Peanut Butter and Chocolate: My Plus-Sized Heroine Kicks Ass
By Skye Allen
"Fat and pretty go together like peanut butter and chocolate." – Nomy LammThe way Josy looked was obvious to me right away. I started writing my YA novel Pretty Peg for NaNoWriMo in 2008, and as soon as Josy, the main character, waltzed onto the page she was fully formed: 17 years old, just over 5 feet tall, with the enviable kind of complexion you get from being part Scottish, part French Canadian, and a small part Lakota. She had shiny dark hair with hot-pink highlights. She was dressed in one of her custom Frankengowns, a mashup of vintage t-shirts and cute print fabric. And she weighed over 200 pounds.
I didn't set out to write a fantasy novel with a plus-sized heroine. That is, I didn't have an agenda to create a female lead who would look more like my audience and less like a starved Hollywood actor, or to prove that fat is beautiful, or anything like that. Sure, I believe those things, but writing that's driven by an agenda usually ends up feeling preachy, and I just wanted to write a good story.
But I loved Josy from the second I met her, and who was I to try to cram her into a mold that would never fit? She was smart and snarky and resourceful. She had the tools for the job I needed her to do. Which was not to sit home worrying that no one would ever love her because she was fat. It was to have a dangerous adventure through the Faerie Realm and confront some horrifying truths and fall in love with someone who thought she was smokin’ hot and save her family. You know. To be a hero.
That said, it's past time for us to start seeing more women on the page who are shaped like real women. Readers deserve to see themselves reflected in what they read. And in what they see in movies and on TV and in magazines. Emily Coccia asks the classic question “Why Is Fat A Feminist Issue?” on the blog Feminists-At-Large, and her answer is both personal and universal: the “fat issue” as it is presented in the media today is not really about health; it’s about society’s expectations for women. How we should look. How freaked out we should be about the countdown to bikini season.
And trying to be thin is killing us. According to dosomething.org, "Approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape." I know dieting is not the same as anorexia or bulimia, but eating disorders are mostly driven by body image concerns. The positive body-image website beautyredefined.net reports that “In the U.S., 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a life-threatening eating disorder during their lives.” Twenty million women.
As a YA writer, I feel good about the choice I’ve made not to participate in that particular aspect of human misery.
As someone who works with teenage girls, I know firsthand that the issue of body image can be life-or-death. Anything I can do to convince those girls how beautiful they are without even trying, I’m going to do.
And as a human being, I can’t believe my luck that there’s such a grand spectrum of beautiful bodies out there to appreciate.
About Skye Allen:
Skye Allen has had short fiction published in Toasted Cheese Literary Journal and Of Dragons and Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds and poetry in Insomnia and Sinister Wisdom. She works as a singing teacher and occasionally performs Irish music around the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her wife, two cats, and four chickens. Pretty Peg is her first novel.
(a Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title)
Author: Skye Allen
Cover Artist: Nathie
Buy: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
Blurb: High school senior Josy Grant already had plenty on her plate before she found the magic puppet theater her murdered sister left behind. Despite Josy’s grief, the responsibility of taking care of her family falls to her, and being queer doesn’t make dealing with school any easier. Things only get worse when sexy new girl Nicky tells Josy her sister died at the hands of a mysterious figure from the Faerie Realm called the Woodcutter, and if they can’t stop him, Josy and her remaining sister will be next.
They have just days before the Woodcutter strikes again on the autumn equinox, so Josy follows Nicky into the Faerie Realm to hunt him. Along the way, she discovers Fey gifts of her own and answers to the questions that have driven the Grant family apart. Nothing comes for free when dealing with Fey, though, and those gifts and answers might come at a terrible price.
You can buy Pretty Peg at Amazon and Dreamspinner Press