Author fights fat stereotypes through the written word
Mary Warren defines herself as an author and a “fat liberation activist.” As the author of two romance novels featuring plus-size heroines and the founder of a community that openly discusses “fat positive representation of women and non-binary people in books,” Warren is fighting fatphobia at the literary level.
Her journey began in 2021 when she read Olivia Dade’s novel Spoiler Alert. Dade has become known in romance circles for writing plus-size heroines whose weight doesn’t define their identity. Her book covers prominently feature large women. The book was an eye-opening experience for Warren.
“That book was something I never knew I needed,” she shared. “I started looking for more books with fat characters and then started sharing them on TikTok. It was really well received because it was, at the time, kind of a hole in representation.”
Warren, a married mother of three in Peoria, joined TikTok in March of 2021 and started sharing video reviews of books with positive depictions of big people. By August of the same year, she established Fat Girls in Fiction, a website, blog, and community where she discusses the presentation of plus-size people in books.
The Fat Girls in Fiction website is a central clearinghouse of book reviews, book lists and links to the community’s active social media sites. Reviews penned by Warren and her helper, Kayti Lake, forgo the usual discussion of writing style to focus on how authors write their characters. Readers get insight into whether they will find confident, curvy women facing real issues, negative stereotypes focused on self-hatred and starvation, or fat bodies being used as a punchline.
‘I think the biggest feedback I get … is that people are so happy that they can see themselves in these books’
For anyone searching for body-positive books, the website offers lists in nine genres, including poetry, children’s books and fiction. Warren has read some and found some on other review sites. She also relies on the Fat Girls in Fiction community to help her find new books or remove problematic titles. There is a contact form on the website for recommendations.
At first, the reviews encompassed all genres. Warren has found herself gravitating toward romance titles because that’s where she first noticed positive fat representation. She expresses a belief that the genre influenced other genres and that romance is an approachable category for a vulnerable audience.
“I think there’s something about desiring a fat body that is so healing. It just hits differently and heals something inside of you to see a big belly being desired when you’ve been told your whole life that your body is undesirable. And also, the media hits women more, saying they should look like this or act like this. Romance is primarily written by women, for women.”
Warren and Lake connect with readers outside the website via multiple social media accounts, including the Discord social platform. They host one general book club and one after-dark book club each month. The first tackles books from any genre, while the second is only for racy romance novels.
Right now, the Discord community is reserved for those who identify as women. While Warren believes in fat representation across any gender identity, she keeps the server closed to protect members who use it for more than book chat. Women in the group have opened up about their body image and experiences of being fat-shamed. It’s important to Warren to keep the Discord server a safe space for this level of vulnerability.
Warren isn’t just an avid supporter of large characters in other people’s books. She writes them herself. Her books, A Highlander for Hannah and Spotlight on Poppy, are both romances that feature curvy leading ladies. However, Warren didn’t always consider the size of her characters.
“I’ve been writing my whole life but never published anything. I realized I had no fat representation in those books because it didn’t even occur to me to put it in there. So, I decided I was going to change that.”
Highlander for Hannah, her first book, brings 1745 Highlander Graham into the life of city lawyer Hannah through a love spell from a Renaissance Fair. Hannah encounters social difficulties caused by others’ perceptions of her size, but she is otherwise like any woman. She sings karaoke, has had a few bad relationships, and dreams of changing careers. The love story follows the path of a romantic comedy.
“My books are swoony,” Warren said. “They are just cute and swoony and fluffy. I want everyone to hug their books at least once and get that feeling.”
Warren plans to continue fat activism through her books and website. She believes it s a positive way to decrease the stigma of having a larger body and change the false narrative of the lonely, unhappy, unhealthy plus-size person.
“I think the biggest feedback I get … is that people are so happy that they can see themselves in these books. It is basically just about helping people to find representation, to help people heal in their journeys.”
For more information on Fat Girls in Fiction or on writer Mary Warren, visit https://fatgirlsinfiction.com.