I’ve been looking for Dietland by Sarai Walker since I discovered fat acceptance twenty-five years ago!
It’s the story of Plum Kettle, twentysomething fat girl writer who has limited her life to her apartment, the coffee shop where she answers work emails for the fictional teen magazine Daisy Chain, and “Waist Watchers” meetings. At the beginning of the novel, Plum thinks that her “life isn’t real yet” because she is planning weight loss surgery and “the real me, the woman I was supposed to be, was within my reach.”
How many of us have done the same thing–limited ourselves because we perceived that we couldn’t do something we really wanted to until we lost weight? Go to the beach? Travel to Europe? Have a child? Get that degree we wanted? Or something as simple as wearing shorts or a sleeveless top outside the house?
Plum realizes she’s being followed by a woman wearing brightly-colored tights and combat boots, and the confrontation with her follower sets in motion a series of events that cause Plum to question everything that she’s assumed about her life as a fat woman.
She meets a woman who wrote a book about the diet industry from the inside, and who runs Calliope House, a kind of feminist collective. Though she is reluctant, Plum meets women who haven’t let anyone else define their lives, despite horrific facial scarring, or being fired from their job because “Women don’t want to be you, and men don’t want to fuck you.”
While Plum is transforming herself, the world is abuzz with attacks on rapists and douchey men by an unknown “Jennifer.” Is “Jennifer” a person? A group? No one knows.
I don’t want to give too much away, because you really need to read Dietland. But Plum doesn’t lose weight OR find a man. Hallelujah! I love men, but it was so refreshing to read a book with a fat character who lives life on her own terms without losing weight and where the romantic “happily ever after” doesn’t happen.
On her website, Walker has included some fun extras, including a mockup of the very important Fuckability Theory and a fictional quiz from Daisy Chain that will tell you which Dietland character you are. Of course, I’m Plum.