october tbr

book of the month

These are books from both past and current BOTM boxes that I need to read:

  • The Invisible Life of Addie Larue – V. E. Schwab
  • A Deadly Education – Naomi Novick
  • Bringing Down the Duke – Evie Dunmore
  • Practical Magic – Alice Hoffman
  • Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

october releases

  • Beyond the Ruby Veil – Mara Fitzgerald (Oct. 13)
  • Plain Bad Heroines – Emily M. Danforth (Oct. 20)
  • The Once and Future Witches – Alix E. Harrow (Oct. 13)
  • This is All Your Fault – Amina Mae Safi (Oct. 13)

from previous months

  • The Scapegracers – Hannah Abigail Clarke
  • Surrender Your Sons – Adam Sass
  • Girl, Serpent, Thorn – Melissa Bashardoust
  • Legendborn – Tracy Deonn
  • You Should See Me in a Crown – Leah Johsnon
  • Cemetery Boys – Aiden Thomas
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october goals & good readance wrap up

Hello friends, and welcome to the most glorious month, aka OCTOBER! October is a month I always get excited for because it means it’s definitely fall, my favorite season, and when I’m at peak witchiness. Hopefully, that will be good motivation to actually meet my goals this month. So, without further ado, let’s recap my September goals & Good Readance tasks:

good readance wrap up

Here was what I hoped to accomplish for Good Readance at the start of the event:

  • Cull my books owned shelf. !! I did this, but tbh I’m probably going to put a lot back. I like owning books.
  • Remove tags by year on GR. !! I did this.
  • Update my ratings. !! Did this.
  • Make a professional GR account. !! I did this but…I don’t know if I’m actually going to use it or keep it. I might want to keep a written record of books I read for work/professional development.
  • Delete my eARCs shelves on GR. !! Did this, but honestly, I think it was helpful to have even though I didn’t always update it.
  • Create a catalog/database of eARCs. X! Started doing this on Notion. I have done my eARCs for 2020.
  • Delete all eARCs from before 2019. ?? I can’t remember if I did this. I did a few books, but can’t remember why or from what year.
  • Delete titles I don’t remember the author, title, or plot. X! Kind of started doing this.

september goals

  • Read 4-5 September releases. !! YES I killed this goal.
  • Drink less Diet Coke. !X um…I had less than normal during the weeks I worked so…does that count?
  • Try to reconnect with witchcraft. !! I did try to do this, but I think I’m still feeling disconnected because my tarot readings are all over the place.
  • Celebrate Mabon. !! I did this! I cleansed my tarot deck and tried to start redoing my digital grimoire on Notion.

october goals

  • Make time to do one relaxing thing per day. I took a webinar on Covid-related stress and anxiety, and one thing that the presenters suggested was taking time out of every day to schedule in something that you know calms you. I plan to make a list of things that relax me and make some kind of tracker to make sure I stick to this goal.
  • Read more picture books and MG. I want to do this both for my current job and to further my future career in publishing. I have been reading a lot more of those genres this year, but during lockdown that project fell to the wayside so I need to pick it back up again.
  • Read 3-4 October releases. I’m going to be posting my October TBR, which will include books actually being released this month, so I hope to read 3-4+ of these books because I felt super proud of myself last month for actually reading new releases on time.
  • Read Mexican Gothic!!! Lol @ me for making reading this book its own goal. I keep meaning to read it AND I got it as an add-on book with Book of the Month last month, so I really need to read it.
  • Celebrate Samhain. AKA the best witch holiday. This Samhain, I’m hoping I’ll actually be off to celebrate, which means a WHOLE DAY of witchy things are ahead!!
  • Participate in Dewey’s 24-hr readathon! I tried to participate in the summer reverseathon but only got a couple hours in. To be honest, I prefer the normal readathons in October and April and am very pumped. They’re also doing pre-readathon challenges this year that I hope to participate in, so expect a TBR post for those and the readathon soon!
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september rewind \\ it lasted a minute

Wow, um…where did September go? Most months during the pandemic have gone by at a snail’s pace but for some reason August and September went by in a snap. Let’s take a look at what I did and read during September.

books read

1. Who I Was With Her – Nita Tyndall
2. Charming as a Verb – Ben Philippe
3. Horrid – Katrina Leno
4. Early Departures – Justin A. Reynolds
5. One to Watch – Kate Stayman-London
6. The Summer of Everything – Julian Winters
7. Head Over Heels – Hannah Orenstein

Honestly, I’m super impressed with my reading in September. Other than July, where I read 9 books, this is my best reading month in 2020 so far. I’m also impressed because unlike in July, my reads were all regular novels instead of graphic novels, which usually take me much longer to read than a graphic novel.

My favorite book was definitely Charming as a Verb, which featured a low-key con involving dogs, a feisty female love interest, and a wonderfully flawed but ultimately soft hero. I loved this book so much and am definitely going to be recommending it to everyone I know.

My least favorite book was probably Who I Was With Her by Nita Tyndall. This book would for sure appeal to some readers, but for me, the way the narrative about coming out was written just hit me the wrong way, especially after all the Becky Albertalli stuff. It just didn’t make sense to me that the MC’s secret girlfriend was pressuring her to come out so much when she had just figured out she was bi. I think the pressure to come out has to be handled really carefully in books, and this one just hit wrong.

book haul

Book of the Month books:
1. Mexican Gothic – Sylvia Moreno-Garcia
2. Bringing Down the Duke – Evie Dunmore
3. One to Watch – Kate Stayman-London

NetGalley:
4. With You All the Way – Cynthia Hand
5. The Key to You and Me – Jaye Robin Brown

Edelweiss:
6. House of Hollow – Krystal Sutherland
7. The Dark Tide – Alicia Jasinka
8. A Taste for Love – Jennifer Yu
9. The Wide Starlight – Nicole Lesperance

I hauled a lot of great books this month. The one I’m most excited for is Krystal Sutherland’s House of Hollow, a mystery about two odd girls who went missing as children and returned a few months later. I’m actually also pretty pumped for The Wide Starlight, which I hadn’t heard about before but was comped to THE HAZEL WOOD and THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER, so I’m expecting both magic and a lot of emotions.

life updates

Nothing really happened this month of note. We added a Saturday schedule at the library, threw around a possible reopening date, seem to have forgotten the possible reopening date, and patrons were…patrons. The most exciting thing that happened was that book Twitter discovered Notion, a digital planning/note-taking app, that I knew about and had been using for my digital grimoire but had no concept of how to use, and am now going to be using forever because its so efficient and pretty. I also hit 400 followers on Twitter, which I am very proud of.

blogging

Here are some of my favorite posts from this blog from the past month:

  • I recommended books to read with autumn colors
  • I discussed why I don’t feel represented by portrayals of fat characters
  • I gushed about why you should read CHARMING AS A VERB
  • I reviewed WHO I WAS WITH HER
  • I talked about reconnecting with witchcraft

Here are my favorite posts from around the blogosphere from September:

  • Cande wrote about why they use the term Latinx
  • Clo discussed how her formatting system has changed
  • Sumedha interviewed me for her series Blogletters and wrote about why she doesn’t like comment back culture
  • Veronika recommended books with yearning
  • Tasya hyped some of her anticipated 2021 releases
  • Liv made a mood board for the FURIA blog tour, effectively adding it to my TBR
  • Caro spotlighted three amazing books
  • Fadwa discussed how the #ownvoices label has lost its way
  • Sofia highlighted upcoming books by Latinx authors
  • Tracy wrote about how to have a healthier relationship with reading

How was your September? Tell me all about it!

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one to skip // one to watch review

Title: One to Watch
Author: Kate Stayman-London
Date Published: July 7, 2020
Pages: 432
CW: fat shaming (some challenged), cheating

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?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition–under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful anti-fat beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, razor-sharp debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men–and herself–for a chance to live happily ever after. 

I really wanted to like this book. It had all the makings of a Mel book, complete with body positivity and reality tv, which I am definitely a sucker for no matter how I try to watch other types of shows, and I was honestly really interested to see how this story played out.

I feel weird about rating this book because while it held my interest and I was entertained while reading, I also had MANY issues with it and it is objectively not a good book for a lot of reasons. I think my problems with this book stem from two issues, the formatting and the fact that it was almost TOO realistic.

I read this book expecting a fantasy. I thought the point of the book was to give a fat protagonist the fantasy romance that eludes fat people in real life reality shows and show a fat person being ridiculously happy and in love. Unfortunately, what I got was…not that. This book was too realistic to the point where everything was predictable because everything happened in the book the way it would in real life. This included extreme amounts of fatphobia, both in the scenes with Bea on the show and in the articles and online comments shown in the “between” sections. I was of course expecting some amounts of this, but there was so much that it was almost triggering for me and took away from what I think the story could have been.

I also grew annoyed with Bea’s responses to the fatphobia. She always had the “right” response and was able to deliver it despite probably being very upset by it, but it made her seem like a wall and not a real character. Her whole character was based around her supposed confidence, but outside of her confidence, I found her to be a relatively cold character. Her confident responses to people demeaning and belittling her on a show that was supposed to center around her happiness seemed manufactured and there just to prove a point to the reader.

I was also not a fan of the “romance” between Bea and Ray that kind of sets off her whole romantic journey. First of all, he’s engaged to be married, but has a relationship with her anyway, and at the time, Bea seems to see no problem with this because she thinks they’re meant to be together, which made me not like her that much at first. Pining after an engaged man and doing things she shouldn’t with an engaged man did not seem like a particularly attractive quality that should’ve been the first time we see her in a romantic relationship. The whole thing made me really uncomfortable and I feel like there weren’t consequences for Ray’s behavior.

Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was much actual “romance” in the book at all. Bea even goes into the show agreeing to it only if she can break up with the “winner” a few weeks after the show. I went into this book expecting romance, but Bea is so cold to the guys on the show for most of the book that it’s hard to root for her or for any of the romances in particular. I think the formatting of the book also made the romances suffer, because we saw the romances happen through the eyes of the viewer of the show she was on, so we didn’t get to hear a lot of her inner thoughts about the guys or feel much chemistry. Really, I didn’t feel she had chemistry with any of the men, and I wish she had gone into the show wanting romance instead of trying to kill it at every turn, because it made for a boring book with low stakes.

Obviously, I knew going into the book that it was centered around a reality show, but the way the book was written was too much like reading a script or long episode guide rather than a book. I kind of wonder if the author went into writing this book expecting it to be made into a show, because it had much more of a cinematic feel than literary feel. Writing the book this way made it harder to get to know the characters and made it almost exclusively plot driven. I also really didn’t need all the articles and online chatter about the show between episodes, because all of those things were written exactly how they would be in real life, which took away what I thought would be the fantasy element of the book and didn’t add to the story in any way.

To be honest, I simply did not need a whole book to prove that fat people deserve love too at the end of the day, which seemed to be the message of this book even though it didn’t even quite deliver on that. This book seemed to be written for skinny people who needed to have that proved to them in a realistic way (hence all the fat shaming and online vitriol), instead of a truly body positive, fantasy romance that I was expecting and hoping for as a fat reader. The fact that this was the message of the book did not sit right with me, because it didn’t feel to me that fat people were the audience for this book despite it being written by a fat person and featuring a fat character. I did not need this book to prove to me that I am human and deserving of love, and that made it a frustrating reading experience as well.

Basically, this book failed to deliver on characterization, romance, and its message. I would definitely warn fellow fat readers away from this book as the fat shaming is truly hard to read at times, and suffering through the author trying to prove that we’re worthy of love was challenging as well. I had high hopes for this book as a lover of reality tv, but unfortunately, this book just did not impress.

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blogger spotlight: fall time fun posts

Hello, and welcome to the first edition of Blogger Spotlight, a new feature here on Cotton Candy Book Witch. I came up with this feature because I wanted to give back to the community and support fellow book bloggers by highlighting the excellent content being put out.

The theme of this post is featuring blog posts themed around fall. This round up will include fall book recs, tags, and more!

Spooks and tea readathon

Lauren @ Northern Plunder announced the perfect fall-time readathon, which is a readathon dedicated to reading HORROR for the month of October. The prompts are as follows:

A book with autumnal vibes
A horror book that was recommended to you
A book with paranormal creatures
Reread a spooky old favourite
A book featuring witches
A LGBTQ+ horror book
A horror book by an author of colour
A horror book you love the cover of
A book featuring something you’re afraid of

the pumpkin spice latte book tag

I saw Caro @ Bookcheshire Cat do this tag themed around the best fall drink, pumpkin spice lattes. I love all things fall and am definitely planning to do this tag.

on seasonal reading

Kristin @ Kristin Kraves Books has a great discussion post on seasonal reading. She discusses what makes a “fall” book, what she reads in other seasons, and holiday reading. The post is part of the Let’s Talk Bookish feature created by  Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion.

fall time tbrs

I loved reading all the fall tbrs this week, including these from Alison and Kristin. From their lists, I am super excited to read A DEADLY EDUCATION, MEXICAN GOTHIC, THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE, and CEMETERY BOYS. I need to join a fall themed readathon STAT so I can read these amazing-sounding books!

announcing #hallowreadathon

Asha @ A book. a cat. and a cup of tea. announced the Hallowreadathon and three prompts. This readathon is for three days from October 31-November 1.

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books to read with autumn colors

I wasn’t sure if it would be super extra to make a post basically sharing covers with the colors of my favorite season, but I have ultimately decided this is my blog, and I love fall, and you all deserve to feast your eyes on some autumnal-colored covers, because fall is a beautiful season.

Behold, some awesome fall-colored books:

This book is criminally underhyped. I loved Jane Sinner’s sarcastic, darkly funny voice and the reality TV element (she moves out of her parents’ house by agreeing to participate in a reality TV show hosted by her local community college). I truly wish more people in the book community knew about this book.

I love WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI so much. Dimple is such a strong character and I love her journey throughout the is book.

I haven’t read this one yet but I keep meaning to since I really liked Emma Mills’ second book, THIS ADVENTURE ENDS.

I am an embarrassment to the trans/nonbinary community because I haven’t finished this book yet. However, it ticks all the Mel-book boxes being magical and diverse, so it’ll happen.

I know I just wrote about this book but I am not going to be shutting up about it any time soon. CHARMING AS A VERB is, in fact, utterly charming and worth a read (or 5).

I’m kind of curious about this book even though I haven’t read Young’s other books. I love books about pirate-y ocean-y things and adventures, so this one should be right up my alley.

I adored the first book in this series, THE RIGHT SWIPE, and totally intend to read the second book, GIRL GONE VIRAL, and this book when it comes out, at which point I will buy the whole trilogy.

I loved Sarah Henning’s debut, SEA WITCH, which I have a mini-collection of, so I was pumped to hear she was coming out with another fantasy. Even though I have yet to read it, it’s definitely high on my TBR.

Oh, Felix, how I love thee. Reading this book was so empowering to me, because it deals a lot with finding your gender identity and discovering yourself even after you “come out,” which just really speaks to me because I am still very much dealing with that in my own life. A+ book.

The way sapphic book twitter talks about this book, omg. It was already on my list at the beginning of the year, but the sapphics of book twt have definitely moved it up the tbr.

I have tried to read WILDER GIRLS three times, but unfortunately that book was not for me. I want to like Rory Power’s writing so badly, so hopefully I will like it more in Creepy Corn Book, aka BURN OUR BODIES DOWN.

Have you read any of these?

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the fall time, cozy time tag

I was tagged for the Fall Time, Cozy Time tag by the lovely Caro! I love doing tags and I love fall, so really, this is the perfect tag for me!

crunching leaves–a book that has reds/oranges/yellows on the cover

I knew instantly I had to pick When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon for the answer to this prompt. I have always adored this cover and probably would’ve read it based on cover alone if I hadn’t known anything about it when it came out. This cover is just so happy and joyful and makes me smile every time I take it off my shelf.

cozy sweater–what book gives you the warm fuzzies?

Am I allowed to pick a book I read only this month? I must, because Charming as a Verb is so delightful and made me feel all kinds of fuzziness. Henri is such a witty, and yes, charming character, but is also so genuine and I just want to hug him and tell him as long as he does his best he’ll be okay. I also LOVE the romance in this story, because Corrine, the LI, is so powerful and Henri is continuously amazed by her and reading about their romance made me so happy.

fall storm–choose a book you’d like to read on a stormy day

I am ashamed to say I haven’t finished this yet but Cemetery Boys definitely gives me stormy night vibes, as it is about witches and cemeteries and dark magic. Maybe I’ll read it for Mabon this year…

cool crisp air–who’s the coolest character you’d like to trade places with?

I would LOVE to be Leo from the Love, Sugar, Magic series by Anna Meriano. Leo is a little girl whose family runs a magical bakery and discovers all the women in her family are brujas, or witches. I would absolutely love to help out in a bakery, especially a magical one!

hot apple cider–what underhyped book do you want to become the next hottest thing?

I’m actually really surprised the book community didn’t hype up When We Were Magic more when it came out. It’s about a group of teen girls who all have mysterious magical abilities. I loved the friendship and sapphic dynamics in this book and the magic system and how dark it was (the story starts out with the MC accidentally killing a guy at a prom afterparty with her magic). This book is so good and sapphic book twitter needs to GET ON IT.

coats, scarves, and mittens–what’s a book cover you don’t like?

The colors on this make my eyes bleed. Not a fan.

pumpkin spice–what’s your favorite fall time foods/comfort foods?

I am really looking forward to soup season. I have a lot of soup recipes bookmarked on the New York Times Cooking app. I also love hot apple cider and am definitely going to need to make a trip to Trader Joe’s soon because they have amazing cider. I’m also looking forward to it being appropriate tea weather (not that you can’t have tea all the time, but it’s just so much more satisfying when it’s actually cold out).

warm, cozy bonfire–who do you tag?

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how I’m celebrating mabon

So, before we begin, let us discuss–what is Mabon? Mabon is one of the Fall time pagan events on the Wheel of the Year, this year falling from September 21-29, celebrating balance in the world. Mabon is the autumnal equinox, celebrated at the beginning of fall, a time when the days and nights start to be equal length and balance in nature is restored.

Mabon is one of my favorite witchy holidays because it is one of the first ones I ever celebrated after becoming a witch. I also in general just love the autumn holidays because I feel very connected to them spiritually and personally and love the colder seasons.

This year, I’m planning to do some witchy activities to celebrate Mabon as part of my goal this month of reconnecting with witchcraft. Here are some of the things I plan to do to celebrate:

  • Cleanse my tarot decks. I do this for every witchy holiday I manage to remember. My favorite and in my opinion most effective way to cleanse a deck is to separate the deck and spread it out by suit. This helps solve a lot of deck problems, especially when it starts to give me a lot of reversed cards.
  • House cleaning. I plan to do a major house cleaning throughout the week and really work on spots that have been bothering me. I also want to look through my old fall clothes and decide what I can still wear so I know how much I need to replace.
  • Watch spooky/witchy movies. I am really in the mood for Coraline, so that’s definitely going on the list. I’m also kind of in the mood for some early episodes of Charmed, so that might happen as well. There are also a couple horror movies on my Hulu list that I want to watch to get in the mood for the season.
  • Actually work on my grimoire, maybe? Creating the perfect grimoire has been an ongoing project for me since becoming a witch. I just can’t seem to create one that works. My cat actually destroyed my last one, so obviously that one wasn’t working either. I’m hoping the care and planning I plan to put into my new one will work out and I’ll finally end up with something I’m happy with.
  • Go for a walk. I have been loving the crisp, cool autumn air in the mornings and have been really wanting to spend some time in the fall weather, and Mabon is definitely an excellent time to do that.
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weekly rewind // 9-18-20

weekly happenings

This week was honestly an emotional rollercoaster. I had something SUPER GOOD happen that I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about, but it is publishing career related and I have never felt more validated in my pursuit of a career in that industry.

However, I was also really stressed for most of the week and have been feeling that way since the library where I work announced we’re considering reopening again. I did manage to get more information about what our procedures will be, which made me feel somewhat better.

on the blog

what i’ve read & currently reading

This week I mostly read picture books. I’m also still in the middle of ONE TO WATCH, but I’m not going to share thoughts just yet because I’m a little over halfway through and EVERY TIME I say I’m enjoying a book in a post I then immediately stop liking it so we are beating that trend.

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i don’t feel represented: fat representation in books

TW: discussion of weight loss, body image issues, mention of eating disorder

Today I’m going to talk about an issue I don’t discuss on this blog a lot because it’s very difficult for me in my daily life, and that’s fat representation in books.

Something you may not know about me because I don’t post full body selfies is that I am overweight. I have struggled with my weight since my sophomore year of college, but have been having an extra hard time with it the past few years. I have cycled through many diets, seen a nutritionist, and tried to change my habits time and time again. I have dealt with body shaming from people around me as well as eating disorders, and have an extremely fraught relationship with my body when it comes to weight.

This is why fat representation of books is important to me. Every time I see a book come out, especially YA, with a fat protagonist, it immediately goes on my TBR. I am eager to see nuanced stories of weight issues and representation of a variety of body types.

I’m going to begin by saying that I can count the number of books I’ve read with actual fat rep where the fat person isn’t vilified or negatively stereotyped on less than two hands. In probably a third of those, the fat character still tries to lose weight and it’s framed as healthy weight loss and as a positive thing for the character. I have read very few books where weight loss is still not the end goal for a fat character and they still have a genuinely happy life while being fat.

Fat representation in books is not very nuanced. I’ve noticed that fat characters tend to be either a) vilified and shamed and used as a cautionary tale or b) body positive with no doubts about themselves. When fat characters are portrayed positively, it’s usually after they’ve gone through a self-transformation and chosen to focus on “self love and self acceptance” and “embrace their body and themselves.” Sure, they often get hate either from online anyonymous haters or in person from family, but they are usually portrayed as so confident in themselves that it doesn’t hurt as much as it used to and doesn’t make them doubt themselves or completely fall off the acceptance wagon.

I think portraying body positivity in books is great and important, but the journey towards body positivity is not a straight line or as simple as deciding to accept yourself. Body positivity isn’t something that happens all the time; it’s something that fat people strive for every day and sometimes we don’t get there. Even when you think you are body positive, you can still be tempted by diets and the promise of feeling “normal,” whatever that means, and negatively influenced by social and social media messaging about bodies. Body positive people aren’t immune to doubts about themselves and their bodies, and that’s why I don’t feel seen in a most body positive books because body positivity is a daily struggle.

Basically, I’d really like to see more books about the journey to become body positive. Though seeing body positive characters is great, personally I just wish that we could see how those body positive characters arrived at self acceptance and body positivity, as opposed to having it glossed over. Body positivity isn’t and doesn’t have to be all or nothing in order to be valid, and I want to see more books with fat characters that portray an array of our experiences.

There is no one fat experience, and fat experience is more than only being the villain or idiot or only being body positive. I just hope that soon, publishing and the world in general are ready for portrayals of fat people’s lives that are more nuanced and fully exploratory of our experiences.

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