felt like half-hearted twitter rants. It was frustrating to see those articles next to such thoughtful, personal works. Hopefully, those weak links will get some editorial TLC before publication.

In order of their placement in the ARC, here are the pieces I recommend reading:

(this doesn’t include artwork, which wasn’t properly formatted in the ARC)

  • “Chubby City Indian” by Jana Schmeiding
  • “How To Be the Star of Your Own Fat Rom-Com” by Lily Anderson
  • “The Story of My Body” by Renee Watson
  • “Fat, And” by S. Qiouyi Lu
  • “Write Something Fat” by Sarah Hollowell
  • “7 Things I Would Tell Eleven-Year-Old Me” by David Bowles
  • “The 5 Things You Need to Start Your Very Own Rad Fat Babe Revolution (from Someone Who Knows)” by Virgie Tovar
  • “A Poem That’s About Nature and Fatness” by Miguel M. Morales (as well as Morales’ other work in the book)
  • “For the Love of Ursula’s Revenge Body” by Julie Murphy
  • “Confidence” by Corissa Enneking
  • “Losing My Religion” by Jess Walton
  • “Fat Acceptance Is (Really) Real” by Evette Dionne
  • “Elephant, Hippo, and Other Nicknames I Love” by Jes Baker
  • “From Your Fat Future” by Adrianne Russell
  • “Baltimore… and Me” by Amy Spalding

If you’re only going to read a few, here are my personal favorites from the anthology:

“Chubby City Indian”
by Jana Schmeiding

“When I was growing up, I felt like I was living two different lives on two opposing riverbanks.”

Jana Schmeiding remembers her adolescence in gorgeous, lyrical prose. On the “riverbank” of her white-dominated school, she finds herself surrounded by body shame alien to the Indigenous culture of the other riverbank, where she dances freely with her community. A spirit of resilience and joy comes through the page as Schmeiding shows the reader her experience of fatness, one that is inseparable from her experiences as a woman and as an indigenous person.

“How To Be the Star of Your Own Fat Rom-Com”
by Lily Anderson

“Your romance is out there, waiting for you, Fat Babe.”

This list of steps to turn your life into a romantic comedy starring your beautiful, fat self starts out silly and fun. Anderson is witty and clever, delighting in all the best tropes of the rom-com while warning readers away from dangerous cliches. As the list goes on, however, it becomes unexpectedly bold. Anderson is uncompromising in her assertion of fat teen’s value and potential. Moving and smart.

Avoid This Trope: Secret Relationships
Watch out for people who make you feel almost shiny enough. You don’t deserve to be anyone’s secret sweetheart or sidepiece. Your fat body isn’t something for someone else to “get over” or to “like you in spite of.” There are people in the world who will be attracted to you the way you are right now, without any caveats. Those people deserve to costar in your romantic comedy. Not people who won’t let you meet their friends and don’t put pictures of you on social media.”

“Write Something Fat”
by Sarah Hollowell

“But right now, you’re sixteen, and you don’t know Tracy or Willowdeen, you’re writing your first novel, and you don’t know that a heroine can be fat.”

Sarah Hollowell writes an incisive, compassionate letter to her teenage self who can’t seem to imagine characters that look like her, even in her own writing. (This one hit me where it hurts; that sixteen-year-old writer sounds very familiar.) In the end, Hollowell is hopeful for the future but realistic about fiction’s reluctance to diversify in terms of body type.

“For the Love of Ursula’s Revenge Body”
by Julie Murphy

“I sauntered through that Halloween party with my flabby arms and double chin, letting my body speak for itself and never once undersetimating the importance of body language.”

Julie Murphy writing about the villain of The Little Mermaid… yes, this is everything you expect and hope. Murphy writes from the heart about the struggle behind her adoration of Ursula’s (and her own) fat body.

by Corissa Enneking

“Be confident in your body! *diet pill commercial plays on the radio* Love yourself! *the store you’re in doesn’t carry your size* Everyone is beautiful! *the thin model on TV says*”

One of the sharper pieces in The Other F Word, Corissa Enneking’s essay pulls back the curtain on the vague, fuzzy idea of ~confidence,~ asking a question lots of teens do: What does that actually mean? Honest that she doesn’t have all the answers, Enneking identifies real thought patterns that teens can shift to start building confidence, one day at a time.

“Baltimore… and Me”
by Amy Spalding

“I’d be lucky, honestly, to be Tracy Turnblad. Not because she kisses Zac Efron… It’s because she believes that she deserves all the good things that happen to her.”

I absolutely have to include this one, even though it’s possible it won’t hit as hard if you weren’t at the right age when the Hairspray musical hit the big screen. Like many of my favorite essays in the book, this one is honest about how little good fat rep there still is, despite some great examples: “Probably one reason, in fact, I still think about Tracy as often as I do is that she still seems as rare, precious, and valuable as one of the objects fat characters break with their butts in hacky comedies.”

A received an eARC of this title from the publisher in expectation of an honest review. No money changed hands for this review and all opinions are my own.

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