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8 BRILLIANT BOOKS I'M CURRENTLY READING


I would love to title this: "Currently on My Shelf" but in the spirit of transparency- none of the books I love spend a ton of time on my bookshelf. Instead, they can be found dog-eared on my dining room table, tucked into the cushions of my couch, and (more often than I care to admit) on the floor after tumbling off my bed when I finally fall asleep. But organization "doesn't really matter" if YOU always know where to find them, right?

RIGHT?

Well, my system of randomly placed literature works for me, anyway.

It's obvious from these photos that in addition to not shelving them, I regularly destroy my books. I highlight them. Scribble in them. Lose jackets and them replace them after using them as drink coasters. This has nothing to do with how much I love the writing or how much I respect the writers, however. If anything, it's the opposite- I'm constantly hauling them around, soaking in every word and writing things I never want to forget in the margins because hey... brilliant revelations need blank space!

As someone who worked in a bookstore for several years, I am fully aware that I should be ashamed but you're not here to read about my lamentable lack of book storage skills, are you?

Without further ado, the books that are giving me LIFE right now:


"Samantha Irby is my favorite living writer. Actually, I'll throw in the dead ones too. Screw you, Herman Melville." -Lindy West

I'm just gonna to add: SAME.

I often tote this book along with me when I know I'm going to be waiting in a painfully boring place because there is nothing more hilarious or enjoyable than We Are Never Meeting In Real Life. It makes the most intolerable experiences a blast. Note: bringing this book with you when you're waiting in traffic court because you parked two inches too far away from the curb in front of your house is guaranteed to make the experience more bearable. (I still can't believe that absurd ticket actually happened. Fuck you ParkWise.)

This is a literary combination of Xanax and Red Bull. In other words, the world seems like a more tolerable and conquerable place after reading. None of this makes a ton of sense, but to be fair some of Irby's writing doesn't either which is inarguably part of its charm.

The only problem with reading this book in public is that it often leads to side eye from strangers because it is nearly impossible to read Samantha Irby and not snort with laughter. Everything this human writes is pure gold. Some people call it side-splitting humor, I call it current beverage shooting out your nose humor.

I've sent several copies to friends; it's that much of a necessary read.

(I also recommend reading her monthly column on Elle, ideally in the morning so you can start your day off right. And by right, I mean with a guffaw so loud that it sends your pets scattering.)

Hunger by Roxane Gay

This book, thus far, is the highlight of 2017 for me.

Though it's been a personal game changer, it's been (frustratingly) criticized by some in the body image community for "using the tired old framework that fat is a distancing mechanism that women undertake purposefully (if not subconsciously)" and other similar public postings of disapproval around Gay's straightforward "fat trope" self-loathing. I could not disagree more. I personally feel that all narratives written by fat women need to be heard and supported, even if they don't fit the preferred "I love my fat body just the way it is no matter what!" feel good story line.

In fact, because we have so many body image sheros touting "total invincibility" (and a flood of Lisa Frank BoPo messaging), I feel like a book about the realities of being super fat (combined with other intersecting marginalized identities) is needed more than ever.

I talked about this complex and messy controversy with Christy on this Food Psych podcast and I also highly recommend reading this article by Allison McCarthy if you want a little more conversation around why Roxane's dialogue is necessary.

It made me want to clutch my heart in solidarity. It made me want to vomit when reading the chapter detailing her rape. It made me want to cry at some of the intimate confessions. It made me want to hug every fat person who can relate to this book in any way.

It's tragic. It's raw. It's honest. It's really hard to read. And it's important.

salt. by Nayyirah Waheed

I've been reading more poetry, which is a sign that my heart currently has the room to feel, explore and sit in a vulnerable place. It's a wonderful thing.

Salt isn't new to the world, but it's a new (and needed) discovery for me.

i am a brutally soft woman

It's currently hitting me with all the "I feel seen" feels.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen

FUN FACT THAT IS ONLY FUN TO ME BUT WHATEVER: This was my first experience with a digital book. Unwilling to wait for delivery (I am the impatient millennial people write disparaging articles about), I ordered the Kindle version of this and holy shit. Reading will never be the same.

Unrelated to the book's content but things that changed my life from downloading this:

  1. You can SCROLL. I don't know why this feels so amazing, but... when you can manually race through the words, it makes you feel unnecessarily important.
  2. You can highlight with your fingers. Yellow for inspirational things, blue for things you want to research, orange for "I have no idea why this is important but I might want to come back to this later" things. 
  3. You don't need a nightlight to read this in bed. 

BOOM.

Now back to the book.

This is a collection of chapters about individual (openly acknowledged by the author as largely white) women in pop culture and how they challenge different social constructs forced upon them by our world. I enjoy how each chapter is its own essay and allows you to choose the topic you're most interested in and skip around in whatever order you choose.

I, of course, read the "Too Fat" chapter about Melissa McCarthy first and it was fucking fascinating. FUCKING. FASCINATING. I've read a third of this book and plan on finishing it piece by piece.

As always, I keep waiting to shout THAT'S PROBLEMATIC AF! (that's just who I am now after working on the internet for five years) but I plan on reading every page and at the very least, using Anne's thoughts and research to dig deeper into these interesting conversations.

milk and honey by Rupi Kaur

Another older poetry book that is walking me through real life in an unexpectedly stunning way. Broken into four chapters, the first three are gut wrenching yet still profound and beautiful.

It ends with a chapter titled "the healing" and the wraparound perfection is inspiring. Even the page after the dedication speaks to me as I spend my days editing the hardest thing I've ever written:

my heart woke me crying last night / how can i help i begged / my heart said / write the book 

This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare by Gabourey Sidibe

This is the book waiting for my attention, but I'm already enamored by the simple fact that it exists. Gabby has single-handedly broken down so many walls and I will always remember the day I was scrolling through my feed and saw her image covering half of a building in Times Square.

She is and always will be a goddamn powerhouse to me.

I've also enjoyed watching those who are "new" to body image and intersectionality read and love this book. An apparently approachable read, written by a well-known actress/author/director, Gabourey manages to effortlessly reach many who may not "be ready" for something that starts in the deep end of body image discussions... yet. When I see the awe expressed by those who have read this book and are craving more, I can't help but feel excited about the possibility of their journey leading them into the exploration of other difficult and necessary topics.

Flipping through there seems to be some hardcore subjects discussed in a "unique" way. Have you read it? If so, what are your thoughts?

Side note: I have been working on a "Becky from Empire" style icon post (some rad ones are here for inspiration!) for months that I promise to finish at some point. Because color-blocked dresses on fat bodies will always be perfection in my world.

BREAD& by Teré Fowler-Chapman

Just printed and released in anticipation of Teré's panel about "Poetry and Spoken Word in Social Justice" in D.C., BREAD& is something near and dear to my heart. Not only because it's a book of some of the most powerful poetry ever published (in my humble opinion), but it is also written by a close friend I love and have had the honor of hearing perform multiple times. Teré recently debuted this book over tea with close friends and I can't tell you how powerful it was to hear them read it aloud.

Teré uses compassion, prose and love to effectively break even the hardest of hearts wide open. Every time I hear them perform, I leave a little softer, usually with tears welling up in my eyes. This is not an exaggeration.

Teré is one of my favorite poets, followed closely only by Isaac Kirkman who also leaves me covered in goosebumps and close to bawling every time he performs.

If you'd like to purchase this book, email Teré directly at terefowlerc@gmail.com and they'll send you over a copy!

Big Gal Yoga by Valerie Sagun

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessamyn Stanley when her inclusive yoga book "Every Body Yoga" came out and I wondered how Valerie's (which is similar in messaging) would compare.

I was amazed at how beautifully different Valerie's book was from Jessamyn's. It's thorough in it's demonstration of poses for all bodies, wonderfully approachable and in color which just adds to its enjoyable consumption. I love it. Which, truthfully, is odd, because while yoga was a large part of my life a decade ago- it's not something I participate in anymore as I struggle to heal my relationship with movement.

Much like Jessamyn, Valerie is challenging my current distrust of body oriented practice and causing me to contemplate incorporating yoga into my life again as a way to reconnect with my physical self.

Well done Valerie!
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Other books you may like that I've written about in the past: Curvy Girl Sex (five positions included *wink wink*) and these three body memoirs.

Additionally, there is a long list of body image books in my resource list that I highly recommend you browse.

Have you read any of these? If so, I'm curious to hear your reviews.

Any other recommendations for when I finish these gems? I'm always open to new reads, especially as I continue to write my own manuscript!

"LISA FRANK BOPO" AND WHY IT'S JUST NOT ENOUGH

(Via)

I've been searching a term that encapsulates the trend of body positive content I've been watching spread like pink and purple wildfire a for a couple of years now and, well damn. It took a while.

The conversation around body love/body positivity/BoPo has become so fractured and seemingly uncontainable that I often find myself talking about it using air quotes; often resorting to simply calling it "Whateverthefuckthisthingis."

I air quote A LOT.

SO g'bless a whimsical technicolor leopard creator for finally, in a moment of inspiration, giving me the perfect description for something that until now, I couldn't put my finger (or a name) on. 

Lisa Frank BoPo. I presumptuously designate it: a thing.

While the term may be "new", I highly doubt you're unaware of the messaging I'm alluding to. If you've been a part of almost any "body positive" (I'll stop using quotations at this point, but know that every time I use that term, I'm always implying it) online conversation—particularly on Instagram’s platform—there's a really good chance that you've been scrolling through Lisa Frank BoPo for a long-ass time.

Lisa Frank BoPo is what I (now) call the branch of body positivity that:

  1. isn't intersectional
  2. focuses on white and often thin bodies, and
  3. refuses to dig into the deep and critical political issues around comprehensive body liberation and, instead, relies on topical positive messages to keep us all feeling cheerful, and--most importantly: comfortable.

This particular lens of body positivity has gained an enormous (and seemingly unstoppable) following—which isn't surprising, as it has taken the original focus of Fat Acceptance and purposefully replaced its polemic aims with palatable conversations. 

There are, of course, divergent ideologies even within the militant Fat Activism movement: voices that disagree on topics like labels, weight loss and other fundamental concepts. But after the confetti-like explosion of what was (and is) called Body Positivity in 2015's mainstream media, I needed a name for what I was witnessing unravel in all its multicolored and purposefully attractive splendor.

Lisa Frank BoPo: Glittery, colorful, and endlessly positive. Also: shallow, uncritical and exclusive. When you add all these things together, it's no surprise that Lisa Frank BoPo is popular AF.

This “movement’s” palatability isn't an accident though—it is diligently ambiguous about things like health, superfat bodies, racism, trans issues, white supremacy and other relevant  political body ties that can quickly become "hot button" topics. This can then lead to emphatically and unseemly (read: controversial and unpopular) divisive threads. While individual users may be unaware of the purposeful reason behind its popularity, it is in large part easily loved because it prioritizes vagueness and erasure, enabling an effortless dance around these critical issues with the dangerously disarming chant of "I just want us all to bake a cake out of rainbows and smiles and all eat it and be happy!

Not literally, of course… but kinda.

This is easily enhanced by influential accounts on Instagram, where content is hyper visual: leaning towards the “pretty” images without the need for written content to achieve success. This practice can highlighted by conventionally attractive, thin bodies posting pictures in swimsuits and using hashtags like #EveryBodyIsABikiniBody or models promoting covertly disguised weight loss products and using #BodyPositive in each caption. 

I will sincerely own that when I started blogging, my body liberation content was naively cheerful, selective in its content and yes, definitely carried the lightness (and only the lightness) of a pink cat with angel wings. I was a Lisa Frank BoPo enthusiast. I've been there. I've preached it. I believed all of it. Exclusively focusing on “good vibes” was a natural first step in my personal journey, as it is for others as well. Sometimes, it's all we can absorb when we start approaching the concept that, perhaps, we don't have to hate ourselves for the rest of our life.

After all, send a person who is brand new to the concept of “not hating their body” my way, and they'll likely run the opposite direction screaming at the first mention of how medical records have nothing to do with worth. Lisa Frank BoPo offers a strangely approachable first step into the world of challenging body ideals and issues. It's a step in the right direction, yes! But I want to make sure that we don't step onto that first rainbow painted stepping stone... and stop there.

I want to make sure we keep moving.

We’re always seemingly walking a tightrope when it comes to these concepts and my balance is often shitty, so I’m not the one to show you how to do it perfectly. But I CAN share what I’ve learned from falling off a million times in hopes that it helps you on your tenuous journey.

After November 8th, it was clear that more political content needed to be shared through my social media channels, and I vowed to myself that I would make this a priority. These articles (largely shared on Facebook and Twitter because of the linking/sharing opportunities) were vehemently met with "Can you please stop talking about politics and get back to body positivity?"

This generated a post in which I explained that the two are inextricably connected, and clarified for me that the new form of body positivity I was seeing on Instagram (and surrounding platforms) was, while reaching more people, becoming more harmful than helpful. 

Guys, it's important you know that I'm not a rainbow hater. I use unicorn, enthusiastic raised hands and sparkly heart emojis just as much as anyone. I still share memes of cats with googly eyes on the back of their heads. I can see the appeal of Lisa Frank BoPo. I'll even go so far to say that for some, it might be a much needed first step into the giant and overwhelming world of confronting diet culture and beauty standards. BUT (notice the giant, bold but), I'm gonna say it again... I think it's really important to emphasize that we don't stop there.

Fuck yeah, I wanna bake a cake out of rainbows and cover it in smiley faces and eat it and be happy with you! I AM SO IN.

I also want to talk about the Eurocentric ideal and how it's created a huge market for dangerous whitening creams, how Black trans women have the highest murder rates in the country/world, how trans youth have a 40% suicide rate and are denied their identity (and safety) more often than not. I also want to talk about how health is NOT an obligation, how our medical industry is biased, how inaccessible cities are for people with disabilities, how white supremacy is alive and thriving and how we never mention mental health when we talk about wellness.

I want to talk about all of those things AND post pictures of flower covered cakes, little yellow birds who give you cute pep talks and amazing jumpsuits! Not instead of, but and.

We can do both, and if we find ourselves being exclusive because it's outside our comfort zones (or we might lose followers who take issue with these subjects), maybe it's time to look at our motives and priorities. And then especially do both. It is critical for all of us that we keep moving forward, learning, doing better and making progress. The platforms I share these on are usually Facebook, Twitter and my blog but this applies to Instagram as well, especially if it's the only platform used.

Instagram is important because visibility and representation is important. What we see can rewire our brains; science backs us up on this! (It's all here with a nice NPR summary here.) But I am now convinced that in order to create actual change, we have to start at the back. We need to amplify the most marginalized voices. The most harmed groups facing oppression. We all have work to do on this; me included.

I am certain that no matter how "radical" I feel my politics may be to the majority, there are those who would easily categorize my messages as more perpetuation of chirpy messaging that isn't and never will be political enough. There will always be those who believe that I cause harm by not doing enough... and I would agree. I have so much room for improvement and when I have the space and capacity to do more, I must. I can, and I will. 

Body liberation is not an endpoint journey. It's a fluid continuum of education, awakening, apologizing and doing better.

To be perfectly clear, I am not asking for perfection from anyone.

To do so would perpetuate the harmful internet myth that the public figures we follow aren't human. We already ask so much from ordinary individuals, none of which are perfect and I enthusiastically include myself in this group. We're not commodities to simply be consumed and bridled with impossible demands, yet this is what happens more often than not. So to demand perfection? That would be detrimental to us all.

All I ask for is progress.

Unstoppable learning. Active listening. Stepping back and looking at our uncomfortable biases. We are all sizeist, racist, ableist, ageist, etc and it comes from our upbringing. But it doesn't need to be so. We need to do the work to actively fight these prejudices, instead of pretending that they don’t exist within us. If we do, world changing things can (and will) happen if we responsibly harness the energy that is gaining power online every day.

It’s not that Lisa Frank BoPo is wrong. 
It’s just that it’s not enough.

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(This is in no way affiliated with the Lisa Frank company- simply a description for a current trend.)

31 PLACES TO SHOP FOR PLUS SIZE SWIMWEAR // BY ALYSSE DALESSANDRO

(via Nakimuli)

It's that time of year when we start to get bombarded with ads about getting "beach body ready." Well guess what? Your body is ready for the beach just as it is. All you need is the perfect plus size swimwear that feels right for you! There's a variety of retailers making plus size swimwear in a range of styles. Whether your aesthetic is total beach goth or sultry poolside goddess, chances are you can find what you're looking for!

Because I get asked about plus size swimwear so often, I wanted to put together an online shopping guide. The below list is in alphabetical order and while it's certainly not completely exhaustive, there's definitely a range of sizes, budgets and styles represented in this list. To the best of my knowledge, I've included sizing and pricing information and any other key details that may factor into your decision of where to shop. The pictures represent only a sampling of each retailer's offerings so make sure you click the links to check each site out!

This post contains some affiliate links and I'll earn a small commission if you shop through them.  This is one of the ways I can continue to bring you amazing content! All of these items are available in plus sizes. Some of them are also available in straight sizes (hence the straight size models). Prices and size ranges subject to change.

I have personally tried bathing suits from quite a few of these retailers so if you have any specific questions, leave a comment below or hit me up on social media (@readytostare) and I'm happy to help. Now go forth and shop! 


1. Addition Elle



Size Range: 12-26 /// X-4X
Price Range: $38+
Styles: Bikinis, Tankinis, One-Pieces, Separates, Swim Skirts, Swim Shorts
Full Bust Options Available for cup sizes up to G/H


2. Adore Me



Size Range: 38DD-46DDD /// M-4XL
Price Range: $49.95+
Styles: Bikinis and One-Pieces
Select styles are available in bra sizes.

Size Range: 12W-26W  /// 0X-4X
Price Range: $5+
Styles: Bikinis, Tankinis, One-Pieces, Separates, Swim Dresses, Swim Skirts
In-house  + designer styles and a collaboration with celebrity stylist Timothy Snell

Size Range: 12-26 
Price Range: $34.50+
Styles: Bikinis, Tankinis, One-Pieces, Separates
Mix and match styles + matching cover-ups


Size Range: 10-24
Price Range: $18.50+
Styles: Bikinis, Tankinis, One-Pieces, Separates
Designer styles + cover-ups


Size Range: 14-32
Price Range: $40+
Styles: Tankinis, One-Pieces, Separates, Swim Shorts, Swim Dresses
Sizing up to 32 + cover-ups

Size Range: XXS-6XL /// Cup Sizes AA - H
Price Range: $45+
Styles: Bikini Tops, Bikini Bottoms, One-Pieces, Monokinis
Handmade retro-inspired styles, custom orders available
Size Range: XS-XXXL
Price Range: $40+
Styles: Bikini Tops, Bikini Bottoms, One-Pieces
Handmade pin-up + spooky styles, high waist and low rise bottoms



Size Range: 1X-3X
Price Range: $16.99+
Styles: Bikini Tops, Bikini Bottoms, One-Pieces
Brights colors + budget friendly 


Size Range: 14-24 // 38 C/D - 44 DD/E
Price Range: $29+
Styles: One-piece, separates, board shorts
Resort wear + kaftans, underwire bra-style tops


Size Range: XS-XXXL
Price Range: $6.99+
Styles: Low rise bikinis, bikini tops, monokinis, one-piece bathing suits
Each style is available in a range of prints, extremely budget-friendly

12. Diva Kurves Collection
Price Range: $65+
Styles: Bikini tops, bikini bottoms, two-piece swim sets, one-piece swimsuits
Printed "Swim Thick" one pieces and other sexy styles

Size Range: XS-5X // 0-26
Price Range: $39+
Styles: Bikini tops, bikini bottoms, one-piece swimsuits, monokinis
Handmade swimsuits in a variety of fun prints

Size Range: XL-3X 
Price Range: $15.90+
Styles: Bikini tops, bikini bottoms, one-piece swimsuits
Fast fashion + cover-ups

15. Gyv Me Body
Gyv Me Body Size Inclusive Swimwear 
Size Range: S-4XL
Price Range: $12+
Styles: Bikini  bra tops, bikini bottoms, one-piece swimsuits, monokinis
Handmade strip bikinis and lace-up styles, cover-ups

Size Range: 0X-4X /// 16W-26W
Price Range: $31.99+
Styles: One-piece swimsuits, Tankini tops, Bikini tops, Swimsuit bottoms
Junior and Women's Plus Sizing + Swim coverups


Size Range: 0X-4X /// 14-28
Price Range: $24.98+
Styles: One-piece swimsuits, bikinis, Tankini tops, Swim shorts
Select styles feature built in bras + Swim coverups

18. Magneti
Magneti Size Inclusive Swimwear
Size Range: XXS-3X 
Price Range: $29+
Styles: Brazilian cheeky cut, bikinis, swim skirts
Handmade styles with bow details + pin-up styles, custom orders available

Size Range: XS-4X /// 4-30
Price Range: $27.99+
Styles: One pieces, two-pieces, bikinis, swim tops, swim bottoms
Vintage inspired swimwear + cover-ups

Size Range: 14W-24W
Price Range: $78+
Styles: One pieces, two-pieces, bikinis, rashguard tops, swim bottoms
High cut one-pieces, bandage-style bikinis, luxe cover-ups

Size Range: 1X-4X
Price Range: $12+
Styles: One pieces, two-pieces, bikinis, tankinis, rashguard
Budget-friendly, available exclusively at Wal-Mart

Size Range: S-3X
Price Range: $48+
Styles: One pieces, two-pieces, bikinis, swim tops, swim bottoms
Fashion forward prints + Brooklyn-made 

23. Rebdolls
Rebdolls Size Inclusive Swimwear


Size Range: S-5X
Price Range: $7.50+
Styles: One pieces swimsuits, bikinis, swim tops, swim bottoms
Past Collaboration with Essie Golden and Chante of Everything Curvy & Chic

Size Range: XS-3X
Price Range: $48+
Styles: One pieces swimsuits, swim tops, swim bottoms
Long sleeve swimsuits, zipper front styles, criss-cross straps

Size Range: 0X-3X
Price Range: $16.99+
Styles: One pieces swimsuits, swim tops, swim bottoms, swim skirts
Budget-friendly swimwear with trendy prints and cuts

Size Range: 6-28
Price Range: $6.49+
Styles: Bikinis, tankinis, swimdresses, swimsuits
Mix and match styles + beachwear

27. SwimOutlet

Size Range: XL-3XL
Price Range: $12.80+
Styles: One-piece swimsuits, bikinis, swim dresses, swim shorts, swim skirts
A variety of brands all in one-place

28. Swimsuitsforall
Swimsuitsforall Plus Size Swimwear

Size Range: 4-34
Price Range: $9+
Styles: One-piece swimsuits, bikinis, tankinis, swim dresses, swim skirts
Collaborations with GabiFresh & Ashley Graham

Size Range: 1X-3X /// 14W-26W
Price Range: $8.78+
Styles: Tankini tops, swimsuit bottoms, bikini, one-piece swimsuit
Bralette, blouson and bandeau style tops

Size Range: 00-6
Price Range: $38.90+
Styles: Bikinis, Swim Sets, Swim Bottoms, Swim Tops, One-Pieces
Skirted Styles + Push-Up Bra Fits and Cover-Ups

Size Range: XL-3X
Price Range: $20+
Styles: Bikinis, Swim Sets, Tankinis, One-Piece Swimsuits
Budget-Friendly, Mesh, Crotchet Styles


Did you find what you're looking for?! There's certainly a huge variety of plus size swimwear online so whether you're looking for something retro or runway ready, the beach is waiting for you this summer! Find more of our swimwear inspirations over on Pinterest! 

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HUGE thanks to Alysse for sharing this guide with all of us! Juuuuuust in case you're unfamiliar, Alysse is the beauty and brains behind the amazing plus shop Ready to Stare that deserves a gander if you're unfamiliar; couldn't recommend RtS enough! I FUCKING LOVE YOU LADY!

P.S. If you're looking for swimwear over size 28, check out Love Your Peaches (up to 8x), Ulla Popkin (up to size 38 but runs small), and Avenue (up to 32). 
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