Extended Review: Curvy Girls Anthology Edited By Rachel Kramer Bussel

Honestly, looking at me it wouldn’t be hard to figure out, but because many of us RT staff members go without a face (unless you happen to catch us at a RT Convention) I’m going to go ahead and preface this post with a piece of information. It’s not the first time I admit this, but I rarely lead with this Fun Fact About Elisa: I’m a curvy girl. It’s the truth, I’ve got some extra stuff in some places. And you know what? I’m pretty okay with it. Living in New York City can kind of make me feel like the only Big Girl in the world at times, but overall, I think my body is pretty rockin’. So when I came across the Curvy Girls erotica anthology, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, I knew I’d be reading it.

I’m well aware that there are many popular romances featuring larger leading ladies, like Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me and Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas, among countless other contemporary, historical and chick lit-y titles from the early 2000s. Not to mention a slew of paranormal reads that feature bigger women including Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Night Play, which RT’s Whitney is begging me to read. So yes, I know these books exist, and I’ve thumbed through some of them, but more often than not weight is presented in romance as an obstacle. Although this isn’t always the case, I feel like it’s the default whenever weight and body size are mentioned in a romance. Either the heroine wants to lose weight, or she struggles with accepting her body (which is usually aided by a hero who surprisingly (to her) loves her fuller figure).

Generally, this is fine, because it adds a realistic element to the character, because we’ve all had body issues. However, I prefer my plus size heroines without a flood of self-doubt. After all, you can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself.

So how does the Curvy Girls anthology handle my number one pet peeve in voluptuous heroine books? Like us sexy ladies, it’s got something for everyone.

The collection includes stories that satisfied my desire for body-positive women. But it also featured tales about women who are a little more shy about their appearance. And as a whole the anthology emphasizes the variety of plus size ladies. The heroines range from athletic runners to modest museum curators, new moms and beyond, their voluptuous figures are what binds these stories together, but that’s not the defining features of these main characters.

There are several notable stories in the collection, but the two that really stand out are “Big Girls Do Cry” by Rachel Kramer Bussel and “In the Early Morning Light” by Kristina Wright.  

Bussel’s “Big Girls Do Cry” is a quick, beautifully written read about a young, submissive woman, Amy, who fantasizes about being with a powerful Dom, but has thus far only been with men who want Amy to take control in the bedroom because of her larger size. When she meets Todd, he immediately knows what Amy needs, and delivers in a way that fulfills her every desire. “Big Girls Do Cry” is a unique look at how body sizes factors into Dom/sub relationships, and a radiant tale about a woman’s wishes coming true.

Kristina Wright’s “In the Early Morning Light” not only deals with self-esteem issues relating to weight, but also tackles the concerns many women have about their bodies after giving birth. This story perfectly balances the feelings of exhaustion new mothers experience, the feelings of unattractiveness they have and the dip in libido that often accompanies having a newborn. Wright combines all of these aspects to deliver a passionate story about a couple rekindling their desire after recently having a child, told from the wife’s point of view.

Another element that makes this anthology great is the insightful Foreword from plus size model and adult film star April Flores, whose sex-positive message about her own sexuality as a full-figured lady is empowering. Flores compares society’s expectations of plus size women’s sexuality (basically, that larger women are not sexual creatures) to her experiences, reiterating that yes, many big gals do have plenty of enjoyable sex and even — gasp — love their bodies.

Curvy Girls is a wonderful anthology, with some stories being better than others, but the truly beautiful thing about this collection is that it celebrates our differences and doesn’t pigeonhole big women into a specific type. The anthology really embraces the diversity of plus size women and those who admire them.

I’ve been lucky. I can say I’ve never had much of a hard time being bigger. Here in New York, there’s an exceptional fat-positive community in NYC full of individuals (female and male) who not only love their bodies, but also encourage other plus sized folk to share a similar affirmative outlook. Yet, I understand how many people can and do struggle with their size. So for everyone out there who can’t get to NYC, there are two places online that help me reaffirm that big is beautiful.

The first is the body politics blog Two Whole Cakes run by Lesley Kinzel, who dishes out commentary on a plethora of issues relating to bodies, health, and fat acceptance. Oh, and if you dig through the archives, you’ll find plenty of quality outfit posts. So if you like cute dresses and well-informed witty banter, I highly suggest Lesley’s blog.

The second is Re/Dress. This NYC-located plus size-only vintage clothing store recently closed its doors. (The shop was conveniently located a block away from the RT office.) It was a popular gathering place for plus sized girls to buy cute dresses (noticing a theme here?), make friends, and feel good about themselves. But the store is still available as an online retailer and you can shop on the Re/Dress website here. I particularly like the assortment of vintage dresses and this classic black pencil skirt, both of which are currently for sale on their site.

And of course, if you’re looking for a read that reminds you to enjoy yourself in the bedroom, on the kitchen floor and even outside of the house, pick up your own copy of Curvy Girls in stores now.