Claire Fallon

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Evette Dionne’s anticipated second release after her celebrated children’s nonfiction book, Lifting as We Climb, is a bracing essay collection on the dangers of fatphobia and her personal resistance to its claims. The former editor-in-chief of Bitch magazine braids the personal with the political in Weightless: Making Space for My Resilient Body and Soul, breaking down society’s deep-seated beliefs about fat people and setting new standards that allow her to thrive as she is.

Dionne takes up a variety of interconnected themes, such as the meaningful representation of fat women in media and equitable access to spaces that are meant for all of us. She writes about her first experiences of ostracization as she struggled with agoraphobia as an adolescent—which was also one of the first moments her decision-making agency was challenged in a medical setting. Despite her parents’ support, Dionne was met by doctors with indifference and even hostility, a pattern that reached its nadir when a doctor failed to promptly diagnose her heart failure, pointing instead to her size as the issue. These personal encounters with fatphobia are part of a continuum of discrimination that Dionne locates in pop culture, as well—from people’s obsession with celebrities’ weight to the preoccupation with policing fat bodies in shows like “My 600-Lb. Life.”

Dionne incorporates extensive research into Weightless, from the economic underpinnings of Reagan-era reductions to well-balanced free lunch programs and medical professionals’ widely held biases. All of these topics point to one sobering fact: Profound disgust toward fat people in American society circumscribes their lives in potentially lethal ways. However, despite these grave threats, Dionne is not hopeless. In fact, Weightless is a testament to resilience and an offering of realistic optimism. In the essay “I Want a Love Like Khadijah James,” Dionne remembers the first time she saw a woman whose body looked like hers on television: Queen Latifah as Khadijah James on “Living Single.” This feeling of being recognized lit Dionne’s world with the bright glow of possibility, and it has continued to transform her understanding of what her life could look like if she settles for nothing less than what she deserves, whether in terms of medical care, romantic relationships or professional endeavors.

Dionne writes, “I never thought I could do better because I rarely saw a fat Black woman modeling that reality for me.” With Weightless, Dionne is the model she so desperately needed, and one that other fat girls and women deserve. Her assertion of liberation for fat people brings us one important step closer to achieving it.

Evette Dionne braids the personal with the political in Weightless, breaking down society’s beliefs about fat people and advocating for new standards that allow them to thrive.
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Alice Wong’s memoir is a moving addition to her celebrated body of work as an activist, community organizer, media maker and editor of the 2020 anthology Disability Visibility. In Year of the Tiger, Wong creates a collage of blog posts, artworks, interviews and other ephemera with disability at its center, seasoned generously with her quick wit and fierce calls to action. 

Wong emphasizes connection with others as a generative, necessary force in her life, and she incorporates a chorus of voices in these fragments to illuminate the experiences of people who are constantly confronted with a world built without disabled people in mind. In seven thematically distinct sections, Wong collects conversations with artists, activists and thinkers, each offering new perspectives and delights. She chats with W. Kamau Bell about disability representation in the 1999 film The Bone Collector and riffs on reframing ideas of beauty and attraction with the artist and author Riva Lehrer. Though they are often brief, these dialogues and excerpts come together into a kaleidoscopic image of Wong’s life, illuminated by her revolutionary ideas of interdependence and care. Access is love, she says, and love for the disabled community resounds throughout.

Wong’s thoughtful use of multimedia elements—cheeky cat-themed graphics, photographs from her Indiana childhood and a clever crossword puzzle, to name a few—adds playfulness and dimension to Year of the Tiger. She maintains the compelling conviction that pleasure and joy are crucial to activism and liberation, and these offerings demonstrate that belief. They also imbue the book with the scrappy spirit of zine-making, and others looking for creative encouragement will certainly find it here. 

In “No to Normal,” Wong writes, “Every day I experience the very real distance between myself and the nondisabled world, which, by the way, is the default we all exist in,” and this notion is the undercurrent that moves through the entire book. As this stylish memoir demonstrates, each person, disabled or not, can demand more from a world that is largely built without access in mind. Wong wants better for us all, and she will stop at nothing to get there.

In Year of the Tiger, Alice Wong creates a collage of blog posts, artworks and interviews about disability, seasoned generously with her quick wit and fierce calls to action.

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