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.
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