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Today’s pick is by a fat, Black, disabled, and nonbinary trans author who explores how anti-fatness is inextricably linked to anti-Blackness.
Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness by Da’Shaun L. Harrison
First, some obvious content warnings for discussions of anti-fatness and anti-Blackness and also warnings for discussions of transphobia, police violence, and sexual assault including molestation.
Much of the existing literature on anti-fatness and anti-Blackness, whether it be books, articles, Instagram reels, or otherwise is primarily focused on fat Black women and fat Black femmes. Belly of the Beast is a very important and fresh addition to the growing literature on the intersections of anti-fatness and anti-Blackness as it focuses on fat Black masc bodies. Masc (derived from ‘masculine’) as in cisgender man bodies and nonbinary trans masc bodies and transgender man bodies.
This book is rather concise but Harrison covers a lot of ground and interrogates certain topics that I’ve read about but maybe haven’t encountered as discussed in this way, such as what it looks like to talk about policing, police violence, and prisons with regard to how the fat Black masc body experiences them. I also appreciate how they discuss the idea of health as a social construct made specifically in a way that makes it inaccessible to fat Black people. I sincerely welcome their interrogation of body positivity and self-love as I have done in my own writing. In another chapter in this book I really enjoy, Harrison writes about the politics of desirability. Who gets to be pretty? Who is determined to be ugly? And what power is there in these labels? In one of the later chapters, Harrison talks with seven fat Black trans people and gives them all space to tell their own stories and it is really, really powerful.
Harrison cites many other related works such as The Body is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor and Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings. Harrison’s citations are not mere regurgitations, but sometimes a deepening of discussion or clear rebuttal. I think that one of the things I like about this book is that it truly feels like a discussion and an exploration.
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