Fat Studies, Body and Desirability Politics: A Reading List

Home Body Politics Fat Studies, Body and Desirability Politics: A Reading List

It’s crucial for us to understand the effects of anti-fatness on our bodies. These authors and their books are shaping fat studies in essential ways.

In recent years, with the help of social media, there has been an uptick in conversations around fatness, “body positivity,” and general body politics. You may have run into words you hadn’t heard before, like “fatphobia,” or “anti-fatness,” or even “fatmisia.”

There are an innumerable number of BIPOC writing digital essays and articles on fatness, such as myself, Hunter Shackelford, Sherronda Brown, Sydneysky G, Aurielle Marie, and so many others.

There are also plenty of BIPOC writing books on fatness. Exploring the effects of anti-fatness on our bodies; how it shows up through media, the medical-industrial complex, diet culture, and more.

Below is a comprehensive list of books on (anti-)fatness. Most of which were written by BIPOC.

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

This is a personal record of what it is like to grow up in a world that intends to otherize, harm or kill someone who is both fat and Black. Laymon recounts his experiences with sexual violence, intellectual abuse, and more. This book is important to the conversation of fat studies because it is one of few that breaks away from the narrative that anti-fatness only harms fat white women.

Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings

Brilliantly, Strings historicizes the anti-fat epidemic in the west in relation to Blackness through analytical and well-researched writings on art, colonialism, and more. A necessary read to understand exactly how inextricably linked anti-Blackness and anti-fatness are.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Gay writes about her relationship to food and to (her) body, which she calls a cage, to offer an analysis around our collective understanding of—or relationship to—desire and health. Much like Laymon, Gay uses this book as a way to tell her (gendered) story in relation to fatness and Blackness.

The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor

Starting as a conversation between herself and a friend, Taylor eventually birthed an entire movement with just six words. This book intends to define and offer radical self-love as a way to heal wounds inflicted onto our bodies through varying systems of oppression, like ableism and anti-fatness.

Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Cottom offers a book of essays on Black women’s relationships to/with beauty, media, and money. These essays explore everything from Saturday Night Live and LinkedIn to sexual violence and infant mortality.

The Embodiment of Disobedience: Fat Black Women’s Unruly Political Bodies by Andrea Elizabeth Shaw

Shaw writes a necessary body of work on the many ways in which people of the African Diaspora have rejected—and in many ways, resisted—the west’s attempt to make us overly-invest in thinness.

we are never meeting in real life: essays by Samantha Irby

This book of essays is less of an attempt to offer an analysis around fatness and much more of Irby’s way of sharing her own stories, in a comedic way, with everyday life shit. It’s fun!

Unashamed: Musings of a Fat, Black Muslim by Leah Vernon

Vernon writes with much conviction about her journey with letting go of all the things she had been taught about her body and accepting her own beliefs about herself. She writes about reclaiming her own agency, with care, around her body as someone who is fat and Black and Muslim. Like Laymon and Gay, this is a necessary body of work for identities often excluded from these conversations.

You Have The Right To Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar

The title truly says it all with this one.

Killer Fat: Media, Medicine, and Morals in the American “Obesity Epidemic” by Natalie Boero

Boero does a brilliant job of mapping out the ways in which the media and the medical and diet industrial complex have shaped public health concerns around “obesity,” rendering it an epidemic when it is not one. This book acts as an investigative body of work into the how and why the “obesity epidemic” ever came about.

Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America’s Obesity Epidemic by J. Eric Oliver

Much like Boero, Oliver details just how much effort went into creating the “obesity epidemic” to incite fear of fatness and a war on fat people. This is a must-read.

Queering Fat Embodiment edited by Cat Pausé, Jackie Wykes, and Samantha Murray (Chubby boys with strap-ons: Queering Fat transmasculine embodiment)

Queering Fat Embodiment is a book of academic essays, articles, journals, and chapters on queerness and fatness. “Chubby boys…” is one of the most important essays in the book, as it talks about fat trans men and masculine people and sex—an often-unexplored part of fat politics.

Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth, and the Politics of Stigma by Jason Whitesel

This book is necessary to read because it explores what it is like to be gay and fat in spaces often abusive towards fat and super fat gay people. While the book is in many ways overwhelmingly white, the analysis is one worth engaging.