May 25, 2017

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Librarians Tackle Body Shaming via “Size Acceptance in YA” Tumblr

SLJTeen150722-SizeAcceptYAOn June 1, Faythe Arredondo, Sarah Hannah Gómez, Kelly Jensen, and Angie Manfredi, four bloggers, readers, and (mostly) librarians, launched the “Size Acceptance in YA” Tumblr, examining “fatness, fatphobia, body shaming, body policing, body objectification, and all other things relating to size and body acceptance in YA literature.”

Jensen, blogger at “Stacked” and former librarian, shared that the genesis for the project was her participation in a panel about diversity at Kidlit Con, a bloggers event, with Arredondo and Gómez. “We talked about the need for blogging more about diversity in its different forms, not just race and ethnicity. There wasn’t really a clearinghouse for talking about size issues in YA,” Jensen told School Library Journal.

The bloggers launched this site as an opportunity to branch out of the librarian and publishing community and join a wider conversation about diversity and body acceptance. “I think we can do a lot of good on Twitter and Tumblr,” says Gómez, recently a librarian at the Castilleja School, Palo Alto, CA. “We can expand to those working in media studies and academic circles. Sometimes, we get stuck in this echo chamber. We have to get past that. This conversation can go beyond the usual YA community.” She hopes to focus on unpacking the stereotypical words that are associated with body image, especially in regards to race and ethnicity, such as nubile for people of Asian descent and curvy for Latinos.

The blogs’ posts thus far have covered trending conversations about fat-shaming in media, from makeup company Benefit’s Twitter faux pas, in which Benefit added jokes to fat-shaming hashtag, to O Magazine’s article on rules for who can wear crop tops. It has also celebrated the recent cover on Women’s Running magazine, which featured a plus-size model. However, the group’s main goal is to highlight books and authors that address body issues in a nuanced and well done way and also point out problematic titles to readers, librarians, and educators.

Titles that will be featured in "Size Acceptance in YA" Tumblr.

Titles that will be featured in “Size Acceptance in YA” Tumblr.

The quartet is especially interested in portrayals of teen boys’ size acceptance in YA literature, of which there’s a dearth. Arredondo, who blogs at Teen Services Underground, recommends Alan Zadoff’s Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have (Egmont USA, 2009) as a title worth surfacing for its realistic portrayal of a fat teen. “The main character is an overeater, which is addressed in the text, and he learns positive ways to cope with it without feeling shame for who he is,” she says. “We want to highlight books that tell the truth. We don’t want perfection. We want to be real people.”

Manfredi, an avid blogger at “Fat Girl Reading,” where she states, “Fat is just a descriptor for how I look, I reject it as a value judgment/moral statement about who I am,” was recruited by the trio to be part of the initiative because of her passion for fat issues in teen books. The head of youth services for Los Alamos County Library in New Mexico, Manfredi recently blurbbed the much anticipated Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (HarperCollins, 2015), which she believes can be a door and a window for readers. “I want skinny teens to read Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ and regular size teens to read Dumplin’. I want fat teens to say,  ‘I can kiss a boy and I can be funny.’” The Tumblr recently featured tweets from Murphy speaking about fat-shaming.

The group hopes to cover the gamut of YA lit, including its different formats, such as graphic novels. On Book Riot, where Jensen is an associate editor, she shared the recent strides made in the visual format.

“It was reader feedback that got the wheels turning for me about depictions of fatness in YA-geared graphic novels:

nimona-screencap

What a powerful comment.

Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona is an outstanding example of how fatness can be done without fatness ever being central to the story. While Nimona is fat, that’s not the story. Rather, she’s a fat girl who gets to have an entire arc without her fatness being used as the catalyst, as the thing to overcome, as the object of ridicule, shame, or misfortune.”

 

The bloggers invite questions, guest posts, and continued conversation around size acceptance in young adult literature via Twitter @sizeinYA, email, or the blog.

“Fat is just a word. It’s not a kind of indictment. It’s a thing you have,” says Jensen.

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Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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Comments

  1. Glad to see this topic. But don’t forget K. A. Barson’s wonderful book: 45 LBS (more or less) published by Viking.

    YAY!

    • I was underwhelmed with this one, honestly. While I get what it was trying to accomplish, even the way it was presented rubbed me wrong — the family who regularly jokes about fat people, the diet ads on tv — there wasn’t enough digging into what the problem with those things were since the focus was on the pressure for her to lose weight. It’s certainly not a problematic book like many others are, but it didn’t WOW me, either, in the way other titles like My Big Fat Manifesto, for example, have.

  2. This topic is long over-due. Applauding those who are discussing it openly. Highly recommend YA novel BIG FAT DISASTER by Beth Fehlbaum (Merit Press/F+W Media, 2014) be added to the list.

  3. Marcia Brandt says:

    I continue to love Joan Bauer’s “Squashed” as an intimate look at a young woman dealing with body issues and more. Strong voice, lots of humor…

  4. Tara Kehoe says:

    This is a wonderful movement! Thanks for addressing this important aspect of diversity and awareness. I have a question to throw out there. I’m running a book discussion on Monday about Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now. Narrator Sutter refers to a well developed side character as “… my beautiful fat girlfriend Cassidy…” on the first page. Cassidy continues to be described like this throughout the book. Anyone care to comment on how this comes across? Thanks in advance!

    • Forgive me, it’s been a few years since I read that one but I feel like his use of “fat” is like Angie’s – it’s just a descriptor. Obviously he thinks she’s attractive or he wouldn’t be with her. If it was “tall” or “blonde” it wouldn’t change anything in this case. It’s just weird because we are used to putting so much baggage on that word.

  5. Nice post!