So Many Awards for NYU Press!

The New York Society Library has chosen Boulevard of Dreams: Heady Times, Heartbreak, and Hope Along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx by Constance Rosenblum as a winner in the 2009-2010 New York City Book Awards. Founded in 1996, these awards are given annually to books that capture the essence of New York City.

The Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America has selected Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville by David Freeland for the Publication Award for Popular Culture and Entertainment for 2009. The Publication Awards honor individuals and organizations for their work in contributing to the understanding, appreciation and preservation of Victorian heritage within the New York City.

The Pacific Sociological Association has awared the PSA Distinguished Scholarship Awardto Courting Change: Queer Parents, Judges, and the Transformation of American Family Law by Kimberly D. Richman.

The Fat Studies Reader has been selected for the Popular Culture/American Culture Association‘s 2010 Susan Koppelman Award for the Best Edited Volume in Women’s Studies published in 2009. The award will be presented at the PCA/ACA Conference in St. Louis on Friday, April 2.

Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines Debate the Meaning of Fat

This weekend, Kevin Smith got into a very public twitter war with Southwest Airlines after they allegedly ejected him from a full airplane for being “too fat to fly.” You can read Kevin Smith’s round up here, Southwest’s response, and an independent assessment of the situation by Gawker.

But, if you want to know what fat IS, you might want to read two of our books: The Fat Studies Reader and Fat Rights. There’s no better place to start on your quest to understand why and how our society and laws treat fat people differently.

Weight-loss industry masks its economic interests with bogus health concerns

An op-ed in the San Diego Union Tribune by Esther Rothblum, co-editor of The Fat Studies Reader.

Fat studies scholars in the health and medical sciences have examined the economic interests, masquerading as health concerns, that fuel the thin-is-better industries. Americans spend about $58 billion a year on weight-loss programs, diet foods, diet cookbooks and weight-loss drugs. Are these programs working in the long run? No. People are getting fatter – and living longer. The life expectancy for Americans born in 1930 is 58 years for men and 62 years for women. Life expectancy for those born in 2004 is 75 years for men and 80 years for women. This means that we are outliving our thinner grandparents by about 20 years!

Tricks, Treats, and Shattering Stereotypes

By Lara Frater

Every October, I take an informal survey of plus size costumes. Not that I necessarily want to pay $65 for some polyester thing, but I like to compare years. Last Halloween Ricky’s had nothing plus-sized in their stores and a whole three costumes available online. This year’s selection was improved, with 40 outfits online and some in the stores, which puts us at about the same selection as dogs. I guess that’s better. If I were a size medium, I would have had about a thousand costumes to choose from.

Which brings me to The Fat Studies Reader, a scholarly work edited by Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay just published by NYU Press that addresses various topics such as the so-called obesity epidemic, size discrimination, fat history, media images, social issues and much more. It’s a big deal because of the relative lack of scholarly credence these issues receive in the media.

The lack of costumes is merely the lighter side of the scary discrimination that fat people face every day. We are considered lesser human beings not worthy of even a silly costume, or perhaps society has decided to put us in their own stereotypical ones. We are all Headless Fatties. Look at any news articles about obesity and you see only an anonymous belly, devoid of any identity. Or perhaps we’ve become the big fat boogeyman. We are bombarded with the message that obesity kills, especially children (although a recent article indicates that this generation’s children might live to be 100). I’ve seen fat blamed for everything: cancer, plane crashes, global warming, skyrocketing health cost (despite a 2007 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation that showed people over 64 had the highest health care costs). However most of us have been viewed as Homer Simpson, the stereotypical American: a fat, drunk, lazy, stupid buffoon who swills down everything, sits on the couch all day, and refuses to exercise.

The truth is we aren’t these costumes. We aren’t stereotypes or anonymous bellies. The Fat Studies Reader, this big fat book is meant to help shatter stereotypes about health, diets, and media portrayals of fat people. Fat people are not limited to the costumes society gives them. This anthology of talented writers includes such costumes as university professors, librarians, lawyers, burlesque dancers, fat rebels, and sociologists, all of whom come from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. Indeed not only are stereotypes shattered in these essays but the diversity of authors shows that fat goes way beyond being the killer, the bureaucrat, the headless fattie, and Homer Simpson.

You can get The Fat Studies Reader, online and in bookstores. If your bookstore doesn’t have it, ask them to order it.

For those in the New York metro area you can celebrate this excellent work along with some of the authors on Friday, December 4 (around 8pm) at the excellent vintage clothing store Re/Dress ( in Brooklyn, NY.

Stephen Colbert: “I’m fat, you’re fat”

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Obesity Epidemic – Amy Farrell
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Michael Moore

Amy Farrell, contributor to The Fat Studies Reader and author of a forthcoming NYUP book called Fat Shame, took her message to the Colbert Report last night. Developing what she and the volume editors had started in separate appearances on the Brian Lehrer Show, she drove home the need to distance overweight from poor health, and described the myriad cultural and professional obstacles fat people face.

Stephen Colbert was his usual whip smart and hilarious self on the set, but also gracious and engaging backstage. (Also in the green room was The RZA, there to talk about his new book during the last segment, thus joining Amy and The RZA for video eternity!)

–Eric Zinner, Editor-in-Chief

P.S. A special shout out to Emily Lazar and Amy Schwartz of the Colbert Report for recognizing the importance of the issue and Amy’s talent, and making everything go so well while we were there.

The New Yorker Asks, Why Are We So Fat?

This article features our Fall 2009 title The Fat Studies Reader, edited by Esther D. Rothblum and Sondra Solovay

One of the most comprehensive data sets available about Americans—how tall they are, when they last visited a dentist, what sort of cereal they eat for breakfast, whether they have to pee during the night, and, if so, how often—comes from a series of studies conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Participants are chosen at random, interviewed at length, and subjected to a battery of tests in special trailers that the C.D.C. hauls around the country. The studies, known as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, began during the Eisenhower Administration and have been carried out periodically ever since.

In the early nineteen-nineties, a researcher at the C.D.C. named Katherine Flegal was reviewing the results of the survey then under way when she came across figures that seemed incredible. According to the first National Health study, which was done in the early nineteen-sixties, 24.3 per cent of American adults were overweight—roughly defined as having a body-mass index greater than twenty-seven. (The metrics are slightly different for men and women; by the study’s definition, a woman who is five feet tall would count as overweight if she was more than a hundred and forty pounds, and a man who is six feet tall if he weighed more than two hundred and four pounds.) By the time of the second survey, conducted in the early nineteen-seventies, the proportion of overweight adults had increased by three-quarters of a per cent, to twenty-five per cent, and, by the third survey, in the late seventies, it had edged up to 25.4 per cent. The results that Flegal found so surprising came from the fourth survey. During the nineteen-eighties, the American gut, instead of expanding very gradually, had ballooned: 33.3 per cent of adults now qualified as overweight. Flegal began asking around at professional meetings. Had other researchers noticed a change in Americans’ waistlines? They had not. This left her feeling even more perplexed. She knew that errors could have sneaked into the data in a variety of ways, so she and her colleagues checked and rechecked the figures. There was no problem that they could identify. Finally, in 1994, they published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In just ten years, they showed, Americans had collectively gained more than a billion pounds. “If this was about tuberculosis, it would be called an epidemic,” another researcher wrote in an editorial accompanying the report.

Read More at The New Yorker.