Jocelyn Pontes ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
It is often difficult for an individual to feel comfortable with their own body. Standards of physical beauty and fitness bombard people every day, to the point where it may become overwhelming and harmful. The five books below work to combat that daily bombardment by instead providing a flood of inspirational stories, positive thinking, and self-love.
Future Perfect by Jen Larsen
In Jen Larsen’s young adult novel Future Perfect, protagonist Ashley Perkins is a wonderful fictional role model on body positivity and self-love. Ashley doesn’t fit the skinny-girl image that society imposes on young women, and she is completely fine with that. She has always had a positive outlook on her body, and loves herself for who she is. On her birthday each year, however, she receives a card from her grandmother trying to persuade her to lose weight by means of surgery, with the promise that her grandmother will in return fund her tuition to attend Harvard University. Ashley struggles with the choice of whether to undergo weight loss surgery and attend the school of her dreams, or whether to ignore the pressure to conform and instead reaffirm her own positive body image as she has had for years. A refreshing work about a strong, smart, and confident protagonist, Future Perfect proves that the only opinion about one’s body that matters is one’s own.
Super Late Bloomer by Julia Kaye
With its highly anticipated release on May 1, Julia Kaye’s Super Late Bloomer is a memoir on her transition beginning in 2016. Based upon her widely popular webcomic series Up and Out, her memoir is a collection of honest, humorous, and poignant comics that focus on her transition, on the many struggles that she faced and still faces as a transgender woman, and on her journey of self-love and body positivity. Kaye tells her own story through comics that are witty, artful, and relatable for so many people who are in the midst of their own transition, or are struggling with self-love and self-acceptance. Super Late Bloomer is an empowering and inspirational work for transgender people, especially transgender youth, as well as for anyone who is striving to feel more comfortable in their own skin.
Fat! So? Because You Don’t have to Apologize for Your Size by Marilyn Wann
The word “fat” has held a negative connotation for too long, and author Marilyn Wann wants to change that. In her book Fat! So?, Wann promotes a healthy body image no matter one’s size, and works to end the stigma that being fat is a bad thing. The book addresses America’s obsession with dieting, and the constant pressure that people often feel to strive for an “ideal” weight. With a collection of essays, quizzes, and statistics, Wann approaches the subject from a fun and jubilant angle as a celebration of one’s body just the way it is.
The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf
In The Beauty Myth, author Naomi Wolf explores how mainstream media has imposed a beauty standard upon women, who often feel pressured to fit a certain image. The idea of beauty which society forces on women is so extreme as to be impossible to attain in reality. Wolf addresses a range of statistics and big-picture trends such as the popularity of cosmetic surgery, and the number of people in the country with eating disorders, for example. Statistics like these, Wolf argues, are symptoms of society’s unhealthy obsession with the mainstream idea of beauty in the modern age. This is due mainly to the straight male gaze, and Wolf says that industries including the fashion and cosmetics industries have further exploited the problem. Wolf works to break down these standards of beauty, and proves that one’s body is beautiful just the way it is.
The Running Dream by Wendelin van Draanen
When protagonist Jessica loses her leg in a devastating car accident, she struggles with the idea that she will never be able to run in competitive races again. Through surgery, physical therapy, and getting a prosthetic, Jessica regains mobility, though she believes that her body will no longer let her live out her dream as a runner. However, when she meets a girl named Rosa, who has cerebral palsy, Jessica finds the friendship and support she needs to pursue her dream against the odds and gain a more positive outlook on her body. The Running Dream by Wendelin van Draanen promotes body positivity in a refreshing and uplifting narrative of unstoppable hope.
Self-love and acceptance of one’s own body are extremely important, as these five books demonstrate. Having this positive outlook can help one break away from society’s expectations, to feel more comfortable with their identity, and to achieve their most ambitious goals. These books all show that there’s no such thing as an imperfect body.