Monday, May 15, 2023

Author interview with Mekdela

This month's author interview is with Mekdela, a truly inspirational lady who has tackled a very personal issue in her first book,
'Plus-Size: A Memoir of Pop Culture, Fatphobia, and Social Change'. She indie published in 2021, so let's meet her:

'My name is Mekdela and I am an author, advocate, and organizer. I am a Black feminist and socialist that cares deeply about my communities, including plus-size or fat people. I love reading, I have a sweet tooth, and I am obsessed with dogs.'

And she's created a tweetable version for you too (tweet here):

'Mekdela, author of “Plus-Size: A Memoir of Pop Culture, Fatphobia, and Social Change,” is a Black feminist, a socialist, and is obsessed with dogs.'

As I'm not reviewing Mekdela's book, I asked her for a short synopsis so that we could learn a little more about her work:

'"Plus-Size: A Memoir of Pop Culture, Fatphobia, and Social Change" chronicles the rise of the body positive movement and body positivity through pop culture reviews and personal reflections. This essay collection illustrates the insidiousness of fatphobia through analyses of film, television, books, and how they affect our perceptions and treatment of others.

Altogether, the essays paint a big picture of fatphobia, misogyny, misogynoir, ableism, and capitalism in American society. Furthermore, this essay collection emphasizes the potential for social change.

Featuring media from the 1990s, early 2000s, 2010s, and up until today, this memoir tells a story of America's uneasy and ever-changing relationship with fat.'

Wow, this sounds an indepth study of the issue! She's produced a tweetable for you to share too (tweet here):

‘Plus-Size’ chronicles the rise of the body positive movement through pop culture reviews and illustrates the insidiousness of fatphobia.' 

As she mentioned the book was made up of essays, I wondered how they came about - was it research first and then write an essay, or did she research something that was happening to her in life and then wrote the piece?
'Something interesting about my book is that I didn't do any of the research for the purpose of writing my book. It is research that I did in my spare time out of interest or research I happened to come across on the internet. 

When I was writing the essays (which were originally posts on my blog) the research just came back to me and I included it to help underscore the message. One of the themes among my book’s reviews is that my book is well-researched and well-written.'

What lovely feedback for any non-fiction author, but that's particularly impressive for a debut book! What does she feel about reviews? 

'I cherish good ones, screenshot them and share them on my Twitter and website. I feel bummed about bad reviews and stew for a little while before I get over it.'

Oh dear, but I do think it's important to leave reviews, even if you do have constructive criticism. If you're nervous about this, do take a look at my featured post (click here) for more information.

She mentioned the internet for research, what other sources did she use too?

'I pulled from articles, books, magazines, and other forms of media throughout the book. I reference quite a few studies. I found this research while doing other things, like studying or reading in my leisure time. When I started writing, the research just came back to me. My brain stores information I am interested in.' 

I wish I could say the same about my brain! I have to admit to being quite in awe of anyone who exposes so much of themselves in a memoir, particularly when it's such a personal issue. Having put her work out there now, has it had any effect on her?

'It is definitely a cathartic experience - the more honest you are, the more painful the memories you share, the more freeing and empowering it is. There is power in vulnerability. And I process my feelings through writing; it's therapeutic for me.

I went to a panel at the LA Times Festival of Books in which memoir authors were speaking. One attendee asked an author if it was traumatizing to put her most painful experiences on paper. And she said, no! It was a relief - writing it down and giving it to other people gave her peace because it allowed her to put the pain down and walk away from it. It lifted the weight from her shoulders and unburdened her, like she wasn't carrying that heavy load with her anymore.

Writing and publishing this book was like that for me. It was a form of healing, and I hope it is enlightening and healing to everyone who reads it.'

That's so powerful! What inspired her to become a writer?

'Watching the media rewrite history in real time made me want to document my experience of the momentum-building that led to body positivity.'

That's admirable although it must have been hard, being so personal to her?

'Being vulnerable and writing about the tough things that I’ve been through and dealt with is tough. It’s hard to put your worst moments out into the world for judgment.' 

That's very true, and very brave. I asked if she could share an extract so that we could appreciate her style of writing:

'Sometimes I think the most American thing about me is that I am considered 20 –30 pounds overweight (according to the racist one-size-fits-all measurement, BMI or Body Mass Index. Seriously, whose bodies do you think it is based on?)' 

I sense she sprinkles humour throughout the serious content (her comment did make me smile!) - what tone was she aiming for?

'It is a serious book that tackles my frustration at perceptions while challenging fatphobia - but it is also funny and entertaining. 

It is a heartfelt memoir that follows my trajectory through critical points in my life. And it's a historical account of fatphobia in our culture as depicted through critical junctures via pop culture (books, tv, film, etc.) and my own personal reflections. My book is all of these things while coming in at just under 100 pages. This is something that many reviews touch on - readers learn so much from my book because it is well-researched and well-written while being relatively short.'

What a great reaction from her readers! She obviously has skills but what has she enjoyed the most about writing?

'Writing is therapeutic for me. Putting pen to paper helps me organize my thoughts and sort through my feelings. It helps me understand myself better.'

And what has been the hardest part?

'Marketing. It’s hard to get your book seen, to reach the masses, and to get reviews. I’ve hired two marketing teams and they have done a great job, but my book is still relatively unknown. It’s a struggle, but I hope it pays off.'

Oh dear, my heart goes out to her because this is the most common issue experienced by indie authors. So, she's paid for marketing help but what does she consider the best money she's spent as a writer?

'Good question. The money I spent on self-publishing my book. After 26 rejections from literary agents, I discovered self-publishing. Self-publishing – including getting my book professionally edited and designed - is the best money I’ve spent as a writer. It was a great decision.' 

It certainly helps, having professionals looking over your work before indie publishing - it can be one of the negative comments you hear from readers, like spelling mistakes, or looking amateur, so I'd say money well spent! Are there any books or authors who have inspired her?

'Yes, “Hunger” by Roxane Gay, “Shrill” by Lindy West, and countless other memoirs. They are so interesting, funny, heart-wrenching, and game-changing. I love a good memoir.'

Me too! Before finishing up, I asked Mekdela if there was anything else she’d like to share?

'I am open to collaborating with others, whether it’s a blog or podcast interview or other type of project. Email me with inquiries at'

It's certainly going onto my TBR list and I hope yours too. For more information, please visit Mekdela's links below:


Twitter: @plussizebook

Instagram: @mekdela.a

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