Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Phoebe Wahl's Moving Essay "Want More Body Positive Books? Start Doing Better by Fat Characters"

In the Winter 2020 edition of SCBWI's quarterly magazine, the SCBWI Bulletin, Phoebe wrote:

“As a chubby child, I was hungry for representation of bodies like my own in the books I consumed. And all too often, my hunger either went unsatisfied, or was fed only with shame (along with this, I want to acknowledge that where I didn't see my body positively represented, I DID see my whiteness, and many other privileged facets of my identity, something many other children don't get.) At eight years old, I was writing in my diary about my weight being something that kept me from being deserving of love. Would that have been different if I had encountered as many fat princesses being wooed in fairytales as thin ones? How would my assumptions that I was lazier and less athletic have been challenged had I read about more fat adventurers and superheroes? Our culture drills a very clear message into children, especially those socialized as female; that their worth is conditional. Based on a set of sexist, white supremacist, albeit ideals of health and beauty. And children's books, unfortunately, do their part in that messaging, through both overt stereotyping, covert coded language or visuals, and complete invisibility altogether.”

It's a powerful message, and, for me, brought up the intersectionality of the work of diversity in Children's Literature: How do we all stand up for each other, and how, in our work for children and teens, can we do better in representing the marginalized, the under-represented, in giving voice to those whose voices haven't been heard, in letting every child see themself in what they read, in empowering every child to dream bigger and better, to empower every child to be their full authentic self and celebrate the diversity of everyone else being their authentic selves?

Phoebe's article was great, and I saw so many parallels with my own journey of being so hungry for representation of boys who like-liked other boys.

"Want More Body Positive Books? Start Doing Better by Fat Characters" is well-worth reading in full.

Access to the Bulletin archives and the current issue is available to SCBWI members only - log into the scbwi.org website and navigate to Publications >
The SCBWI Bulletin >
top right of the screen click MENU >
JANUARY 2020 (it will open up the full issue in the browser window, and you'll find Phoebe's article on page 25.

Illustrate and Write On,

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