Hot & Heavy ed. by Virgie Tovar

Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love & Fashion, edited by Virgie Tovar (she/her), is not what I expected, and in a good way! Firstly, not all the writers confirm they are “fierce.” Instead, their journeys are challenging, circuitous, maybe even weebling between confidence and defeat.

The contributors leaned older, from what I remember, more women in their 40s rather than their 20s, which I appreciate. Lately, I’ve been feeling curmudgeonly, but am trying to be honest, about the fact that books written by people in their 20s do not strike me as particularly deep. Then again, is that because I see so many “how to love yourself when you’re fat” self-help books filling the shelves in libraries and bookstores written by women under 30? “Like, just do it! Just be brave! Eat that cake, sister!” isn’t great advice when you’re old enough to have watched 9/11 unfold.

Back to Hot & Heavy. It’s in the name: a variety of women write what they think it means to be “fierce.” Tovar organized the brief essays into the three categories in the title (life, love, fashion). The “life” section was run-of-the-mill in some ways for me. People struggling with fat-shaming families or bullies in school — but those may be the stories you need to hear, to confirm or validate your own experiences. The “life” section also includes how it feels to regularly go to the gym as a fat person or be the fat yoga teacher at the front of the room and have younger, thinner students side-eyeing their instructor. I liked the exercise-related essays, as I don’t see a ton of books about that topic yet.

The “love” section was such a hoot, and empowering, too. When one woman becomes a fat prostitute, she finds the right support system for her work, adding, “I thought I had found the Promised Land for fat hos.” Another woman describes preparing to lose her virginity, which she is eager to do as a horny fourteen-year-old high schooler. The author was honest about her desire to be sexual, to not feel ashamed, and what it was like her first time, especially in a fat body. And it was funny! Another writer discovered self-pleasure later than she expected and was surprised by how she felt about her body afterward. When was the last time you read something honest and open about sex in a bigger body?

Finally, the “fashion” section was the one I least looked forward to. Fashion in fat girl fiction seems to be the norm now. Sure, she’s fat, but she’s also a wizard on a sewing machine and makes her own clothes! Really? I know so few people like that. Where are these people? But the essays Tovar includes give examples of how to alter or spice up your own clothes with doodads from craft stores (buttons, pins, ribbons, and a pair of scissors). And what it means for a dance troupe to choose a size-inclusive performance outfit. And how one woman gets past those sweltering days of being a fat girl in jeans while everyone else is wearing shorts (guilty).

The essays in Hot & Heavy brought a lot of new information, and a whole bunch of new (to me) voices, to the conversation about women in fat bodies. Highly recommended!

CW: fat shaming, sizeism

16 comments

  1. This sounds like a great collection! I have that feeling about non-fiction from people in their 20s more and more, too. Like, go live life some more before you give me advice! I don’t know if that’s curmudgeonly or just having perspective on how much more I’ve learned since I was in my 20s!

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  2. I think the fact that we watched 9/11 happen should remind us to eat the cake more often. I dislike saying YOLO but the idea is good and they’re not wrong. I am not saying that I disagree about 20-somethings being naive but they have the positivity that life has beaten out of us and that’s not their fault. Let them enjoy it while they can.
    I’m not being very good at being a grouchy 30-something year old today, am I? 😛
    I have a friend that is a wiz at the sewing machine but that’s ONE person I know. I have bought quite a few things she’s made but they’re not clothes.

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  3. this does sound like a fun book, in particular the story about finding size-inclusive dancewear is interesting, because it’s something I would have never thought about!

    I’m like you in that literature written by younger people doesn’t always feel that relatable. I wouldn’t say it’s shallow, it just feels…not applicable anymore? haha

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    • I especially liked the story about the super horny young teen. It felt so very high school, and it made me think about how YA today is very much a text to a bestie that says, “OMG WE DID IT” if there is any sex at all.

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  4. This sounds wonderful. Apparently it’s been on my TBR for years? I had no idea until I looked it up on GR. Ha. Perhaps I’ll find an audiobook format? That seems to be the only way I make progress on books these days…

    Like you, I was less thrilled when I read one section was about fashion. But it sounds like the essays were meaningful instead of eye-roll inducing. I’m glad. Fashion and fat is a complex intersection. Now this is the part of the book I’m most interested in.

    I like that this collection seems to be confronting stereotyped issues and issues pushed under the rug head-on. Did any essay really stand out to you?

    And I’d totally read that fat + exercise essay collection. There is a lot to unpack here. Or perhaps fat + exercise + sports? #OlympicsObsessed

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    • I don’t know if it’s on audiobook, and if it were, having the same narrator read all the different essays would throw me off. The tone of writing is so different, and would one voice capture all of that? I want to read the collection Alice Wong edited called Disability Visability, but I think my library only has audio, and it’s bunches of different authors, so same boat.

      The fashion section was interesting. Like, how to do a cut and some buttons and a twirl and voila, a new, perkier shirt, or something. The essay that stood out most to me was the 14-year-old girl who was horny and ready to rock. She was the epitome of high school, lol.

      I need to read The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts by Hanne Blank.

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