It was 2011, and I had nearly lost my mind in grad school.
I had been through months of therapy, had fled the country, had come back, had cried about a gallon of frustration tears, had subjected my friends and boyfriend to the same conversation (the "I think I'm losing my shit!" conversation) about ten trillion times. You know that harrowed, defeated, puffy, pathetic look that people who have just gone through an intense breakup have? Yeah, I had that look every day for over a year. I was in an abusive relationship - with academia, but it was all about to end.
I was sitting at my desk at the (now defunct) think tank where I was working, about a month before graduation. The idea for what is now Hot & Heavy hadn't exactly been born yet, but a different version had been growing inside my head for two years by this point.
I decided to write Brooke Warner.
At the time she was the acquisitions editor at Seal Press. I had written her two years before, right before I was accepted to my master's program. I had pitched a manifesto called "Fatties of the World Unite!" And even though it was ultimately rejected, Brooke encouraged me to keep writing and to move forward with the idea of a book on the subject of fat. She had said back in 2009 that it wasn't the right time for the book, but after spending over a year researching fat women and existing in what I call the "fat underground" I was sure that the world was ready for this book - that the world needed this book.
Brooke agreed. She actually pushed my original idea - of an anthology exclusively about fat sexuality - to what the book is now: a collection of stories about all aspects of fat girl life. So the book got the green light! I was dying with joy and delight and excitement. I decided to leave the country again after I graduated: this time to visit my friend Brittney in Beijing and then to one of my favorite cities in the world, Bangkok. I remember literally waiting an hour at a Thai post office to send the signed book contract back to Berkeley.
From that point I had six months to put together an entire book.
So I put out a call for contributors...
Each of the submissions pushed my understanding of fatphobia, of fat life, and the complex ways that fat intersects with other identities. Reading fat girls' stories forced me to grow as an editor, as a woman, and as a fat person. For so long I had believed that fat positivity was a magical power only wielded by magical people. When I began I really thought the book would be a light-hearted guide to living a fabulous fat life. But the stories were more complicated than that. What I discovered was that body love was a tool that was hard won by people with incredible strength, resiliency and drive to subvert a culture that seeks to stifle - or altogether exterminate - their right to life.
The title "Hot & Heavy" didn't come until later. I was waiting for that perfect moment. I knew I couldn't - wouldn't - settle when it came to the name this book would have. I had asked a bunch of people and racked my brain. And then the moment came! It came while I was reading the holiday gift guide in O Magazine on the toilet (as one does, ghurl!), and one of her brilliant copywriters had suggested giving a "hot and heavy" gift like a crock pot. That was it! That was the title I'd been searching for!
At the end of the editing process I had thirty-one stories. Once I submitted the manuscript it was another eight months before I would have the book in my hands.
Recently Hot & Heavy contributor Ashley Young (pictured above) asked me how editing the book had impacted me. I answered:
Hot & Heavy has had an enormous influence on my politics and that has impacted the way I see my body - and the way I think of it and treat it - as a political tool. Bodies are extraordinarily political, especially fat bodies. Hot & Heavy really forced me to think about the path of resistance that so many people have taken in the name of liberation. The women in Hot & Heavy have taken great personal risks to be who they are, to be free. I wanted to be part of that legacy. I wanted my body to be part of that history.
This piece is part of the one year anniversary of Hot & Heavy's release. Support fat positive community and literature by purchasing a copy of Hot & Heavy and by liking us on Facebook!
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.