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Tales on the Plus-Side

Having come from a plus-size family and being plus-size myself, I have always carried shame about my size. Then, some ten years ago, I began to see actual stylish clothes offered to fit me. I found stores like Torrid and Loft Plus. I began to like how I looked in clothes. Seeing yourself represented in media and popular culture really does have a positive impact. I fell in love with Sookie St. James on The Gilmore Girls. I wished I had the nerves of Tastee on Orange is the New Black. Moreover, I will watch all of Parks and Rec over and again just to see Donna/Retta (now to be seen streaming in Good Girls). These characters are smart, funny and have normal lives (okay, not so much Ruby from Good Girls).

In my reading life, I never really picture the hero as plus-size. It has never really bothered me but I know I have read plenty of size-shaming books – ones where the plus-size character is a slob or seen as “less than”. The first positive portrayal of a curvy character I remember reading was Mma Precious Ramotswe in Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Precious had it all: a thriving private detective business, a love interest and a great sense of adventure. Although authors are making progress, but like with other marginalized communities, this segment of the population is woefully underserved. However, according to bookriot.com, “More fat representation in romance doesn’t always mean greater fat acceptance.” A lot of this type of fiction makes the fat hero’s insecurity the central focus of the book.

We need to show marginalized population leading everyday lives and placing them in successful romantic situations is a start. Below I have selected some great new fiction that should delight and inspire readers. I hope that reading these books will make us more aware of representation and acceptance in our fictional characters!

Bet me / Jennifer Crusie.  Minerva Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man who asked her to dinner to win a bet, even if he is gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again. But fate has other plans, and it's not long before Min and Cal meet again. Soon they're dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Chicken Marsala, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of. Including the biggest gamble of all---true love. 

Dietland / Sarai Walker. Plum Kettle does her best not to be noticed, because when you're fat, to be noticed is to be judged. With her job answering fan mail for a teen magazine, she is biding her time until her weight-loss surgery. But when a mysterious woman in colorful tights and combat boots begins following her, Plum falls down a rabbit hole into the world of Calliope House -- an underground community of women who reject society's rules -- and is forced to confront the real costs of becoming "beautiful." At the same time, a guerilla group begins terrorizing a world that mistreats women, and Plum becomes entangled in a sinister plot. The consequences are explosive.

Get a life, Chloe Brown : a novel / Talia Hibbert. Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s determined to spice up her life and finally fit in with her glamorous family. Her “Get a Life” list has six directives, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her family’s mansion. But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Jemima J. : a novel about ugly ducklings and swans / Jane Green. Jemima Jones is overweight. About 98 pounds overweight. Treated like a maid by her thin social-climbing roommates, and lorded over by the beautiful Geraldine (less talented but better paid) at the Kilburn Herald, Jemima's only consolation is food. Add to this her passion for her charming, sexy, and unobtainable colleague Ben, and Jemima knows her life is in need of a serious change. When she meets Brad, an eligible California hunk, over the Internet, Jemima has the perfect opportunity to reinvent herself--as JJ, the slim, beautiful, gym-obsessed glamour girl of her dreams. But when her long-distance Romeo demands that they meet, she must conquer her food addiction to become the bone-thin model of her e-mails-- no small feat.

One to watch : a novel / Kate Stayman-London. Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers--and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

The perfect dress / Carolyn Brown. In the small town of Celeste, Texas, Mitzi Taylor has never quite fit inside the lines. Nearly six feet tall, flame-haired, and with a plus-size spirit to match every curve, she's found her niche: a custom wedding-dress boutique catering to big brides-to-be with big dreams. Taking the plunge alongside her two best friends, she's proud they've turned The Perfect Dress into a perfect success.

Spoiler alert : a novel / Olivia Dade. Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. While the world knows him as Aeneas, the star of the biggest show on TV, Gods of the Gates, he's known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever, an anonymous and popular poster. Marcus is able to get out his own frustrations with his character through his stories, especially the ones that feature the internet's favorite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone ever found out about his online persona, he'd be fired. Immediately. April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she's hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby from her "real life" for years--but not anymore. When she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral. Trolls and supporters alike are commenting on her plus-size take, but when Marcus, one half of her OTP, sees her pic and asks her out on a date to spite her critics, she realizes life is really stranger than fanfiction.

The wife's tale : a novel / by Lori Lansens. On the eve of their Silver Anniversary, Mary Gooch is waiting for her husband Jimmy--still every inch the handsome star athlete he was in high school--to come home. As night turns to day, it becomes frighteningly clear to Mary that he is gone. Through the years, disappointment and worry have brought Mary's life to a standstill, and she has let her universe shrink to the well-worn path from the bedroom to the refrigerator. But her husband's disappearance startles her out of her inertia, and she begins a desperate search. For the first time in her life, she boards a plane and flies across the country to find her lost husband. So used to hiding from the world, Mary finds that in the bright sun and broad vistas of California, she is forced to look up from the pavement. And what she finds fills her with inner strength she's never felt before. Through it all, Mary not only finds kindred spirits, but reunites with a more intimate stranger no longer sequestered by fear and habit: herself.

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