20 Sep

Body Image in Literature

Posted in Literature, Reading

The topic of body image has been on my mind a lot lately. Maybe it’s because being pregnant, I’m suddenly more aware of my body than every before (mostly since there’s more of me to love so I’m constantly bumping into things.)  Or maybe it’s because I’m thinking more about how I want to raise my kid.  How am I going to help him develop healthy food and exercise habits?  How will I help him feel confident in his own body?  These are all questions that had been bouncing around my brain.

This issue–which I think just about every kid and teen dealt with at some point in their lives–is one that should be discussed in children’s and teen literature.  What shocks me, though, is that when it comes the number of novels that actually address body image, there are shockingly few.  Sure, you can find shelves upon shelves of diet books or nutrition books, but that’s not what kids and teens are reading, right?

This week, I have decided to dedicate some time and space on my blog to discussing this very important issue.  Wednesday, I’ll be hosting the awesome Katrina Kittle, author of Reasons to Be Happy, which is a book that addresses body image distortion (and eating disorders) for middle grade readers.  As you may already know, just as there are few books that deal with body image for kids in general, most of the books that do address this issue are targeted to teens.  The fact that Reasons to Be Happy is written for a younger audience really makes it unique among body image books.

Thursday I plan to post a list of books for kids and teens that address body image.  I already have a few on my list, but would love to hear your suggestions as well.  If you have suggestions for books to put on the list, please leave a comment below!  My hope is that if we all put our heads together, we can come up with a solid list of books that deal with this issue.  Finally, on Friday Ghenet and I will be discussing body image in teen literature, in our weekly YA Cafe post.

Starting with today’s post, I’ll be running a series about body image in kid’s and teen literature.  My goal is to start a dialogue where we can discuss how books for kids and teens handle body image and also how we, as writers and adults, can play a positive role in helping kids feel confident in their own bodies.  But more importantly, for us to be role models, we must also recognize that we are beautiful, just as we are.

Which is why this week, if you’re on twitter, please join the conversation. I’ll be using the hash tag #whatmakesmebeautiful to share tweets about ways I’ve become confident in my own body image, and I invite you to do the same.  So tell me, what makes you beautiful?

15 Comments »

Comments on this post

  1. Satia says:

    When my children were little I stopped reading women’s magazines. I simply refused to have those images/messages in my home. Not even those “homemaking” magazines were safe because even if the content focused on things like healthy recipes or how to unclutter a closet, the advertisements screamed about how to look/be/feel younger/thinner/prettier/etc.

    I can’t wait to read your list of recommended reading because I’ve read a couple of young adult novels about eating disorders and it was strange but I actually found myself feeling disgusted with my own body, etc. Obviously not the response the author was hoping for, I’m sure, because a reader shouldn’t be tempted into an eating disorder as the result of reading these novels. (Luckily for me, I have a love of good food and cooking that would make it nearly impossible for me ever give in to such a dangerous temptation.)

    Oh wait. You know . . . Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan would definitely be one I’d consider recommending. It’s not brilliant but it’s cute and quirky, which are qualities I like in people and sometimes in books.

    1. Jennifer, bookspersonally says:

      What a great topic to consider! I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on this topic. I don’t read much current young adult/teen literature, but from my own youth (seriously dating myself) Judy Blume’s Deenie and (can’t remember the author) The Best Little Girl in the World come to mind (the latter was one of the first books to really explore anorexia, don’t know if anyone still reads it.

      1. Caroline Starr Rose says:

        Here was a YA Australian book a few years ago called something like On Glenelg Road (not sure about anything but the Glenelg part — a part of Adelaide, SA close to where I lived as an exchange student).

        What I love is having a body that is able to move! I’ve just finished my third half marathon, and while I’m slow-ish and no longer look like the ballerina I was in my teens, I am powerful and grateful for the amazing things my body can do.

        1. Satia says:

          I forgot. I meant to mention Operation Beautiful. There’s a book and a website. It ties in wonderfully with this theme.

          1. Margo Berendsen says:

            I’m so glad you brought this up – I realized that I can only think of one YA/MG book recently that addressed body image (Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.) It is something I wish would be addressed more!!! I sure struggled with it as a teen and EVER SINCE (fortunately not pre-teen, though).

            What makes me beautiful? When I decide to wear a dress to church instead of the usual jeans, and my little girls tell me, “mommy you are so beautiful!” (even though the dress is size 14!)

            1. Margo Berendsen says:

              I’m so glad you brought this up – I realized that I can only think of one YA/MG book recently that addressed body image (Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.) It is something I wish would be addressed more!!! I sure struggled with it as a teen and EVER SINCE (fortunately not pre-teen, though).

              What makes me beautiful? When I decide to wear a dress to church instead of the usual jeans, and my little girls tell me, “mommy you are so beautiful!” (even though the dress is size 14!)

              1. Connie Keller says:

                What a great idea to talk about. I’m really curious to see the list of books.

                1. gabi says:

                  Thank you all for your awesome book suggestions! I’ll be posting the list shortly! You all rock and you’re all BEAUTIFUL!

                  1. Diana says:

                    #whatmakesmebeautiful is my heart

                    1. David Lauri says:

                      #whatmakesmebeautiful is that I love and accept myself

                      1. Lori Gravley says:

                        I am a big woman, but I practice yoga, and as I have deepened that practice (I’m in teacher training) I’ve come to realize how rare self acceptance is in me and in many other women. Of course, we get lots of messages that we aren’t acceptable, but then we start in on ourselves. Part of my yoga practice each day is to really praise my body. It is strong and flexible. It has the power to create life. It moves me through the world gracefully, most of the time ;-). When I do I tough pose, I have a moment of gratitude while I rest in child’s pose or downward dog.

                        When I stand on the scale each morning; I thank my body for it’s beauty and strength, no matter what the scale says. My acceptance of myself helps me see my beauty, but the beauty has been there all along. Can’t wait to read Katrina’s book and the others on your list. Thanks for addressing this.

                        1. Body Image in Literature ? Iggi & Gabi | List of Sports for Kids says:

                          [...] Source: http://www.iggiandgabi.com/2011/09/body-image-in-literature/ [...]

                          1. Dorothée says:

                            #whatmakesmebeautiful is being happy. I used to lack self confidence, and still do sometimes, but growing up makes you stronger, you learn from your success and failures and you realize that believing in yourself makes you beautiful. I believe that the way people see you only depends on YOU. If you’re happy, it will show. If you think people will look at you differently, it will also show and make people see you differently.

                            1. Laura says:

                              what makes me beautiful is my smile, my willingness to drop everything for the people I love and help them– to go that extra mile for the ones I love, and I listen when people talk to me.

                              1. Mose Uljevic says:

                                “Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” ~ James A. Baldwin

Iggi & Gabi - All rights reserved © 2010-2011

I am a HowJoyful Design by Joy Kelley