As part of the lead up to the 2016 Giller Prize announcement, my goal is to read the short-list of 6 books before the winner is announced November 7, 2016. This prize, originally began in 1994 and was started by Jack Rabinovitch to honour his late wife, Doris Giller. In 2005 the award became the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the richest Canadian literary award with a $100,000 prize.
The long list of 12 books was chosen from a total of 161 books submitted with Canadian judges Lawrence Hill (The Illegal, The Book of Negroes), Kathleen Winter (Annabel) and Jeet Heer (along with two other judges). The judges had the difficult task to pare the list to 6 books on September 26, 2016.
As part of this list, I quickly read 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl. It was divided into 13 chapters which progressed from the issues of highschool into adulthood. Initially it seemed like a young adult read, starting out with teenage girls discussing boys/men at McDonald’s. Sexuality and their challenges with being overweight dominated this initial chapter. As the girls began to experiment sexually, it quickly became apparent that this was not a young adult story but a more mature read.
The book centred around Lizzie-Elizabeth-Beth-Liz as she reinvented herself as she finished highschool, went to university, met men online, got married and dealt with the loss of a parent. Despite her weight loss, she could never lose the images of herself as a “fat girl”. She struggled with her appearance, was challenged by her eating habits and forced herself to exercise. She never came to terms with being happy in her own body.
The writing is easy to follow and can be read in a weekend. The author seems to have an intimate knowledge of being unhappy with one’s weight, struggling with self-esteem and the limits imposed by body image. The book highlights a mother-daughter relationship which shares these struggles of body image by passing down a revulsion and self-hatred for being overweight. It also describes the negativity of female relationships relating to body image in the workplace, the lunchroom and the gym.
I am looking forward to what Mona Awad writes next. She was born in Montreal, studied at the University of Toronto and is presently working on her PhD at the University of Denver. This is her debut novel although she has written as a freelance journalist and food columnist. I think readers will be able to identify with the challenges of Elizabeth and see themselves at certain points in the book. I would recommend this novel and enjoyed a lighter read before I delve into my next Giller read, Do Not Say We Have Nothing.