13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

Thoughts 13wolaafgbyma by Mona Awad, Penguin 2016, 212 pages



Challenge: What’s in a Name Challenge: Number # in Title
Genre: Adult Lit / Linked Short Stories
Type/Source: Tradeback / Library
 Why I read this now: Longlisted but not shortlisted for the TOB

MOTIVATION for READING: This was one of two books on the TOB Long List that would satisfy any categories in other reading challenges I am participating in this year. And it was available at the library. The Nix is the other – hopefully getting to that soon. 

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Our protog is the only child of a fat mom and a dad that split. She survives high school, somehow graduates college after trying every degree option available, cultivates interests that easily spark online conversations, meets men online, arranges to meet one of them and THROW THE ROSE PETALS! they fall in love. She has such a low self esteem that she somehow manages to lose weight to fit the ideal of what she thinks her new man –> fiancé –> husband deserves (not sure if deserves is the right word here) but now she no longer has any shared interests with her man; they have nothing in common anymore and eventually they split up.

It’s all about situations and relationships skewed by her physicalness and what she thinks it is, what it means. Maybe?

WHAT’s GOOD: It’s so sad.

What’s NOT so good: The self-loathing is so very sad.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Not my cup of tea. The writing was fine.

RATING: Three slices of pie.

I meant to count how many stories were in this book to see if there were thirteen. That would makes sense, right? But I returned it to the library before I remembered. So I got to thinking, what IS this preoccupation with “13 Ways to Look” at stuff? Quite a few books with this title beginning. And THEN! I recalled there is a poem, a famous poem (doh!) which I just now took the opportunity to go read: Wallace Stevens’ Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. I didn’t get that, either.

Now I can’t get the Beatles Blackbird song out of my head. “Blackbird singing in the dead of night…” At least it is a pretty song. I think I’ll go look up the lyrics and count that for my Poetry 100 Challenge, too.

But before I chase off to go do that! A thought interrupts my task with this:

Sing a song of sixpence – AKA blackbirds in a pie
Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king?
The king was in his counting house counting out his money
The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey
The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!

PIE!  (But I prefer the Beatles song, don’t you?!)


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23 thoughts on “13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

    1. Thank you! Perhaps I have been reading too fast, I need to be able to relax into books rather than rush through them. But I still found this book sad and a reminder of how hard it is to see ourselves clearly and to somehow stop the bad thoughts from constantly recirculating.

      1. Also, I’m guessing that you’ve never been fat. You’re probably the woman who can eat scones with cream and jam. It is a sad story, but the narrative is angry. It’s easier to see this when you struggle with the issues in real life.

        1. I think I have the tendency to experience some of these feelings but not necessarily around body image, just self-image. Maybe it actually struck too close to home in some ways.

  1. Ah thank you for pointing out the poem. I didn’t get the title either. Not that I’ve read the book but that probably would have bugged me and I would have been counting the stories. I’m curious about this one and might check it out.

  2. I think I might enjoy this book. Sounds like something I’d like. However I now have the Beatles blackbird song in my head. Love that song. I need to leave now as it is time I put that song in somebody else’s head. lol

  3. buriedinprint

    Not to suggest that the story isn’t about weight and body image and objectification and a whole bunch of stuff that revolves around physicality, because it obviously is about all of those things, but I think what makes the book so powerful (and, yes, so sad!) is that it is also about our relationship with our own self, and how fragmented and disjointed that can be when our ideas about who we are on the inside don’t seem to match with the way that other people see us or, maybe even sadder, the way that we imagine that other people see us (whether they do or don’t see us that way), and how damn lonely that is. It’s a hard book to read, but I think she managed the story very well.

  4. litandlife

    As a fat girl, I had a lot of problems with this book. It seemed to be saying to me that once I got fat, I could never be happy again. I refuse to buy into that.

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