So it’s not exactly the third Thursday of the month, but we still welcome you to our Staff Recommendations! This blog features staff member reviews of their favorite books. Again this month Angie in Circulation shares not just one, but two of her favorite books. Thank you, Angie!
I have to admit, I originally wanted to read Julie Murphy’s novel Dumplin’ because my daughter and I absolutely loved the Netflix film. Dolly Parton, drag queens, amazing female characters, and body positivity- what’s not to love?
I (shamefully) didn’t know it had been a book first, and of course, once I learn that, I’ve got to find it. This Young Adult novel was exactly what I needed to read. Sassy Willowdean calls herself fat and owns it with no shame. She accepts her body as is, even though the wedge her weight drives between herself and her former beauty queen mother is hard to deal with. Willowdean’s mom, Rosie, can’t accept her daughter as is and is always suggesting salads. Imagine Rosie’s horror when Willowdean enters their small-town Texas beauty pageant to make a point- that every body is a swimsuit body.
Willowdean finds herself as the leader of a small group of misfits that also enter the pageant and dub it a “revolution.” She also finds romance with her hunky coworker Bo, and goes through some hardships with her long-time best friend Ellen.
Dumplin’ taught me that cellulite and all, we’re all beautiful. A quote from Willowdean’s dearly departed Aunt Lucy especially sticks out to me. “I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life. I’ve thought too much about what people will say or what they’re gonna think. And sometimes it’s over silly things like going to the grocery store or going to the post office. But there have been times when I really stopped myself from doing something special. All because I was scared someone might look at me and decide I wasn’t good enough. But you don’t have to bother with that nonsense. I wasted all that time so you don’t have to.” I needed to hear that in my teen years, and I loved the positivity lesson as an adult. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to read more. So I did.
People may not know that Dumplin’ has a sequel called Puddin’. The sequel follows Millie Michalchuk and Callie Reyes, characters that were introduced in Dumplin’. Millie strives hard to be perfect, and after the Clover City Beauty Pageant, she has more friends than she did before. She also wants to realize her goals of being a television journalist, which means telling her parents that she’s not wasting another summer of her life at fat camp. Callie is more frenemy than friend to everyone in her life, and her life revolves around being a dancing Clover. When the dance team does something that can’t be taken back, Callie’s life unravels, and she and Millie are thrust into each others’ lives, whether they like it or not.
This novel also did not disappoint. Julie Murphy’s dialogue and characters are snappy and rich. There’s discussions about friendship, sexuality, asexuality, changing rules instead of breaking them, and dealing with difficult parents. I yelled out “Hallelujah” after reading a line of Millie’s inner dialogue about how fat women don’t always want to wear flowy or floral clothes.
I cannot recommend these novels enough to both teens and adults- anyone that needs shots of body positivity and witty banter. The O’Fallon Library owns copies of Dumplin’, Puddin’ and Murphy’s novel about a teen affected by Hurricane Katrina, Ramona Blue. There are also copies of the novels available on CloudLibrary. Patron’s could also check out a Roku to watch Dumplin’ on Netflix.