13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT A FAT GIRL is not really a novel,
but it is. It's a cohesive narrative broken into multiple
points of view that leads it to feel like a kaleidoscope
view of a character instead of a full one. In her debut
novel, Mona Awad looks at the politics of policing
women's bodies, both internally and externally, through
the myopic view of one woman.
Lizzie starts out life as a "fat chick" in suburban
America, taught that her body was an enemy to be
conquered and a commodity to be dealt. Throughout the
narrative, she never connects her sense of self with it,
instead connecting that sense of self to other's views on
her body. She diets and hates herself, eats and hates
herself, does anything else and hates herself. Awad shows
us what it looks like when a woman is never taught that
she's worthy beyond her physical body.
The toxicity that Lizzie carries within herself is
insane, but is reflective of so many women I know. It is
wrapped up in control mechanisms, in ideas of self-
esteem that never really happen. The humor in this book
comes from the observations of daily life, the way that
always an outsider in whatever world she lives in. When
she's thin and popular, she hates herself and her
marriage is a sham. When she's fat and miserable, she
wallows in that misery and her humor is her shield.
This book left me raw. Awad is not interested in
comforting readers and her insights cut like knives
against cultural constructions of femininity and
womanhood built up over centuries. Her views are not new,
but by using multiple views of Lizzie as a main character
but not always narrator, Awad sheds sharp points of light
onto the subject.
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?
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 aFat Girl
introduces a vital new voice in fiction.