Dietland, written by first time novelist Sarai Walker, is an interesting novel on many levels. There is a crescendo through the book that slowly reveals itself to be more than a book about a 300 pound woman named Plum who is the main character of the book. It is a feminist manifesto. I would call it a femifesto.
The beginning of the book focuses on Plum who weighs 300 pounds and hides behind everything except for the skinny persona that she ghost writes for under for a teen magazine, like a Dear Abby column. She answers questions to young women about rape, abuse, self destruction, lack of confidence etc. She herself struggles with weight and the belief that her weight bleeds into everything else that is wrong with her life. Regardless she is obviously intelligent and funny not whiny.
Plum has been saving to get her stomach stapled. Her belief is that if she becomes thin everything wrong with her life will be fixed. She ends up meeting a woman whose mother had started a Weight Watchers type of company that Plum had attended in her earlier years. Her mother died and now her daughter is attempting to change the perception of self that each women who went through her Mothers program felt. Her program clearly stated that you will only be happy if you are thin. Her daughter feels that everyone should feel good about themselves and how they look no matter what. Fat is not a four letter word. It is an inspiring theme. It is also a theme that appears to resonate with this generation. Embrace who you are.
Fast forward, Plum gets pulled into a mysterious underground of women (or woman) that are operating under the name Jennifer. This group wants to change the way that men (and women) portray women as objects. They want to change the way that women are treated; force magazines to stop putting women in scanty clothes on covers, stop porn, avenge rapists and adulterous men. They want social change. They could be categorized as terrorists but in their eyes they have been terrorized since they came out of the womb from not being paid as much as men for the same job, to having to justify some man not being arrested for sexual abuse or even rape, to walking by a construction site and being whistled at to watching women’s breasts drive by daily in an ad on the local bus.
The underground group starts to create change. This movement is beyond pushing the boundaries but it characterizes a movement that is happening now. Women who are graduating college today have had enough of not having an equal voice, equal pay, equal rights, and equal power. Sarai Walker has written a thought provoking smart book that says a lot more than the paper it is printed on (or for that matter electronically written on).
A worthy read.