Content Note: (critical treatment of) fatmisia
Willowdean, known by most people as Will, but always Dumplin’ to her mother, is a fat teenager who is actually rather comfortable with herself. She lives with her mother Rosie, a former beauty queen who is still very active in organizing the pageant. When Will starts working at a local fast food joint, she meets Bo who works there, too. He is a hot, private school jock – and he is also likeable and seems to be into Will. Will doesn’t know how to deal with that and finds herself doubting where she was always confident before. To give herself a confidence boost, she decides to compete in her mother’s pageant – horrifying her mother and inspiring some other girls who never thought they would to go for it, too.
I really enjoyed Dumplin’ the first time I read it, and I’m happy to report that it holds up very well to a second reading. It’s still sweet and fun, while touching on heavier topics, and Will is a great character.
On this read-through of the novel, I have to say that the story of Will’s aunt resonated more strongly with me than the first time round. Probably because I have been thinking a lot about how being fat often keeps us fatties from living our lives to the fullest. There seems to be a belief that life will starts once we are thin enough (and if we never get thin, well, tough luck to us). It’s nonsense fueled by internalized fatmisia and exacerbated by fatmisic people’s reactions to fat people enjoying themselves in public.
I also could relate to Will’s mother a little more (maybe I’m getting old). I generally enjoyed how she and Will grow together over the course of the novel. From what I remembered of the first reading, I could have sworn that the romance is at the heart of the book, but really, it’s Will and Will’s relationship with her mother. Maybe next time, it will be different again.
This time round, the fact that Will isn’t alone in her revolution of the pageant didn’t come as a surprise to me anymore, but it’s still important and was one of the main reasons, I wanted to re-read the book now – some of the characters got their own books and I wanted to re-acquaint myself with them, before diving into those. And I’m looking forward to doing just that – I’m sure that they’re going to be a blast, too.
Summarizing: just lovely.