2016 Reading Challenge · Book Reviews

13 Ways of Looking At a Fat Girl

This was a 100% spontaneous pick. I had seen Penguin post about it on Facebook and I picked it up at my library. I was in no rush to get to it, but once I started, I had finished it in 24 hours. In their review, The Washington Post wrote, “You’ll want to grab a friend and say: ‘Whoa. This. Exactly.’” And they are so, so right.

Mona Awad’s collection of thirteen vignettes follows the life of a fat girl whose identity constantly shifts. She is Lizzie and Beth and Elizabeth and Liz, changing names with each attempt to change her body. Awad talks about body image, sexuality, relationships, and their interconnectedness with a witty dark humor that accentuates the bleakness of what so many girls and women face today. Lizzie tries to force herself to become less. She counts each calories, fights for each workout, challenges department store employees who ask her if she wants to try a bigger size. She hates women that don’t have to fight to be the size she wants.

13-ways-mona-awad-220It’s the early vignettes that stick in my mind, because this is when Lizzie questions the point of it all. One of the most poignant moment occurs when Lizzie visits a restaurant with her beautiful, skinny friend China.

“The waitress is always asking us, ‘Are you two sisters?” And China tells her, ‘No. We’re not. We’re definitely not.’ Then she looks at me and says, ‘You’re beautiful all on your own.’ I smile whenever she says this, even though I feel like she’s marooned me on some desert island, taking away with her the only boat. I want to tell her, I don’t want to be beautiful all on my own, I don’t. But I just say nothing. Sometimes I say thanks.”

I am not a fat girl. I don’t know what it’s like to fight with my body like Lizzie does. But I still want to grab a friend and give them this book and say “This. This is it.” Because this book captures the fight that every female has had to even some sort of degree. Lizzie knows. Lizzie questions and is angry and hurt and can’t help but wonder what’s the point of it all.

Awad’s honest and humorous look at the effects of our body obsession should be required reading.

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