By Awnali Mills
I loved it.
Okay, I’m gonna get really honest here. I was always a pretty thin girl (I weighed 125 when I got married at 19), but I had curves, so I felt fat. Looking back, I most emphatically WASN’T, but I felt that way. Two children and several health issues later, I’ve put on a lot of weight and am now in actuality a fat woman. Willowdean Dickson (nicknamed Dumplin’ by her former beauty queen mother) is also heavy. Instant connection for me. But Willowdean is brave and confident (where I am sometimes less courageous and more body-conscious) and I learned a lot from her.
Willowdean struggles with her relationships with her thin best friend, her beauty queen mother, two boys who like her (one who feels more like a friend, and one who makes her feel fabulous and unattractive at the same time) and several girls who take her on as their unofficial leader. She wants to be loved and accepted for who she is while at the same time she quietly judges other people and thinks they shouldn’t do the very same things she is doing, which makes a wonderful and very real-to-life contradiction.
I cheered for Willowdean at the same time she drove me bonkers with some of her choices. Ms. Murphy packed a whole bunch of wisdom into this book, and I’d like to share a few quotes with you.
“I think you gotta be who you want to be until you feel like you are whoever it is you’re trying to become. Sometimes half of doing something is pretending that you can.”
“And she’s not fragile. She isn’t. She’s got this thick skin you don’t even expect. Everyone in this room, even the girls with the long legs and the silky hair, knows what it is to be teased…But we can’t walk around scared all the time. That’s no way to do things.”
“The truth is that I’m mad I felt uncomfortable to begin with, because why should I? Why should I feel bad about wanting to get into a pool or standing around in my swimsuit? Why should I feel like I need to run in and out of the water so that no one has to see the atrocity that are my thighs?”
“There’s something about swimsuits that make you think you’ve got to earn the right to wear them. And that’s wrong. Really, the criteria is simple. Do you have a body? Put a swimsuit on it.”
“All my life I’ve had a body worth commenting on and if living in my skin has taught me anything it’s that if it’s not your body, it’s not yours to comment on. Fat. Skinny. Short. Tall. It doesn’t matter.”
This book gave me so much to think on. I want to go back and record bits and pieces of the whole darn thing in my quote book. Please give it to every body-conscious teenager you can get to read it (and name me one who isn’t.) Dumplin’ gives you permission to be your authentic self, to own your life and your body and not be ashamed of them. Good on ya’, Julie Murphy.