New book: What’s Wrong With Fat? By Abigail C. Saguy *00 (Oxford University Press)
The author: An associate professor of sociology and of gender studies at UCLA, Saguy earned her doctorate in sociology at Princeton. She also is the author of What Is Sexual Harassment? From Capitol Hill to the Sorbonne.
The book: Our society is obsessed with fat – and we are told by experts that there is an obesity epidemic. Saguy “examines the social implications of understanding fatness as a medical health risk, disease, and public health crisis,” she writes, and the implications of understanding fat, instead, as beautiful and healthy. She argues that an obsession with obesity can do more harm than good by leading to bullying and discrimination. In an op-ed for The Los Angeles Times, she wrote, “fear and loathing of fat are real, and American attitudes about fat may be more dangerous to public health than obesity itself.”
Opening lines: “‘Mommy, why am I fat?’ Sally, a seven-year-old girl, looks up at her mother with tears in her eyes, gripping the flesh around her belly. Her mother freezes, at a loss as to how to respond. Sally is not ‘overweight’ based on pediatric height and weight charts, but she is not far from the cutoff. And she is heavier than most of her friends, who sometimes remark on her difference from them. How should her mother respond?”
Review: “This is a disturbing book that many people — fat, skinny, and in between; academics and members of the medical profession; statisticians and communications specialists; and anyone who has ever thought twice about that third Oreo — will want to read,” wrote a critic for Library Journal.