Sofie Hagen is a comedian, writer, and podcaster who wants to reclaim the word ‘fat’. Her debut book is part memoir, part social commentary on how society seeks to make us smaller. Drawing on her own experiences as a child and as an adult, and on the experiences of other fat activists and educators, Sofie builds an empowering book full of comical and sometimes moving anecdotes which show the reader that it is okay to be both happy and fat.
“Daddy, is there a monster under my bed?
Yes, actually, and he is holding a Slimming World brochure.”
I’m a fan of Sofie Hagen’s comedy so I knew I would enjoy the humorous aspect of the book but I hadn’t expected this to be so educational. There was no assumption that the reader understood particular terms, and Sofie took the time to explain phrases such as ‘male gaze’ and ‘straightsized’. Everything Sofie says about health is backed up by studies and statistics, and she uses these to debunk common beliefs about fatness that have been perpetuated by the media’s irresponsible interpretations of figures. There was also some discussion of the history of the Fat Liberation movement and the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), both of which I had no knowledge of. The Fat Liberation Manifesto, which was written 45 years ago, is included at the end of the book along with further recommended reading so that the reader can continue to learn more about fat acceptance.
The interviews with other fat activists from different backgrounds and identities offered a broader experience which was really interesting and educational. I particularly enjoyed the interview with Kivan Bay, as he described the ways in which fatphobia can impact being trans, and the interview with Dina Amlund in which she discusses historical fatphobia. There are also interviews with Stephanie Yeboah aka Nerd About Town, a black fat style blogger, and Matilda Ibini, a black playwright and screenwriter who uses a wheelchair. These interviews were incredibly enlightening and illustrated the way fatness intersects with other identities and experiences.
I’ve been plus-sized for the majority of my adult (and teen) life. I’m what Sofie terms ‘smallfat’; a term I was vaguely aware of prior to reading this book. There was a lot in this book that I could relate to, but also plenty that, being at the smaller end of plus size, I hadn’t encountered and had never had to think about. It definitely opened my eyes to the day-to-day experiences of those bigger than me and how I can be more mindful of those.
Happy Fat is an excellent commentary on our culture’s obsession with body image, infused with Sofie Hagen’s awareness and wit, that has made me more confident in my own self and more aware of others’ experiences of fatness.
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
*I received a free e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*