24 Memoirs from Plus-Size Writers for Your Summer Reading List

Drawing of Roxane Gay, Samantha Irby, Jes Baker, and Julie Murphy by Nikki D. May.

Drawing of Roxane Gay, Samantha Irby, Jes Baker, and Julie Murphy by Nikki D. May.

Looking for a story about someone’s life that may reflect your own? These memoirs by fat authors will resonate with readers with stories about bullying, struggling with—and sometimes unlearning—internalized fatphobia, and—in more than one instance—developing self-love that turns into a fight for body positivity and plus size lives everywhere. Some authors are known body justice warriors, like Jes Baker and Lindy West. Some are known for other reasons, like acting in famous television shows, but their stories inevitably involve their bodies. Funny, heartbreaking, smart, and familiar—these memoirs will resonate.

 
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A Beautiful Work in Progress by Mirna Valerio

Runners’ vocabulary is full of acronyms like DNS for “Did Not Start” and DNF for “Did Not Finish,” but when Mirna Valerio stepped up to the starting line, she needed a new one: DNQ for “Did Not Quit.” Valerio has tied on her running shoes all across the country, from the dusty back roads of central New Jersey to the busy Route 222 corridor in Pennsylvania to the sweltering deserts of Arizona. When you meet her on the trail, you might be surprised to see she doesn’t quite fit the typical image of a long-distance runner. She’s neither skinny nor white, and she’s here to show just how misguided these stereotypes can be. In this prejudice-busting, body-positive memoir told with raw honesty, an adventurous spirit, and a sharp sense of humor, Valerio takes readers along on her journey from first-time racer to ultramarathoner and proves that anyone can become a successful athlete.

2017 | View on Amazon

 
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Am I Ugly?: One Woman's Journey to Body Positivity  by Michelle Elman

In today's world of supplements, celebrity diets and social media, it's very easy to be hard on ourselves about the way we look. With all this pressure to strive for 'perfection' aesthetically, it is easy to forget how damaging this can be psychologically. Michelle Elman is a leading part of the body positivity movement that has been gathering momentum to liberate people from these unrealistic standards, recognise that all bodies are equally valuable and broaden the billboard definitions of beauty. Am I Ugly? is this inspiring woman's compelling and deeply personal memoir that describes her childhood experiences of life-threatening health problems, long stays in hospital and fifteen complex surgeries that left her scarred, both mentally and physically. The narrative follows Michelle's journey from illness to health, and from childhood to adulthood as she deals with her body-confidence issues to embrace both her scars and her body – and help others to do the same. This remarkable book grapples with the wider implications of Michelle's experiences and the complex interplay between beauty and illness.

2018 | View on Amazon

 
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Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life  by Kelsey Miller

At twenty-nine, Kelsey Miller had done it all: crash diets, healthy diets, and nutritionist-prescribed "eating plans," which are diets that you pay more money for. She'd been fighting her un-thin body since early childhood, and after a lifetime of failure, finally hit bottom. No diet could transform her body or her life. There was no shortcut to skinny salvation. She'd dug herself into this hole, and now it was time to climb out of it. With the help of an Intuitive Eating coach and fitness professionals, she learned how to eat based on her body's instincts and exercise sustainably, without obsessing over calories burned and thighs gapped. But, with each thrilling step toward a healthy future, she had to contend with the painful truths of her past.

2016 | View on Amazon

 
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Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin: Every Inch of It  by Brittany Gibbons

Brittany Gibbons has been a plus size her whole life. But instead of hiding herself in the shadows of thinner women, Brittany became a wildly popular blogger and national spokesmodel—known for stripping on stage at TedX and standing in Times Square in a bikini on national television, and making skinny people everywhere uncomfortable. Talking honestly about size and body image on her popular blog, brittanyherself.com, she has ignited a national conversation. Now in her first book, she shares hilarious and painfully true stories about her life as a weird overweight girl growing up in rural Ohio, struggling with dating and relationships, giving the middle finger to dieting, finding love with a man smaller than her, accidentally having three kids, and figuring out the secret to loving her curves and becoming a nationally recognized body image advocate. And there’s sex, lots of it!

2015 | View on Amazon

 
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Happy Fat: Taking Up Space in a World That Wants to Shrink You  by Sofie Hagen

In Happy Fat, comedian Sofie Hagen shares how she removed fatphobic influences from her daily life and found self-acceptance in a world where judgement and discrimination are rife. From shame and sex to airplane seats, love and getting stuck in public toilets, Sofie conquered a negative relationship with her body and provides practical tips for readers to do the same – drawing wisdom from other Fat Liberation champions along the way. Part-memoir, part-social commentary, Happy Fat is a funny, angry and impassioned look at how taking up space in a culture that is desperate to reduce you can be radical, emboldening and life-changing.

2019 | View on Amazon

 
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Heavy: An American Memoir  by Kiese Laymon

In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to time in New York as a college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. Heavy is a “gorgeous, gutting…generous” (The New York Times) memoir that combines personal stories with piercing intellect to reflect both on the strife of American society and on Laymon’s experiences with abuse. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, he asks us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free.

2018 | View on Amazon

 
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Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love, & Fashion  by Virgie Tovar

In this fun, fresh, fat-positive anthology, fat activist and sex educator Virgie Tovar brings together voices from an often-marginalized community to talk about and celebrate their lives. Hot & Heavy rejects the idea that being thin is best, instead embracing the many fabulous aspects of being fat - building fat-positive spaces, putting together fat-friendly wardrobes, turning society's rules into personal politics, and creating supportive, inclusive communities. Writers, activists, performers, and poets - including April Flores, Alysia Angel, Charlotte Cooper, Jessica Judd, Emily Anderson, Genne Murphy, and Tigress Osborn - cover everything from fat go-go dancing to queer dating to urban gardening in their essays, exploring their experiences with the word fat, pinpointing particular moments that have impacted the way they think and feel about their bodies, and telling the story of how they each became fat revolutionaries. 

2012 | View on Amazon

 
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Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself. With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

2017 | View on Amazon

 
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Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing  by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner is many things: a bestselling author, a Twitter phenomenon, and an “unlikely feminist enforcer” (The New Yorker). She’s also a mom, a daughter, and a sister, a clumsy yogini, and a reality-TV devotee. In this “unflinching look at her own experiences” (Entertainment Weekly), Jennifer fashions tales of modern-day womanhood as uproariously funny and moving as the best of Nora Ephron and Tina Fey. No subject is off-limits in these intimate and honest essays: sex, weight, envy, money, her mother’s coming out of the closet, her estranged father’s death. From lonely adolescence to hearing her six-year-old daughter say the F word—fat—for the first time, Jen dives into the heart of female experience, with the wit and candor that have endeared her to readers all over the world. 

2016 | View on Amazon

 
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I Do It With the Lights On: And 10 More Discoveries on the Road to a Blissfully Shame-Free Life  by Whitney Way Thore 

Whitney Way Thore stands five feet two inches tall and weighs well over three hundred pounds, and she is totally, completely, and truly . . . happy. But she wasn’t always the vivacious, confident woman you see on TV. Growing up as a dancer, Whitney felt the pressure to be thin, a desire that grew into an obsession as she got older. From developing an eating disorder as a teenager, to extreme weight gain in college, to her ongoing struggle with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), Whitney reveals her fight to overcome the darkest moments in her life. She holds nothing back, opening up about the depths of her depression as well as her resilience in the face of constant harassment and mistreatment. Now Whitney is on top of the world and taking no BS (Body Shame, of course). And she’s sharing the steps she took to get there and the powerful message behind her successful No Body Shame campaign. She even reveals her favorite “F” word (it’s probably not what you think), the thrill of doing it with the lights on, and the story behind the “Fat Girl Dancing” video that started it all.

2016 | View on Amazon

 
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It Was Me All Along  by Andie Mitchell

All her life, Andie Mitchell had eaten lustily and mindlessly. Food was her babysitter, her best friend, her confidant, and it provided a refuge from her fractured family. But when she stepped on the scale on her twentieth birthday and it registered a shocking 268 pounds, she knew she had to change the way she thought about food and herself; that her life was at stake. It Was Me All Along takes Andie from working class Boston to the romantic streets of Rome, from morbidly obese to half her size, from seeking comfort in anything that came cream-filled and two-to-a-pack to finding balance in exquisite (but modest) bowls of handmade pasta. This story is about much more than a woman who loves food and abhors her body. It is about someone who made changes when her situation seemed too far gone and how she discovered balance in an off-kilter world. More than anything, though, it is the story of her finding beauty in acceptance and learning to love all parts of herself.

2015 | View on Amazon

 
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Landwhale: On Turning Insults Into Nicknames, Why Body Image is Hard, and How Diets Can Kiss My Ass  by Jes Baker

In Landwhale, Jes Baker delves into her coming-of-age—including her 6 Ways to Hate Your Body (#2: Worship teen periodicals), her top tactics for reframing the malicious animal comparisons hurled at fat women repeatedly (see “Elephant: Everyone knows elephants are basically the coolest animals ever. Try again.”) and as a bonus, Jes takes the time to answer the Internet’s most pressing question of all time: “So, have you ever thought about dieting?” For anyone who grew up as a fat kid (or didn’t for that matter), who has traveled while fat, or who has simply lived in a fat body, Landwhale is a truthful and powerful account of the unforgiving ways our culture treats fatness and how to live happily and freely anyway.

2018 | View on Amazon

 
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Meaty  by Samantha Irby

Irby laughs her way through tragicomic mishaps, neuroses, and taboos as she struggles through adulthood: chin hairs, depression, bad sex, failed relationships, masturbation, taco feasts, inflammatory bowel disease and more. Updated with her favorite Instagramable, couch-friendly recipes, this much-beloved romp is treat for anyone in dire need of Irby's infamous, scathing wit and poignant candor.

2013 | View on Amazon

 
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My Life as a Goddess: A Memoir through (Un)popular Culture by Guy Branum

From a young age, Guy Branum always felt as if he were on the outside looking in. Self-taught, introspective, and from a stiflingly boring farm town, he couldn’t relate to his neighbors. While other boys played outside, he stayed indoors reading Greek mythology. And being gay and overweight, he got used to diminishing himself. But little by little, he started learning from all the sad, strange, lonely outcasts in history who had come before him, and he started to feel hope. In this collection of personal essays, Guy talks about finding a sense of belonging at Berkeley—and stirring up controversy in a newspaper column that led to a run‑in with the Secret Service. He recounts the pitfalls of being typecast as the “Sassy Gay Friend,” and how, after taking a wrong turn in life (i.e. law school), he found stand‑up comedy and artistic freedom. He analyzes society’s calculated deprivation of personhood from fat people, and how, though it’s taken him a while to accept who he is, he has learned that with a little patience and a lot of humor, self-acceptance is possible.

2018 | View on Amazon

 
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My Mad Fat Diary  by Rae Earl

 It's 1989 and Rae Earl is a fat, boy-mad 17-year-old girl, living in Stamford, Lincolnshire with her mum and their deaf white cat in a council house with a mint green bathroom and a refrigerator Rae can't keep away from. She’s also just been released from a psychiatric ward. My Mad Fat Diary is the hilarious, harrowing and touching real-life diary Rae kept during that fateful year and the basis of the hit British television series of the same name now coming to HULU. Surrounded by people like her constantly dieting mum, her beautiful frenemy Bethany, her mates from the private school up the road (called “Haddock”, “Battered Sausage” and “Fig”) and the handsome, unattainable boys Rae pines after (who sometimes end up with Bethany…), My Mad Fat Diary is the story of an overweight young woman just hoping to be loved at a time when slim pop singers ruled the charts. Rae's chronicle of her world will strike a chord with anyone who's ever been a confused, lonely teenager clashing with her parents, sometimes overeating, hating her body, always taking herself VERY seriously, never knowing how positively brilliant she is and keeping a diary to record it all. My Mad Fat Diary – 365 days with one of the wisest and funniest girls in England.

2016 | View on Amazon

 
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No Way! Okay, Fine: A Memoir of Pop Culture, Feminism and Feelings  by Brodie Lancaster 

From the small town in regional Australia where she was told that 'girls can't play the drums' to New York City and back again, Brodie has spent her life searching screens, books, music and magazines for bodies like hers, girls who loved each other, and women who didn't follow the silent instructions to shrink or hide that they've received since literal birth. This is the story of life as a young woman through the lenses of feminism and pop culture. Brodie's story will make you re-evaluate the power of pop culture in our lives - and maybe you will laugh and cry along the way.

2017 | View on Amazon

 
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On ne naît pas grosse (You're Not Born Fat)  by Gabrielle Deydier

You Are Not Born Fat is a powerful memoir that investigates both her own relation to obesity, as well as society’s view on overweight people. The result: an account of a life scarred by trauma and a report on how institutions – from schools, to companies, to hospitals – behave towards those who are obese. In a world in which the everyday confrontation with the mirror has become a torture for many, Gabrielle Deydier also examines the extreme violence of the surgical operations available for those who are overweight, such as gastric bypass or sleeve procedures, which often consist of removing a part of the stomach.

2017 | View on Amazon

 
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Shadow on a Tightrope: Writings by Women on Fat Oppression  by Lisa Schoenfielder and Barb Wieser

With a foreword by Vivian Mayer. SHADOW ON A TIGHTROPE is a collection of articles, personal stories, and poems by fat women, about their lives and the fat- hating society in which they live. Topics include: exposing the myths concerning fat; what it's like to grow up fat; a description of the medical crimes committed against fat women; stories of the daily hassles, verbal and physical harassment in the lives of fat women; inaccessibility to clothing, jobs, and public places for exercise and sports; effects on the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual selves of fat women living in a society that hates them, and how they have learned to survive. This anthology also collects material previously distributed separately by Fat Liberator Publications, plus many new writings solicited over the past two years from women all around the country.

1983 | View on Amazon

 
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Shrill by Lindy West

Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible--like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you--writer and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered that she was anything but.

From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.

With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss, and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.

2016 | View on Amazon

 
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So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y'all Don't Even Know  by Retta

In So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y'all Don't Even Know, Parks and Recreation star Retta takes us on her not-so-meteoric rise from roaches to riches (well, rich enough that she can buy $15,000 designer handbags yet scared enough to know she's always a heartbeat away from ramen with American cheese). Throwing her hardworking Liberian parents through a loop, Retta abandons her plan to attend med school after graduating Duke University to move to Hollywood to star in her own sitcom - like her comedy heroes Lucille Ball and Roseanne. Say what? Word. Turns out Retta might actually be on to something. After winning Comedy Central's stand-up competition, she should be ready for prime time - but a fear of success derails her biggest dream.

2018 | View on Amazon

 
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The Clothes Make the Girl (Look Fat)?: Adventures and Agonies in Fashion by Brittany Gibbons

Everyone has those days where they hate their body, they hate their clothes, but self-confidence and strength can come from a great outfit. Brittany is determined to help women, curvy and otherwise, embrace fashion and all the bumps and lumps that come with it. An "overdue love letter" to her body, Brittany delves into the hilarity and the humility of her quest to find her own personal style—to break out of a rut of maternity underwear and men’s undershirts once and for all. From wardrobe malfunctions, to fashion advice, to mom bodies and the perfect pose, The Clothes Make the Girl (Look Fat)? is the empowered battle cry all women deserve.

2017 | View on Amazon

 
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This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare  by Gabourey Sidibi

In This Is Just My Face, Gabourey Sidibe—the “gives-zero-effs queen of Hollywood AND perceptive best friend in your head” (Lena Dunham)—paints her unconventional rise to fame with full-throttle honesty. Sidibe tells engrossing, inspiring stories about her Bed-Stuy/Harlem/Senegalese family life with a polygamous father and a gifted mother who supports her two children by singing in the subway, her first job as a phone sex “talker,” and her Oscar-nominated role in Lee Daniels’s Precious. Sidibe’s memoir hits hard with self-knowing dispatches on friendship, celebrity, weight, haters, fashion, race, and depression (“Sidibe’s heartfelt exploration of insecurity . . . makes us love her” —O Magazine). Irreverent, hilarious, and untraditional, This Is Just My Face will resonate with anyone who has ever felt different, and with anyone who has ever felt inspired to make a dream come true.

2018 | View on Amazon

 
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This Is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today  by Chrissy Metz

When This Is Us debuted in fall 2016, a divided America embraced a show that celebrates human connection. The critically acclaimed series became America’s most watched—and most talked about—network show, even building on its fan base in the drama’s second season. As Kate Pearson, Chrissy Metz presents a character that has never been seen on television, yet viewers see themselves in her, no matter what they look like or where they come from. Considered a role model just for being her authentic self, Chrissy found herself on magazine covers and talk shows, walking red carpets, and as the subject of endless conversations on social media “I don’t know what you’ve been through to play her,” she is often told by fans, “but it was something.” In This is Me, Chrissy Metz shares her story with a raw honesty that will leave readers both surprised but also inspired. Infused with the same authenticity she brings to her starring role, Chrissy’s This is Me is so much more than your standard Hollywood memoir or collection of personal essays. She embraces the spirit of Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes, and shares how she has applied the lessons she learned from both setbacks and successes. A born entertainer, Chrissy finds light in even her darkest moments, and leaves the reader feeling they are spending time with a friend who gets it.

2018 | View on Amazon

 
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Wake Up, I'm Fat! by Camryn Manheim

Camryn Manheim, Emmy Award-winning costar of The Practice, chronicles her journey from a self-hating, "overweight" teenager, who desperately wanted to fit in, to a self-loving, fat activist who is proud to be a misfit. Wake Up, I'm Fat! shares her intelligent, candid, poignant, and often hilarious stories of being fat in a society obsessed with being thin. Camryn takes us from her days as a motorcycle-riding hippie in Santa Cruz to her enrollment at New York University's prestigious school of drama--where Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner broke the unspoken theater rules of size by casting her in the role of the ingenue--and finally to Hollywood, where she dispelled the fallacy that large women can't be portrayed as sensual, sophisticated, and confident.

2000 | View on Amazon

 
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We Are Never Meeting in Real Life  by Samantha Irby

Sometimes you just have to laugh, even when life is a dumpster fire. With We Are Never Meeting in Real Life., “bitches gotta eat” blogger and comedian Samantha Irby turns the serio-comic essay into an art form. Whether talking about how her difficult childhood has led to a problem in making “adult” budgets, explaining why she should be the new Bachelorette—she's "35-ish, but could easily pass for 60-something"—detailing a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father's ashes, sharing awkward sexual encounters, or dispensing advice on how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban moms—hang in there for the Costco loot—she’s as deft at poking fun at the ghosts of her past self as she is at capturing powerful emotional truths.

2017 | View on Amazon

 
 
 
 
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About the Author

Meaghan O'Riordan is the Accessioning Archivist for the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives & Rare Book Library at Emory University. She holds bachelor's degrees in creative writing and religious studies, as well as a Masters in Library Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Theological Studies from Candler School of Theology at Emory and is writing her thesis on how the body positive movement functions as religion. Meaghan writes for AllGo because she believes it will have a big impact on people’s lived experience.