Fat Girl Finishing School

Fat Girl Finishing School by Rachel Wiley (2014 and reprinted in 2020) is the Columbus, Ohio area poetry slam artist’s first published book of poetry. It includes more than forty poems, including the widely-shared (and linked above) “10 Honest Thoughts on Being Loved by a Skinny Boy.”

Wiley is biracial and unapologetically fat and queer. Her poems speak to the beauty she has fought the world to find in herself. By doing so, Wiley shines a light so that other fat folks can see our own beauty, too.

Included are five separate love letters to her body (#3, #7, #8. #10, and #14), an Ode to Tracy Turnblad (from the musical Hairspray, her first fat role model), and a Poem for Amy Wineglass.

The Circus Fat Lady Eulogizes Mary the Elephant brought me to tears. I had never heard the story, but Mary was a circus elephant in Tennessee who killed a trainer in 1916 and was hanged from a crane shortly thereafter. Later, while taking her ivory tusks, it was found that she had an infected tooth on the same side where the trainer had struck her with a hook.

In Naked Atonement, Wiley promises “to stop letting selfish mouths/who do not kiss your belly into our bed.” I so wish those words had been written for me to read when I was young. In Love Letter to My Body #14, Wiley proclaims that “Shame does not live here anymore.”

Daylight, written for the 16 year old girl who no longer wants to leave her house, should be given to every young person who struggles with self-doubt. It’s such a lovely and encouraging pep talk that I plan on making it part of care packages for the two soon-to-be college freshmen in my life.

In full disclosure, I received an electronic review copy of this book from NetGalley in 2020 but didn’t read it in time before access to the copy expired. So I bought it, and am so glad that I did.

Fat Girl Finishing School is essential for any fat positive library.

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