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13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl
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Group Themed Reads: Discussions > February 2017 - 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

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message 1: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18091 comments One of the group reads for February is 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad. Please discuss the book in this thread.

The discussion leader is Dawn.

In order to receive a badge you must:
1. have completed the book before or during February 2017.
2. discussed it in this thread. Discussion must be more than "I read the book and I liked it". Discussion requires something more substantial and analytical of what you read, for example, thoughts, opinions, impact it had on you, what was your favourite part, was it what you expected it to be like etc. You may also like to review the book and post a link to the review in this thread.
3. Report that you have read AND discussed the book in the reporting thread (include a brief summary of what you thought of the book).

General Rules:
1. Please mark your spoilers with the spoiler tags along with mentioning what stage of the book you are at so other's don't get a nasty shock. Chapter numbers/titles are generally best as they are the same across all formats and editions.
2. The book may be combined with the Year Long Challenge, Topplers, and Monthly Challenges.

Happy reading!


Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments Fantastic, we have a thread.

I picked up this book at the library last night so I'll more than likely be starting it this weekend.


TrudyAn | 1614 comments I started reading this last night. My first impression (view spoiler).


Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments I am all about the Canadian Literature the last few years so this book fits in with that.

The author is Mona Awad. She was born in Montreal, Quebec, so from the east coast. Just above the New York and Vermont state line for those that don't know the area.

She is a graduate of York University in Toronto, she received her MFA in Fiction from Brown University and her MScR in English literature from the University of Edinburgh. She's currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and English literature at the University of Denver.


Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments This book was also a nominee for the Canadian Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2016. The prize was created in 1994 by Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller, who passed away from cancer the year before.


Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments TrudyAn wrote: "I started reading this last night. My first impression [spoilers removed]."

I have to admit that I was a little concerned about that aspect myself as I tend not to read much of that type of book.

Could it be attributed to it being her debut novel??


TrudyAn | 1614 comments I finished the book last night. (view spoiler)


Tejas Janet (tejasjanet) | 3513 comments So I got chapters one and two read this evening. Not sure yet if (view spoiler). Wondering. Will be interesting to see how this develops over coming chapters.

I could relate to chapter (or story) one, which most anyone who's made it thru adolescence can, I think. Chapter two was so grating with (view spoiler).


Tejas Janet (tejasjanet) | 3513 comments Thanks, Dawn, for the author and book background info.


message 10: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments So not a big success for you then TrudyAn?


message 11: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments I have not managed to start the book yet. We got 2 feet of snow yesterday so I've been out clearing things out, just in case I decide that I want to risk the roads and go into work tomorrow.


message 12: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments Tejas Janet wrote: "Thanks, Dawn, for the author and book background info."

Certainly, I thought it would be nice for everyone to know. :)


TrudyAn | 1614 comments Dawn wrote: "So not a big success for you then TrudyAn?"

I gave it three stars. I think what I disliked most was not the writing, but the message - that society still places such value on physical appearance. Why can't we move beyond that?

We got the same dump of snow you did, I think, with more coming tonight. Even the public library was closed yesterday and today. It is beautiful, but I have had enough.


message 14: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments I belong to MyFitnessPal (a calorie counting and exercise tracking website) and while I don't chat in their community I do read through it and there are a lot of woman especially but men as well that have some very obvious body image issues and it's very sad to read about them.
I am getting this impression that rather than making physical appearance less important, that we as a society are now laying the same issues on the male half of the population as well as the female.
I'm reading so many comments that I used to think were exclusively female in thought but are young men saying they are fat and ugly and nobody could ever love them in this state. It's a bit discouraging really.


message 15: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments Yes, I have a vague memory of knowing you lived in my area. I think everyone I've talked to has mentioned that we've already had the limit of winter for around here and we should be heading into spring now.
There are even robin's here already, they also think it should be spring!!

I hate driving in it and I can't ride my bike in this, so I'm done with it as well.


Tejas Janet (tejasjanet) | 3513 comments I've been thinking a lot about Amy Schumer and her response to being included in Glamour magazine's "Chic at Any Size" issue last April. She understandably didn't like being included without being consulted. And she was worried what message was being sent by including her in this category when she's now in size 6-8.

I was kind of upset with her at first, but have reconsidered. They should have checked in with her before including her. And at her heaviest, she's still just a really good-looking woman with "an extra 10 or 15 pounds." That doesn't exactly make her chic at any size. Which is what she was pointing out, I think. I hope!


Tejas Janet (tejasjanet) | 3513 comments I agree, Dawn, that men have become more likely to have body image issues. And being obese can have health repercussions for women and men. But we have a skewed sense of healthy weight, in my opinion. There's a lot of room in there for healthy variance in body types and weights. Also, people change over their life times. Most of us don't go thru life with a uniform weight and size.


message 18: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments Tejas Janet wrote: "I've been thinking a lot about Amy Schumer and her response to being included in Glamour magazine's "Chic at Any Size" issue last April. She understandably didn't like being included without being ..."

I could see her being a bit upset if they are implying that her size 6-8 is a plus size. Because I think it's bad enough that 'plus size' models are usually a size 12. That already gives a very bad impression, to know that a normal size like that is perceived as too big and gets that label.


message 19: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments Tejas Janet wrote: "I agree, Dawn, that men have become more likely to have body image issues. And being obese can have health repercussions for women and men. But we have a skewed sense of healthy weight, in my opini..."

Definitely, health is important but I don't think it should be part of the body image conversation. It should not matter what size you are, you should be confident, be proud, and be able to live without being judged.

Health needs to be everyone's concern but just because you 'look' healthy doesn't mean you are. If you eat at McDonald's everyday and you're 350 lbs, you get judged, if you do the same and weight 150 lbs, you don't get judged. That's what needs to change.

I also think we have a skewed idea of healthy weight, we're so used to seeing higher weights in our friends and acquaintances that we don't really know what's normal anymore. The clothing industries are not making it helpful either, I've noticed that my jeans are about 5 inches different from what I buy to what my actual waist measurements are, if that doesn't lull you into a false sense of security I don't know what does.


Tejas Janet (tejasjanet) | 3513 comments I've finished the book. Kept meaning to post more along the way.

Before beginning the book, just from the book's title, which riffs on the Wallace Stevens' poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," I had thought perhaps there might be 13 separate but related stories with each vignette from a different character's point of view, but all written in relationship to a single central character. Perspectives say of mother, father, sister, brother, friend(s), teacher, aunt, cousin, boss, child, etc. I thought this would be difficult to do successfully so I wasn't surprised when this quickly proved not to be the case. Still think it's an interesting idea.

Did anyone else go in initially wondering about this?


message 21: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments Until here I didn't realize it wasn't just one story, so I had no notions about different stories.

Your description sounds like it would make a fantastic story if it was written by someone talented enough to pull it off.


Tejas Janet (tejasjanet) | 3513 comments Dawn wrote: "Until here I didn't realize it wasn't just one story, so I had no notions about different stories.

Your description sounds like it would make a fantastic story if it was written by someone talent..."


It had occurred to me as a possibility so I was curious to start reading and find out whether it was one story or 13 stories or what.

Here's a link to the famous Wallace Stevens poem: https://genius.com/Wallace-stevens-th...

It's lovely but rather inscrutable. Consists of thirteen, haiku-like verses that each mention blackbirds. The overall meaning has to be intuited and is open to multiple interpretations. Very interesting effect.


message 23: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments Thanks for the link to the poem.


message 24: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments I finished up this book today. I can't say as I really liked it, I found it super depressing. Mostly because I think that Elizabeth is not unusual and I can't handle reading about it.
That said, I thought the author did a really fantastic job of relating the frame of mind behind this.

I especially found the parts with her husband poignant, (view spoiler)


message 25: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments Also, at the very beginning of the book where the two girls talk about a blizzard that is the best and that Dairy Queen no longer has on the menu, that made me laugh, because it is my Dad's favourite blizzard and he was pretty upset when they took it off the menu.


message 26: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments Tejas Janet wrote: "The overall meaning has to be intuited and is open to multiple interpretations...."

You know, seeing as you brought this up before I read the book, I was paying attention and I think she did do this. Maybe not from completely different people but all the vignettes (view spoiler) I think you are right on about open to multiple interpretations as well. Depending on your own perceptions of self esteem and body image, you could end up having completely different views of this book.
I'm envisioning what a few of my friends would think and I'm supposing something very different, based on their own images of themselves, which I know are quite opposite of mine because we've had these conversations.


message 27: by Debra (last edited Feb 15, 2017 02:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Debra (debra_t) | 6542 comments I found that the author did an excellent job writing this book, however it was in no way fun to read. I found it disturbing, embarrassing, depressing, sad, disgusting, and not at all funny. The author knew exactly how to cut deep with this sadly true representation of many plus-size women. Some people (mostly women) who gave this book negative reviews claimed that this was stereotyping and that not ALL big women have the types of issues Elizabeth did. However, I think there are very few Big and Proud women out there, but when I see one, I applaud them.

While reading, I could see myself reflected back at me at various stages in my life; always dealing with body-image problems and never being a "normal" weight, whatever THAT is! I've always been plus-sized, but when I look at my high school pictures (when I thought I was so fat at a size 16), I looked so normal. I want to go back in time and give that young woman a big helping of self-esteem and self-love.

There was a time when I tried to embrace my body just as it was, which was very large. I joined the BBW (Big Beautiful Woman) social scene and had a lot of fun, but honestly most of the admirers of BBWs were into it like fat was a fetish, not just a body-type they preferred. Not that there aren't a great many gems out there who look deeper than outer appearance and love that person inside. My husband is one of them, and he loves me no matter my size. I still struggle, but I'm getting better. Older and wiser. It works better, I find, to focus on being as healthy as one can be at whatever size you are. If you love yourself, then all will naturally fall into place. The WORST thing you can do to yourself is Yo-Yo diet your way to a bigger and bigger size, and hate yourself when you look in the mirror, no matter what what size you are. That's advice straight from one who knows!

Anyway, I gave this book a 4 because it was well-written and honest, no matter how uncomfortable. Being "fat" is still a huge stigma with all the jokes and judgement "society" embraces. This book tells it like it is for a whole lot of women, and now men, out there.


message 28: by Janice, Moderator (new)

Janice (jamasc) | 46828 comments I haven't read the book, but I have had a similar struggle all my life, Debra. I also look back at my highschool pictures when I was size 14-16 and cringe when I think about how fat I thought I was at the time when I was just a normal size.


message 29: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments I agree that there are few Big and Proud woman out there, and it's a serious pity. I was chatting with another friend about this book and despite my rating I said it's probably the kind of book people should read to understand just how much fat shaming is a bad thing.

And thanks for sharing your personal experiences Debra, it's not a subject that many are really comfortable sharing, with or without the body-image problems.


Tejas Janet (tejasjanet) | 3513 comments Anyone else recall that saying, "Wherever you go, there you are"?

This book brings that to mind. One's size may go up and down, but inside it's still you in there with the same insecurities and foibles. Being a certain size doesn't magically change your life. Self-acceptance and happiness can't be bought off the rack in any size.


Debra (debra_t) | 6542 comments Janice: Yep! I think I've been on diets since I was 8!

Dawn: I agree that people should read this book. It really cuts to the core of the matter of fat shaming and body image issues.

Tejas Janet: Yep, heard that saying. Until I fix my thinking, I'm never going to be happy no matter my size or situation!


message 32: by Lynn (new) - rated it 1 star

Lynn | 2563 comments I finished this book yesterday and I'm still struggling at the moment to put my thoughts into worlds beyond that I hated it.

I'm hoping that a few days to settle into my brain will help me communicate more articulately my feelings for this thread.


message 33: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments We shall wait with baited breath for your comments Lynn. :)


message 34: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18091 comments It seems this book isn't getting very good reviews from YLTO!


message 35: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments I think it might be more about the subject matter than anything else, it is depressing and maybe a little disturbing.


Debra (debra_t) | 6542 comments Yes, I noticed that too. It definitely can't be due to the quality of the writing. It's the disturbing subject matter I believe.


message 37: by Lynn (new) - rated it 1 star

Lynn | 2563 comments So I think I need to start this with I'm a Fat Girl. I've always struggled with my weight, I didn't do too badly when at school as I was pretty active in sport but even then I always wished I was thinner than I was. However realistically I was pretty much a size 12 (UK) throughout school and so really shouldn't have worried.

Since school I have fluctuated with my weight, the lowest being a size 14 but that wasn't often and when I was at my most determined to diet. Most of the time I'm large and currently at the largest I've ever been. To the point that I'm so embarrassed by my size that I don't want to post it here ..... but I can say it's numerous sizes up than my lowest.

So believe me when I say I understand all the negatives that come with being a Fat Girl.

This book however captures every single negative stereotype about women, fat or not. Fat women are ugly, sad, bitter, needy. Thin women are miserable, vapid, bitchy, unsatisfied. Then you have the middle sized women who are frumpy and pathetic.

The book is described (in parts) as hilarious, witty and funny but there is no joy in this book. Everything and everyone in the book is negative, which just isn't true to life.
Yes being overweight / obese can be hard, yes there are times when life is just too much. That doesn't mean there are NO positive events or people in your life.

Ugh, the whole thing just made me angry. I'm not sure if I've manged to get across all my thoughts about the book, I'm not great with words and writing up reviews but that's my thoughts so far.


message 38: by Lynn (new) - rated it 1 star

Lynn | 2563 comments I've just used the word toxic to describe the book in the reporting thread and I can't think of a better word for the book.


Tejas Janet (tejasjanet) | 3513 comments Very well said, Lynn. Thank you for helping me see another point of view in reading this book. I think you did a very good job of talking about how and why you disliked this book so strongly. I agree with you about it being overwhelmingly joyless. However, I viewed this as being the author's intention, and thought it shined a powerful spotlight on that negative voice that can sometimes feel like, to me, that no matter what, I just don't measure up, whatever my size.

Whenever I'm on the overly thin side, I have to listen to people, usually women who think they mean well but are actually very judgemental, tell me that I'm "too thin," like i lack body awareness. My response to stressful times when I'm anxious and depressed is decreased appetite. Eating then becomes just another chore in the task of getting thru another difficult day. Such a simple, basic thing -- eating -- and I can't even get that right.

I think this book doesn't give us a complete picture of "Lizzie." Instead, it focuses intentionally on the negative and makes use of all the negative stereotypes in order to expose them for the shallow phonies they are. Not sure what else to add so I'll stop here.


message 40: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18091 comments Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lynn. Certainly sounds a toxic book to me! And I've not read it. Just going on all of your thoughts in this thread.


message 41: by Lynn (new) - rated it 1 star

Lynn | 2563 comments Thanks for the encouragement guys :)

Tejas Janet wrote: "I think this book doesn't give us a complete picture of "Lizzie." Instead, it focuses intentionally on the negative and makes use of all the negative stereotypes in order to expose them for the shallow phonies they are. ."

I think you may be right about this Tejas Janet and that's what made me so angry.

The world at the moment is so body image obsessed and I don't think this is necessarily a helpful voice to contribute to that.

To me all it did was reinforce that being anything other than skinny model size is bad and even if being skinny makes you miserable, it's still better than being overweight.


message 42: by Almeta (last edited Feb 28, 2017 03:22PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 9968 comments Tom's love for Elizabeth was real, stronger than her love for herself. She couldn't just trust him and his loyal acceptance of her as she was. He married her at twice the size of what she eventually strives for. He loved her even then for the woman she was. With her obsession, she destroyed that woman.

She allowed too many other opinions to influence her own thoughts about herself. Mel wasn't much help in the self-respect department!


message 43: by Almeta (last edited Feb 28, 2017 03:12PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 9968 comments Janice wrote: "I haven't read the book, but I have had a similar struggle all my life, Debra. I also look back at my highschool pictures when I was size 14-16 and cringe when I think about how fat I thought I was..."

I do exactly the same thing. Which just reflects how even all the those pounds lighter "back then", we allowed outside influences dictate our thoughts about ourselves.

Steer clear of judgmental people! Play "The Human Race Game"!


Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 9968 comments Having struggled with weight issues seemingly all of my life, I found many of these stories hit very close to home. I think they accurately reflected the multiple issues a person goes through to find their own self esteem and worth despite cultural prejudices about body images.

There is no one "cause" for a person's thoughts about them self, nor is there one remedy for what "ails" them. No matter what size, shape, color or deformity a person needs good thoughts to bolster themselves, from their friends, family, peers AND most of all them self.


message 45: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments Lynn wrote: "However realistically I was pretty much a size 12 (UK) throughout school and so really shouldn't have worried...."

So true, I look back at those pictures of myself and wonder why I was at all concerned.


message 46: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments Almeta wrote: "Tom's love for Elizabeth was real, stronger than her love for herself. She couldn't just trust him and his loyal acceptance of her as she was. He married her at twice the size of what she eventuall..."

I think this was the saddest part of the book. She found that elusive man, the one who loves you for you, not for your size or your looks. And she can't see it.


message 47: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments Almeta wrote: "There is no one "cause" for a person's thoughts about them self, nor is there one remedy for what "ails" them. No matter what size, shape, color or deformity a person needs good thoughts to bolster themselves, from their friends, family, peers AND most of all them self...."

Yes to all of this. I am forever thankful that my parents instilled a good self esteem in me, no matter what my size or looks. And then constantly reinforced it my entire life.


message 48: by Dawn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1639 comments Tejas Janet wrote: "Whenever I'm on the overly thin side, I have to listen to people, usually women who think they mean well but are actually very judgemental, tell me that I'm "too thin...."

Weight shaming of any kind still seems to be acceptable. Just because people say it in terms of 'health' they think it's okay. You can't be too skinny and you can't be too fat, all because it's not healthy. They never take into consideration the other circumstances in a persons life that might affect this or realize how hurtful their comments can be.


Debra (debra_t) | 6542 comments Regardless of what people thought about this book, it has certainly generated some amazing posts. Thank you to everyone here who was willing to put themselves "out there" and share parts of your lives and thoughts with us. We've reached the same conclusion, I think: Love yourself, no matter your size and no matter what others say about your body. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Appreciate those who love you because you are YOU!


Maggie the Muskoka Library Mouse (mcurry1990) | 5 comments I was drawn in by the various chapters and their depictions of certain times in the main character's life. It was a different style than I normally go for, but I enjoyed it.


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