Evette Dionne’s Memoir Weightless Expertly Chronicles a Lifelong Journey Toward Bodily Peace

Evette Dionne, the writer whose first memoir, Weightless: Making Space for my Resilient Body and Soul, debuted on December 6, is all too used to talking about societally encouraged body-shaming; she did it for years as the editor of Bitch magazine, which ceased operations this summer after several decades’ worth of meaningfully engaging with questioning the long-ago-established thinner-is-better status quo. Still, Dionne’s careful recounting of her own story in Weightless adds particular expertise and nuance to the topic of fat identity—and in a far more permanent form.

Dionne’s book tells the story of a lifetime spent trying to get free of the stereotypes (both internalized and externalized) that are so often associated with being a fat Black woman, writing that her body has historically been “one that others map their expectations on, but it has never let me down.” Reading the story of her lifelong work around self-acceptance and body peace is an emotional yet energizing experience that may well encourage the reader still putting off that major life event “until I’ve lost [x] pounds” to reconsider. 

Recently, Vogue spoke to Dionne about seeing her years’ worth of writing on fat liberation take a new form, self-care as community care, and what she hopes people will take away from Weightless. (Dionne notes that she supports the historic strike currently being mounted by workers at her publishing house, Harper Collins.)  

How and when did the idea of this book start to take shape for you?

I did not think there was a book in my experiences for a long time, because I did not see my experience as a fat person as being that unique. Then I became a part of fat liberation circles, and after my heart failure diagnosis, I was really journaling through the experience, and trying to place myself within my body. When I started to read the journals, I was like, Whoa, this is a unique experience that might be worthy of being chronicled in some way. Thankfully, my agent agreed, and we decided to turn it into a book.

How was the process of introducing ideas about fat liberation and self-acceptance to a world that’s not always receptive?

Well, it was complicated, because I’ve been doing that kind of fat liberation writing and work in the public sphere for a long time. So I’m accustomed to the blowback that tends to come if I’m writing about, say, Lizzo, or about body positivity and fat liberation in general; there’s a camp of people who immediately begin to fat-shame, so I’m accustomed to that. But I think doing it in this form felt a lot different to me than doing it digitally or even in a magazine. I’m very grateful that I’m a part of a canon, really—of all of these books that have come before my book—who have done that laying of the groundwork of what fat liberation is, and how it shows up in your life, which allows me to almost come into a middle space where I can assume that many people coming into the book have read about those ideas and I can take it a little further. Also, if this is the first time someone is hearing about fat liberation, I really want to use my personal stories to bring them in, because sometimes it’s easier to see yourself in a person rather than an idea.

Can you think of any books that helped you on your own journey toward understanding and identifying with the concept of fat liberation?

The first book I can remember reading that really made me start thinking about this was Jes Baker’s Landwhale. Then of course, the blogosphere of back in the day was really influential for me; Gabi Gregg, LoveBrownSugar, Nicolette Mason, all those people were so important in helping me see what was possible. The two books that made me think there was a market for this book were Shrill by Lindy West and Hunger by Roxane Gay. I was like, “Okay, people care about these stories, and there’s a space in which to tell these stories, and it can be influential and really change people’s lives.”

I know the concept of “self-care” is a complex one, but how do you take care of yourself as you prepare to turn a book full of your personal experiences over to the world?

Ever since my heart failure and pulmonary hypertension diagnoses, my entire world revolves around: “How do I feel?” I try to be really in tune with what my body needs, which sometimes looks like taking an afternoon nap after a meeting or waking up early or sleeping late or going to get a massage. The way I think about self-care is often in terms of mutual care; “How do I take care of myself in order to show up for people within my communities in the ways that they need?” For instance, my partner had gender affirming top surgery in June. We had a new dog, I had just gone through a layoff, we were preparing to move, and he was recovering, and I was his primary caretaker. So I had to figure out, “Okay, I know I need to take care of him and his recovery is top priority, but how do I not lose myself? How do I make sure I’m reaching out asking for help? How do I make sure that I’m not sacrificing myself for someone else, even if it is my partner, whom I deeply love?” Care is really the center of my world, and everything else is pretty ancillary.

Is there anything in particular that you hope people take away from Weightless?

I really want people to feel optimistic about the possibility of creating a new world for fat people, because it really is going to require a movement in the way that we think about lobbying for gun rights or reproductive justice and abortion rights. It’s going to take work to get states to pass work discrimination laws for people who are plus-size; that will require organization and lobbying, and I think at the center of that is hope and optimism that we don’t have to stay in the world that we’re in. It doesn’t have to be this way.

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