Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Becky Albertalli

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty-four authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Becky Albertalli

Becky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, DC. She now lives with her family in Atlanta. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is her first novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterTumblrInstagramGoodreads

It’s hard to forget the first time you really see yourself in a book. Sometimes that’s a good thing. In my case, it wasn’t.

I was in elementary school, and someone got me this chapter book called Fatso Jean the Ice Cream Queen. It was about this chubby girl (like me) who loved ice cream (like me), and was bullied because of her weight (like me). But by the end of the book, Jean cut back on ice cream! She lost the weight! And everyone loved her!

(Not like me.)

So, that sucked.

There weren’t a lot of fat girls in the books I read. I had Tamora Pierce’s Tris Chandler, and I was lucky I found her. I remember clinging to a line in Caroline Cooney’s Time Travelers Quartet where a background character was described as “plump and pretty.” She was plump! AND pretty! And after that, I had nothing until Eleanor and Park, which I read when I was thirty.

Then, two months ago, I met the funny, earnest, stubborn, beautiful Willowdean Dickson. She’s a southerner. She’s fat. She’s a Dolly Parton fan. And she’s the main character of Julie Murphy’s upcoming Dumplin’, which unfortunately means she’s fictional. But she feels real, in a good way.

I actually wasn’t sure I’d connect with this girl. Here’s the thing: there’s no universal fat experience – not even close. Willowdean isn’t shy about bathing suits. She embraces the word “fat.” She’s a badass. She even enters a beauty pageant. And that isn’t me.

But she is me, somehow. So many of her thoughts and feelings and experiences made me ache with recognition. I’ve been the girl waiting outside the dressing room in a store where the clothes don’t fit me. I’ve felt the terror and confusion that comes with falling in love in a body that some people think is unlovable. And I’ve had moments where I’ve felt beautiful. I’ve had moments of not caring what others think.

This stuff kind of ebbs and flows, and Julie Murphy gets that. She lets Willowdean explore that. And her relationship to her body is as complex and challenging and beautiful as her friendships, her family, and her love life.

Did I mention that Willowdean has a love life? One that doesn’t involve her losing weight?

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have the body confidence I’d like to have. If you call me “fat,” you’ll hurt my feelings. A lot of women I admire find that word empowering. I’m not there yet.

If I’d grown up knowing Willowdean, I think I would be.

Title Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author Becky Albertalli
Pages 320 Pages
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance, LGBTQ
Publisher Balzer + Bray
To Be Published April 7th, 2015
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out — without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

7 responses to “Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Becky Albertalli”

  1. I’m so excited about this feature, and I’m definitely going to be checking out Dumplin’. I’ve always struggled with my body confidence, too, and I think there’s a severe lack of characters who aren’t slim in the books I read.

    I did have Jacqueline Wilson’s Girls series, which helped me a lot, but it was only one series out of many where the main character was overweight.

    Great post!
    Jess @ Curiouser and Curiouser recently posted…Reading Challenge Update!My Profile

  2. Frasier says:

    I have been so, so, so excited for this feature since you tweeted about it and now that it’s here, I am in so much love with it. This is a great post from Becky and a great idea from you.
    Frasier recently posted…P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #2) by Jenny HanMy Profile

  3. Rebecca says:

    I think I have something in my eye…

    This post was beautiful and moving, and it’s also the reason why I cannot wait to read Dumplin’! Book, I need you in my life!
    Rebecca recently posted…Nerding Out: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliMy Profile

  4. Rachel says:

    This was such a beautiful post, I’m practically speechless. I can’t say I can relate to the specific topic completely, but I definitely know how powerful it is when you finally find yourself in a book.
    Rachel recently posted…Review: Revenge, Ice Cream, and Other Things Best Served Cold by Katie FinnMy Profile

  5. Brooks says:


    This is so many kinds of wonderful.


  6. Fabulous post and a great start to this feature!
    I had the pleasure to read Dumplin’ earlier this year as an eARC and I totally can relate to Becky’s thoughts about Willowdean. As a fat girl, the experience of reading about a character who is fat and okay with that was so refreshing and felt so right for me.
    [email protected] recently posted…Monthly Wrap Up – MayMy Profile

  7. Holly J says:

    This was BEAUTIFUL! And I think so many of us, especially women, can relate to this post and to Willowdean (it makes me so excited to meet her). I’ve always struggled with my weight and how I look, and I am definitely NOT confident in my skin. I love girls who are, whether they’re fat or skinny. I envy them. I wish I could be reassured with my weight, but I’m not there yet. Maybe I’ll never be completely, but that’s okay. People love me for ME, not how I look or how much I weigh, and I need to remember that. <3
    Holly J recently posted…Fantastical Mini ReviewsMy Profile

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