YALSA Symposium Pre-conference: Body Positivity and Size Acceptance in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m fat. Yep. And I have green eyes (and hair, right now), and I’m tall, and have a tattoo. These are all descriptors of me. Our fearless leader, Angie Manfredi, opened the session much the same way (except she doesn’t have green hair). For me, someone who’s been an on-again-off-again size activist for years, it was the perfect way to set the stage. Angie’s unapologetic view of herself and her infectious energy created a few hours that went by far too quickly. I would have happily spent all day.
She began talking a little about size acceptance (and by that we mean *any* size, not just large) and continued on to a full literature review. Her list included titles that were (by her definition, and this author’s as well) actually positive, from authors who had good intentions but just missed the mark, and those titles that featured body issues but were sending problematic messages. She also talked about adult titles with teen appeal, some recommended reading for adults and a few choice titles about disordered eating too. I appreciated her list immensely (if you’ll pardon the pun). She only included YA titles published in the last 5 years (acknowledging that there were other good older titles) so it was fresh.
Next Angie talked about other body positive movements going on around the country (and beyond), like Operation Beautiful and Delta Delta Delta’s Reflections Program. She was covering for her co-presenter who had to back out last minute because of a family emergency.
Finally we all were gifted the opportunity to hear from an outstanding panel of YA authors who have all written about fat characters (of different sizes, ethnicity and genders!). The panel featured Megan Frazer (Secrets of Truth and Beauty), Madeleine George (Looks), Susan Vaught (Big Fat Manifesto), and Allen Zadoff (Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have). Each author spoke from the heart about their processes writing and getting the books published, as well as their own personal stories with body image issues. I can’t wait to get to reading!
The session also included time for questions and discussion, idea swapping, etc. I left with the coals of my size activism stoked into a raging fire. Even though I’ve only been in my job for just over a year, I’m not sure why I haven’t done more public body positivity activism in my system. I’ve tried to talk to my population about these issues in small groups or one-on-one, and tried to be a positive role model (who happens to be fat), but I will definitely change my excitement into action once I return home. Thanks Angie, and the wonderful panel of authors, for the inspiration!