There I was at a friend’s house (back in 1998), pawing through her overly burdened bookshelf when I spot the spine of a book that scandalously reads “EAT FAT” and which makes me instantly suck in my breath. Of course, I yank the book off of the shelf immediately and hold it in my hands, completely intrigued. It’s a compact, unassuming, and relatively small book for such a bold, inflammatory statement. The cover, a very bright yellow with large black lettering and the author’s name, Richard Klein, contained in a small box at the bottom is pretty simple, but for that crazy-bold title, the title that compels you to crack the book open then and there, which is what I did. “What is this?” I whispered to myself right as my friend Nell was entering the room with our plate of olives, bread, hummus, and a bottle of strong red wine tucked under her arm. “Oh, that” she says in a breathy, low tone. “That is an amazing book, Elizabeth. You have to read it.” And, thus, my journey into loving, really loving fat began.
This book changed my life, literally, in just one reading. I read it in its entirety that night. Of course, I was zonked the next day at my technical writing job, but I didn’t care. I was a changed woman. The words that Klein wrote in those finely crafted, funny, and down-to-earth pages, helped me finally, finally come home to myself, fully and utterly. With delicious, relief, I finally felt what my psyche had been craving all those many years (spent loathing my fatdom); I felt the calmness of acceptance but beyond that, a true, deeply resonant respect for myself and my amazing, succulent body. I was instantly FREE!! And, in one night, I intensely LOVED MY FAT AND EVERYONE ELSE’S. No joke.
Word of warning: If you do not want to love fat, do not read this book. If you do not mind loathing your body or others’ bodies or if you see no reason to change, do not read this book. If you use self-deprecation and do not mind feeling mostly bad about yourself and your body, do not read this book. If you do not want to challenge your long-held fat phobia, then by all means, avoid this book. But, if you want to truly understand how to love yourself, feel the pleasing shock of an abrupt, but liberating new awareness, the surge of sure-fire realization, and a deep sense of your place in this world (regardless of your size), read this book. I dare you.
This is “not a book about fat acceptance” as Klein states. It’s a book that aims to make us love fat, but only by way of understanding it and tracing its history, the etymological roots of words that mean “fat”, its cultural passage from art to politics to sex, and its place in human life from ancient times to modern. In smartly written, funny, and wildly entertaining prose, this wonderful French teacher from Cornell not only challenges fat phobia but invites us to once-again consider fat as an equal standard of beauty. And, like I stated, he does a damn good job because I went from fat phobic to fat lover in one night.
Klein eagerly awaits the day when fat is once again considered the norm. I do, too. Not just because I am fat (Richard is not, by the way), but because it will mean that human beings have finally pushed through to a new consciousness, a new way of being, a better way of being. Mankind will finally be able to drop his hands and say with a full heart “It takes all kinds to make this earth spin. I understand now.”
True Love is a whole lot better than mere acceptance and I look forward to the day when people do not just accept themselves or others but truly love themselves and others fully, “fatly”, and ravishingly. This book is my Bible. I want to be cremated with it.