Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Read more...
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Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks--even though her best friend Mel says she's the pretty one. She starts dating guys online, but she's afraid to send pictures, even when her skinny friend China does her makeup: she knows no one would want her if they could really see her. So she starts to lose. With punishing drive, she counts almonds consumed, miles logged, pounds dropped. She fights her way into coveted dresses. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl? In her brilliant, hilarious, and at times shocking debut, Mona Awad simultaneously skewers the body image-obsessed culture that tells women they have no value outside their physical appearance, and delivers a tender and moving depiction of a lovably difficult young woman whose life is hijacked by her struggle to conform. As caustically funny as it is heartbreaking, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl introduces a vital new voice in fiction. FINALIST FOR THE GILLER PRIZE WINNER OF THE AMAZON CANADA FIRST NOVEL AWARD NAMED ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2016 BY ELLE, BUSTLE, AND THE GLOBE AND MAIL
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE MONTH BY THE HUFFINGTON POST, BUSTLE AND BOOKRIOT FINALIST FOR THE COLORADO BOOK AWARD FOR LITERARY FICTION ARAB AMERICAN BOOK AWARD HONORABLE MENTION FOR FICTION
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-11-16
- Reviewer: Staff
Awad opens her assured and terrific debut collection of linked stories with a quotation from Margaret Atwoods Lady Oracle:There was always that shadowy twin, thin when I was fat, fat when I was thin... Roughly following that 1976 novels coming-of-age trajectory from miserable overweight youth to precarious (but fashion-model size) adulthood, Awad artfully revisits themes related to body mass, femininity, cultural values, and resistance, finding virtually no reasons to be optimistic. Though Atwoods Joan ultimately carves out a niche for herself on her own terms, Awads furious and damaged Lizzie is deformed by external pressures. She finds nominal success in too-tight bandage dresses, and she obsessively measures food intake while worrying about maximizing her sessions on an elliptical machine. From a half-correct bitter prediction Lizzie makes as a teen Goth in suburban Ontario (Ill be hungry and angry all my life but Ill also have a hell of a time) to glimpses of her days as an angry, dissatisfied temp, Awad portrays Lizzie careening between raging at the world and scrutinizing her failings in the mirror. After shes started losing, upsetting stories trace her discomfiting relationship with her overweight mother in Fit4U and My Mothers Idea of Sexy and romantic partners in Shell Do Anything. Marketing the book as hilarious is misdirection: Lizzies witticisms, while abundant, are attacks, and her grotesque development is a profoundly somber indictment of the gendered cultural norms that, in effect, created her. Agent: Julia Kenny, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. (Feb.)
Desperately searching for self-acceptance
Lizzie March is not thin when we first meet her, but she desperately wants to be. A lonely high school girl with an obese, ill mother and an absent father, she avoids looking at her own body. Instead, she secretly envies female friends who are sexually bold or especially beautiful. Craving acceptance, she meets guys on Internet dating sites, and later, after dropping out of Catholic school, she brings home older men who don’t seem bothered by her weight. Eventually, she begins to diet, hoping that it will bring her the love she’s looking for.
In 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, author Mona Awad tells Lizzie’s story through 13 chapters in her life as she transforms from a chubby teen to a sleekly fit adult. Throughout these often raw, poignant stories, Awad adeptly skewers the culture of fitness and dieting, a constant battle of self-denial. Awad, who received an MFA from Brown University, illustrates the way that women unconsciously size each other up by appearance or even what they choose on a restaurant menu. For example, in one story, “The Girl I Hate,” Lizzie goes to lunch with a skinny friend who joyously eats fattening food while Lizzie—dieting—nibbles on a salad.
Lizzie is a frustrating, funny and sad character. However, her story is a deeply true one. She exemplifies the fact that self-acceptance must come from inside ourselves, always separate from the ever-changing bodies we inhabit. Readers who appreciated last year’s Dietland shouldn’t miss this insightful debut.