Fat Girl Dancing

Kris Kneen

Fat Girl Dancing
Format
Paperback
Publisher
Text Publishing
Country
Australia
Published
2 May 2023
Pages
304
ISBN
9781922790217

Fat Girl Dancing

Kris Kneen

How does a person come to know that they are different from the children around them? To measure themselves against a set normal and find themselves lacking?

When did I know that I was plump, and then fat?

Fat child, self-denying adolescent, hungry young woman; a body now burgeoning uncontrolled into middle age. Kris Kneen has borne the usual indignities: the confrontations with clothes that won't fasten, with mirrors that defame, with strangers whose gaze judges and dismisses. This is the story of how Kris learned to look unblinkingly at their recalcitrant body, and ultimately found the courage to carry it to freedom.

Fat Girl Dancing is a frank, beautiful and triumphant ode to self-respect from one of Australia's most original and acclaimed writers.

Review

Kris Kneen is quite the force in Australian literature. Fat Girl Dancing, their latest memoir, confirms Kneen as an outstanding writer. This is a memoir of fatness, and Kneen’s journey with their body, both in terms of gaining and losing weight and in finding acceptance of appearance, gender and sexuality. This is to put it simply; it is unlike anything else that addresses these topics.

Central to Kneen’s journey is their return to painting, and their desire to capture their fat body as beautiful and powerful in the medium. Throughout the book there are also close up photographs of Kneen’s body – large and round, but often close enough to not be sure exactly where on the body this could be. It’s more than a memoir – it is a self-portrait, expressing both the self over time in their words, and their body as a still in photos and paintings.

This is a deliciously queer book in Kneen’s astute consideration of othered bodies and what it means to fall outside white, heterosexual standards of beauty. Naturally, with discussion of bodies and eating, Fat Girl Dancing contains numerous descriptions of disordered eating and mental health struggles, and includes careful analysis of diet culture. The book is so much more than this, however, and shouldn’t be reduced to being just about overcoming body image issues. Particularly compelling are Kneen’s searches for the right activity for their body. At first they hope that enjoying being in water means they will like diving. Later, they try to get into hiking, hoping to keep up with their partner. Instead, they land on the wonderful world of burlesque.

I could go on about this book – it’s my top local nonfiction of the year so far. This is essential reading for anyone interested in bodies, diet culture, queerness, and feminism.

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