“Storytelling is the essence of who we are. And so stories themselves are capsules of who we are—they represent our hopes, our dreams, our fears, and our goals.”– Kate Sullivan
Representation in fiction can be a transformative experience. We infuse the stories we find of people like us with lots of additional meaning because it’s so rare and precious to see someone like us in fiction. But that also means we can be extra disappointed when those stories — or their authors — don’t live up to our ideals. (See for example the fatphobia in the Harry Potter books and transphobia of the series’ author.)
When we have good representation in media, when thin bodies stop being the silent default, each work can then stand on its own, without being the One True Representation of marginalized folks’ lived experiences. Fat bodies could just be bodies, appearing without comment just like thin bodies, without the weight of representing us all with every appearance. But we have a long way to go to close that gap.
Today, I’m talking with one of the authors who’s increasing the representation of plus-size women in romance novels, author Amity Lassiter. One of Amity’s works will appear in the Body Love Box later this year (yay!).
LINDLEY: Tell me about you! What’s your name? What pronouns do you use? Where do you live? What do you like to eat for breakfast?
Amity: I live in New Brunswick, Canada, on a multi-generational hobby farm with my parents, my husband, and my young son, as well as a flock of sheep, a herd of goats, too many herding dogs, several barn cats, and my three horses.
I’ve loved telling stories my whole life and could even be found telling them into a tape recorder in my grandmother’s basement before I could write them. They always included kissing!
I strive to write real, sincere characters that exemplify the small-town sense of community and family I grew up in.
I am deeply inspired by the magic of Peter S. Beagle’s writings (The Last Unicorn changed my life) and had the privilege of meeting him in May 2014. He was impossibly charming and delightful and left a lasting impression on me.
I love critters, cowboys, and coffee (the order of which depends on the day you ask me), and I still believe in unicorns.
LINDLEY: What is your business, and how does it make a difference in the world?
I independently publish contemporary western romance novels that have strong themes of family, redemption, acceptance, and consent. I think it’s important that our entertainment is still responsible, that consent can be sexy, and that the things we sometimes find the most discouraging about ourselves can be the things others find the most attractive, and I strive to send those messages through my work.
“There’s enough covert (and overt!) messaging in society today that tells us that our fat bodies are wrong, so I like to write fat bodies that are good and normal.”– Amity Lassiter
LINDLEY: Why is what you do important? How does it change the way people see or how they feel about their bodies?
Amity: I have existed in a fat body my whole life, and struggled to relate to heroines in the romance novels I read growing up. When I decided to write romance, I decided I would write size-diverse bodies as ‘normal’ — because my body is normal to me, completely unremarkable as things go. It is not a fetish or a marketing gimmick, it’s just my body. There’s enough covert (and overt!) messaging in society today that tells us that our fat bodies are wrong, so I like to write fat bodies that are good and normal.
LINDLEY: How does body positivity or fat positivity make your business different from others in your field? What has your experience been like?
Well, there’s a whole sub-genre in romance for ‘BBW’. I don’t blame authors for marketing their books so that those who can identify with the BBW body type can more easily find their work. I like that my books can appeal to a wide audience and that someone who might need to hear my message but wouldn’t necessarily go looking for it could get unintentionally exposed to body positive messaging.
LINDLEY: Can you share an instance where you made a real difference for a customer, or had some really great feedback from them about your body-positive work?
Amity: Readers mention in my reviews how nice it is to see ‘real’ women (I don’t subscribe to the ‘real woman’ idea, though — all those who identify as women are real women) on my pages.
LINDLEY: You and I have talked a bit privately about the lack of suitable images of plus-size women (and their partners) for romance novel covers. Could you talk a bit about that, and what romance novels — both in cover and content — might look like in a perfect world?
Amity: In a perfect world, content-wise, they’d all be like mine, haha. But seriously, I’d like to see size-diverse characters without the need for there to be a whole separate section for BBW [ed. note: big beautiful women] — that large bodies would be as normal as any other body — just like they are in our day to day.
Covers are a little trickier. Short answer: women of various sizes in romantic poses with men of various sizes (including athletic/muscular men with large women and vice versa). Outdoors in plaid shirts, preferably, haha, they don’t even need cowboy hats (better if they don’t, even, since a lot of cowboy hats in stock photos are novelty hats my characters would never wear, not actual hats lol).
Long answer: As an author, wading into stock photos and finding what I like or need (with regards to poses, backgrounds, etc) is often difficult enough without the added criteria of a specific body type. I am guilty often enough of finding the right stock photo for the cover and then changing the character’s appearance within the book to fit it. I’ve even had to use the liquify tool to add volume to a body when the pose and most of the characteristics were right but the body size was not. We all have this image in our mind of what our characters look like, so finding that, without a silly facial expression, or a couple that looks at one another like siblings instead of lovers can be difficult.
There are definitely not enough large bodies in stock photos in romantic poses, that’s for sure – and I think it goes back to two things — the idea that large bodies can’t (or shouldn’t) be sexual, and the reason why (and how) your work, Lindley, is important.
It goes in a circle — people feel bad about their bodies and so don’t have photos taken of them, and then photographers don’t have sample images of diverse bodies, and because we don’t see them, we don’t feel like we’re worthy of them.
Side tangent — the best thing I ever did for my body image was have a professional photographer take photos of me. It was truly an untouched picture of me on horseback done by one of my close friends with this absolute expression of joy on my face that totally changed my life and triggered the body positivity journey I mention below. It was like seeing myself through someone else’s eyes after I’d spent a whole lifetime hating my body. It made me recognize that I deserved goodness.
LINDLEY: How did you discover body acceptance or body positivity personally? What kind of difference has it made for you?
Amity: I’ve been fat my entire life, fluctuating by 100lbs at times, and I’m also taller than average. I take up space. I had an epiphany around 23 where I just decided that I wasn’t going to wait to live my life until I lost weight, and stop denying myself good things just because I felt like I was too big.
It actually started with horseback riding. I grew up on horseback, practically, and there is this very specific image out there of what a rider ‘looks like’. I knew that I didn’t fit that image but I also knew that my horses were structurally sound and not suffering. I started writing a blog for plus sized riders, which was largely tied to a weight loss journey, but it just snowballed from there.
I think Jes Baker was probably my first discovered ‘icon’ of the body positive movement and it’s gone from there. There are so many smart, confident voices out there these days and I just love it!
“Who you are today is a valid and important part of the journey of your life. Please meet that person and welcome them, they are a foundation of who you are, even if you are not always in this exact body as this exact person. Your body is not a signal of your moral value or worth in society, and you deserve goodness and happiness as much as the next person does.”– Amity Lassiter
LINDLEY: What advice do you have for other people who are learning to love and accept their bodies?
Amity: Who you are today is a valid and important part of the journey of your life. Please meet that person and welcome them, they are a foundation of who you are, even if you are not always in this exact body as this exact person. Your body is not a signal of your moral value or worth in society, and you deserve goodness and happiness as much as the next person does.
LINDLEY: What advice do you have for other business owners who’d like to incorporate body acceptance into their work?
Amity: For the love of all things holy, consult people with diverse bodies who do this kind of work. There is nothing worse than getting excited about a new body positive company only to find out their idea of body positivity is very narrow or not intersectional.
LINDLEY: Where can we find more of your work?
Published since 2014, USA Today bestselling author Amity Lassiter writes contemporary western romance with small-town magic. Find her at:
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