In books, the rise of the overweight heroine

I'm sitting here on this side of the pond and I've got to admit that this is the first I've heard of it. But according to the Guardian, it's the "latest publishing phenomenon to sweep America," books starring a "new heroine: the young woman who is seriously overweight – and doesn't care."

Really? I must confess that I don't find evidence of the trend entirely convincing – at least not here in the US. Most of the books cited seem to be British titles which have yet to find their way to US bookshelves (such as "The Pi**ssed Off Parents Club" by Mink Elliott and "Love Nest" by Julia Llewellyn). The Guardian claims, however, that, "A slew of books in which the protagonist is not just 'curvy' or 'voluptuous' but is actually 'fat' are about to hit the bookshops."

In Britain there's already a name. They're calling the new genre "bigger chick lit."

Maybe. But of course if these books are only just now "about to hit" US bookshops, we don't know yet whether or not they will find an audience here.

However, despite such disclaimers, there is much in the Guardian piece that's interesting. "Chick lit is finally holding a real mirror up to its readers, and they can't get enough of it," Elliott told the Guardian. "In this brave new 'chick lit' world, women realise that weight loss and dieting isn't the way to happiness," added one editor.

It would be lovely to believe that it were so. And of course, who didn't breathe a sigh of relief at making the acquaintance of Precious Ramotswe, beloved heroine of Alexander McCall Smith's "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" and discovering that a woman of "traditional build" could be a star? (And then of course there was the added bonus of seeing Jill Scott's radiant portrayal of  her in the HBO miniseries.)

It is certainly an odd thing that in an era in which we pay so much lip service to the value of "diversity," we still seem to have such a horror of a diverse range of figures.  So maybe the rise of the overweight heroine is a triumph indeed. But I must admit that the day I'm looking forward to is the one in which we don't have to talk about figure size at all.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor’s book editor. You can follow her on Twitter at

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