The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler is number 34 on the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books from 2000-2009. Instead of being banned, I believe that this book should be a recommended read for all girls before entering high school (it would be useful for boys as well, but it is a book geared towards the trials of a high school girl).
Virginia’s mother is an exercise junkie, her dad has verbalized his preference for thinner women, her older sister is a beautiful stick, and her older brother is constantly teasing V for her chubbiness. Her only friend has been moved to Walla Walla, WA for a year, and V has recently been letting a cute boy at school come over to her often-empty house to make out. V has created a Fat Girl Code of Conduct when it comes to hanging out with Froggy (yes, that’s his real name!), which means that she is not allowed to speak of their “relationship” in public, she is not to push for a real relationship (“Let him get the milk without having to buy the cow.” pg. 17), and she should go further than skinny girls.
V’s weight is the main topic throughout the book. She knows she’s on the chubby side, but she uses food as a defense mechanism and so fears that she will be fat forever. Of course, it only takes one final comment from her own father for V to throw herself into an extreme diet. “Think how much prettier you could be if you lost twenty or thirty pounds.” (pg. 67) I was disgusted by this comment, and V’s reaction to completely stop eating. When V taped pictures of skinny models to the refrigerator as the “Food Police,” I was deeply saddened. First of all, because her mother was so approving of this. Secondly, because I have done something similar. When I was in high school, I created a collage of skinny girls that was hung in my bedroom as motivation to eat less and exercise more.
After reading about V’s parental reactions to her extreme dieting, a small part of me became curious about the banning of this book. I began to suspect that maybe this book is challenged because there are parents out there who are so embarrassed to see themselves in the words of V’s parents. I know that I would be.
I’m not going to go into further detail, but overall I was just disgusted with the behavior in this book. It wasn’t just from V’s parents, but the kids at her school had reprehensible behavior as well. V regularly locked herself in the bathroom during lunch time because she didn’t know who to sit with. This resulted in her overhearing the so-called popular girls discussing her. One of them stated that she would die if she were as fat as V. This caused some extreme depression and self-hate for V, and my first thought was that I wanted to wrap her in my arms and protect her from the cruelty of these evil children.
This is a powerful story about adolescence in today’s skinny-obsessed society, and although the ending was slightly unoriginal, it still had me smiling and cheering for Virginia.