Jean Braithwaite

Jean Braithwaite

Pudgy bodies haven't always been condemned by the medical and fashion industries. The idea that it was undesirable to be skinny was mainstream less than 100 years ago. Since the mid-20th century, though, trends in fashion and medicine have taken us far, far in the opposite direction. Here's the weird thing: at first it was only mildly socially unacceptable to be fat in America, and at that time not all that many people were very "overweight." But as the decades passed the social punishments imposed became more severe. Strangely, these penalties had no deterrent effect on the increasing number of increasingly large offenders: the curve graphing the fattening of America got steeper and steeper even as the stigma of obesity got heavier and heavier. Those statistics are mysterious, right? Perverse, even.

FAT: The Story of My Life with My Body is not exactly about the American "obesity epidemic," but that is its background. This literary memoir, the intense story of one individual's ups and downs with her body, has something to say about the way our culture shapes us. The book is a case study revealing how one strong-willed teenage girl became fatter while trying to become thinner (and years later, a middle-aged fat woman became thin again accidentally). Maybe FAT sheds some light on the mystery of the obesity epidemic. This is a story about private shame and effort that will resonant with nearly every American woman and many men even though it is almost never told. The stories we always read about being fat/overweight are either triumphalist dramas of self-improvement, or else their protagonists are caricatures of raw greed or neurotic psychology. This book is about what it actually feels like to become fat, to resist eating unsuccessfully, and then successfully, and the effects of both "success" and "failure" on the body and the personality.

FAT is going to be published by Snake Nation Press in 2011.

FAT was completed thanks to a generous fellowship from the Norman Mailer Writers Colony. FAT has received an assortment of other literary honors and five or six chapters or excerpts have already been published elsewhere.

Read sample chapters:
Chapter 2. Sweet Things
Chapter 21. Robert Pool Made Me Thin

Bonus tracks for FAT.

For publication news and related topics see Jean's FAT blog.