I jumped at the opportunity to review Curvy Girls. My girlfriend is self-proclaimedly "fat" and I love every delicious curve on her body. I tend to be attracted to quirky curvy geek girls and artists. I like curves.
And maybe that's because I don't have very many.
Even though I tend toward sex-bloggerism, I never writing about my body--about its response and action yes, but about its basic form? No.
And there's a reason for that. In fact, I'm sharing thoughts and feelings with you today that I've never shared with anyone else. Why? Because even in my head it seems so "poor little rich girl." I hope it doesn't sound that way to you.
As I waited for my review copy of Curvy Girls to arrive in the mail, I got... the fear. I don't know if you're as generally paranoid as I am, but I have this ever-present fear that people are going say things that hurt or offend me. So when I constructed in my mind what Curvy Girls was made of, I started to wonder/worry that maybe its method of elevating big women would be to denigrate small women.
I am small. I'm short. I'm skinny. I have the body of a 14-year-old boy waiting for a growth spurt. I get the idea a lot of women who are bigger envy my body type, but throughout the years a lot of people have managed to make me feel really crappy about the way I look.
I've been told (repeatedly, by one of my sisters) that I look like a crack addict. Others have told me my cheeks are too sallow, my belly curves the wrong way, they're grossed out by my ribs and my spine. I look homeless. I look like a kid. I look anorexic--or better yet, I'm told that I am anorexic. Or, "Are you anorexic? So-and-so said you're anorexic. Are you sure? All the girls in the lunchroom say you're anorexic." Sometimes it's phrased as a compliment, which I can't get my head around, and sometimes as an insult, and sometimes with grave concern for my health and well-being.
Even though none of these "well-meaning" (or not) jabs are true, guess what I see every time I look in the mirror? A homeless anorexic 14-year-old crack addict. I hate this shame I feel for a body I should rightly treasure.
"It just isn't healthy to have a body like yours."
I bet that's one thing curvy girls and I have in common--the number of people who have decided we are not healthful. They're so concerned about us, because our bodies aren't right, aren't normal, aren't aligned with their standard.
I know that's a lot of backstory for a book review, but it goes to show what deep emotional reach Rachel's book had for me. Even before I'd laid eyes on the thing, it had already brought up this stir, and even the trepidation that I might encounter those familiar jabs about my body's inferiority.
The book arrived in the mail, and I dove right in. The cover is gorgeous and I really like the typeface, paper weight and especially the black lace impression in the corner of the page at the start of each new story. Aesthetics is important in a book.
And so is content. The foreword by April Flores started this collection off eloquently and powerfully. Her very first line spoke to the heart of me, as you'll understand after having read my preamble above: "For the longest time, we have been told the lie that being thin equals being beautiful, happy, and desirable."
Sommer Marsden's "Runner's Calves" is fun and fast (it's about runners, after all!), setting up what becomes almost a theme pairing throughout the anthology of a bigger woman with a thinner man.
"Before the Autumn Queen" by Angela Caperton is sensual and literary, followed by the sexy threesome story "Champagne & Cheesecake" by A. M. Harnett, which made me laugh right off the bat with its mention of "victory tits."
"First Come, First Served" by Lolita Lopez is expertly voiced, and happens to speak to my fetishes for 1st person erotica and lines like "Would you come on my tits?" Umm... yes, please. "Small Packages" by Tenille Brown is infused with appreciation, worship, and lust for the curvy form.
"Decadence" by Satia Welsh tripped me up a bit. Its multiple POVs, even during sex scenes, felt head-hoppy despite the section breaks. The voicing in Nina Reyes's "Excuses" is excellent (I'm a sucker for 1st person present tense), and its impromptu photography session provides a playful backdrop for a cheeky and sly story.
"Recognition" by Salome Wilde and Talon Rihai is so relatable, so human, and lives up to its title so well my queer heart had to forgive the head-hopping. By that point in the anthology, I needed some lesbian action. *smirk* Speaking of relatable, Gwen Masters's character talking to herself in the mirror in "Passing the Time"? Spot on. I've had many mirror conversations with myself. Such a great story of frustration.
"First Date" by Louise Hooker was engaging as hell. I love anything involving a webcam. "At Last" by Jessica Lennox is letter-style lesbian confession erotica. The sparse dialogue was so apt and excellent I wished there had been more, though the ending was a little abrupt.
"Wenching" is brave piece by Justine Elyot, and took me where I wanted to go: to the heart of shame, the fire of it, and the phoenix rising (and in costumes!), all while confronting MY personal fear of being cast as: "Mean. Insufficient. Meager. Miserly." Perhaps I ought to take offense, and instead I took each of those words as deserved slaps because, true or not, I've allowed myself to believe my body is my fate.
Starting with the title, "What Girls Are Made Of" by my fellow Torontonian Evan Mora reminded me of a story I once wrote called "Painted Nails and Puppy Dog Tails," with its strong butch/femme dynamic. Of course, Evan's work kicks WAY more ass than mine. This story... wow, truly a pleasure to read. Just what my queer heart was begging for!
"Appetite" by Elizabeth Coldwell is relatable from the get-go (I hate it when other customers stare at my groceries and then look at me like they're in deep analysis mode--makes me so self-conscious!). The piece uses fat and cheap fabrics assertively, saying "this is sexy" like it's challenging us to disagree. There's fire here. And then... then it's time for the BIG treat.
Kristina Wright's "In the Early Morning Light" hit me with its sheer honesty. This is my favourite sort of writing. This is literary erotica at its best: engaging on the very deepest level, plain-spoken, wonderful. The next time I hear someone bad-mouthing the genre of erotica, I will refer them to this story because it is quite simply perfect.
"See and Be Seen" by Arlette Brand takes everyday eroticism and pushes it to the boundaries of comfort, bringing up questions of "should" and propriety. Rachel Kramer Bussel's "Big Girls Do Cry" takes a theme of "wanting" and makes you squirm while you wait, setting up a promise of kink, of spankings to come. I was lying on my couch reading this story, and it actually made my toes curl and my feet kick against the cushion because I wanted that promise fulfilled. That's what a good spanking story's all about.
Isabelle Gray's "Marked" is artful, but I'd have loved to feel more pain in a story about new tattoos. And at the end is "Happy Ending" by Donna George Storey, a story I found relatable on the "guy" side--the jealousy, possessiveness, lust, and utter inability to articulate how attractive I find my girl in a way she can properly hear. Ultimately this story, and I think the book as a whole, describes a journey toward acceptance. For Ellie it's about learning to love her "big ass," for me it's learning to see my Self in the mirror instead of a crack addict, or any of the other names I've been called.
What I took away from Curvy Girls was the idea that we pretty much all have things about our bodies we'd like to change. We all cater to our shame, and the best way out of it is to celebrate what we have--without disparaging the bodies of others.
Because there are people in those bodies too.
Follow the Curvy Girls virtual book tour at http://curvygirlsbook.com/
Or buy your copy from: http://www.amazon.com/Curvy-Girls-Rachel-Kramer-Bussel/dp/1580054080/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1337403664&sr=1-1