REVIEW: Fat Off, Fat On: A Big Bitch Manifesto by Clarkisha Kent

Reviewed by Sarah Evans

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cover of Fat On, Fat Off by Clarkisha Kent; cover shows Black woman with scale with cupcakes on one side, fruit on the other, all wrapped with a measuring tapeClarkisha Kent is a lot of things: bi, Black, fat, female, disabled. But there’s one thing she’s definitely not: quiet about the ways society pushes people like her to the margins.

Kent’s memoir, Fat Off, Fat On: A Big Bitch Manifesto (Feminist Press, March 2023), is conversational, snarky, sarcastic, casual, funny, and raw—like an extended coffee date with a life-long friend who invites you to take a comfy seat and dish about life.

But don’t let Kent’s humor fool you into thinking you shouldn’t take her writing seriously. Her memoir is full of deep seriousness, with painful stories about her life and trauma, starting with her childhood in a dysfunctional, non-supportive, and abusive family led by parents who took out their own mental illnesses on their children.

As the book title suggests, much of Kent’s trauma has surrounded her weight, a longtime personal battle that included mental torture from her own family, leading to years of discomfort, self-hatred, and issues with relationships and physical intimacy. “There are a lot of things fat people have to do to survive the everyday violence that we face from a society that finds our existence cumbersome,” she writes.

Tack on Kent’s burgeoning bisexuality, plus her Black identity, and her journey through childhood, college, and early adulthood becomes even more tangled. When she also becomes disabled after a sports injury, Kent loses all hope, as detailed in her chapter titled “My Suicidal Tendencies.”

What ultimately brings Kent through it all is her deep friendships with people she’s met along the way. These friends often show up unexpectedly at her greatest times of need. Sometimes, without knowing it, they literally save her life.

All that said, Kent’s book is not the big downer you might expect it to be. Kent’s personality in life and on the page—boisterous and full of laughter (often to hide her pain)—makes this memoir an incredibly fun read.

Kent’s voice is a refreshing entry into the literary scene: one that mixes humor and familiarity with poignant and touching intimacy, leaving you wanting that coffee date to never end.

Meet the Contributor

sarah evans reviewerSarah Evans is an Oregon writer and social justice activist who tries to raise marginalized voices by reviewing books written by and about people of color, women, and those who identify as LGBTQ+. She has an MFA in nonfiction writing from Pacific University.

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