Interview with Sarai Walker, author of Dietland

26 Jun 2015

Books brimming with social commentary are our cup of tea. So we were particularly exited to talk to Sarai Walker, author of Dietland, a book that is referred to as “The Feminist Fight Club”.

Tell us a little bit about your new release, Dietland.

Dietland takes the premise of a traditional “woman’s novel” or “chick lit” novel and explodes it. (I put these terms in quotes because I don’t like them, but they’re used widely in the publishing industry.) I describe Dietland as a feminist Fight Club, at least in spirit. At the beginning of the novel, Alicia “Plum” Kettle is desperate to lose weight. She’s scheduled for weight-loss surgery so she can shed more than half of her 300 pounds. She believes that only when she’s thin will her “real life” begin. But then she notices a strange young woman following her around and spying on her. Plum is led down a rabbit hole into a world of women who challenge her ideas about what it means to be beautiful. At the same time, a feminist avenger called “Jennifer” begins to terrorize our sexist society.

If you had an extra hour each day, how would you spend it?

Perhaps I’d force myself to spend that hour learning something new, like a foreign language or how to play the cello. Or else I’d choose a major writer I’ve never read and work my way through their oeuvre.

What fictional literary world would you most like to visit?

I’m not really interested in alternate worlds, but I’d love to visit London or Paris in the 1920s. I’m thinking of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast or Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.

What’s something you’re truly terrible at doing?

There are a lot of things I’m terrible at, but if I had to choose one thing, I’d choose drawing. I would love to be able to draw well, but I’ve never been able to do it. Maybe in my next life.

What is your favorite local bookstore?

I’ve moved around a lot, so what’s “local” for me often changes. When I was living in London I loved Daunt Books. In New York City I love the Strand Bookstore. I’m particularly fond of Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont. There are many others.

BAM. You’re a superhero. What’s your superpower?

Does time travel count? My next novel takes place in a different period. It would be very helpful to travel back in time. Much more fun than library research.

What is your favorite line from Dietland?

I particularly like the first line: “It was late in the spring when I noticed that a girl was following me, nearly the end of May, a month that means perhaps or might be.” I like the promise of that line and the hint of change that comes with it.

We have noticed that fat women are often portrayed as comedians in the media (don’t get us wrong, we love Rebel Wilson!). Have you noticed a similar trend? What do you think?

Our society is uncomfortable with fat bodies. Putting a fat person into the role of a comedian – either a jolly one or a slovenly “gross” one – is acceptable because fat people are often looked at as sources of amusement and not taken seriously. So while I love Rebel Wilson and Melissa McCarthy and other fat comedic actresses, the kinds of roles they’re offered is extremely limited. Fat women are much less likely to play romantic leads or appear in complex dramatic roles. That won’t happen until our society views fat people as fully human.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

As a writer and a feminist, I often think of something Audre Lorde wrote: “Your silence will not protect you.” When I’m afraid to write something controversial, I often think of her words. Remaining silent might seem safer, but Lorde questions whether that’s actually true.

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Sarai Walker is the author of the new book Dietland.

Connect with Sarai
Author Website

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“Plum Kettle does her best not to be noticed, because when you’re fat, to be noticed is to be judged. Or mocked. Or worse.” Read Dietland today!

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Taylor loves books with a heavy dose of absurdity, hilarity, and beautiful prose. She is a marketer, adventurer, nature-lover, Hufflepuff, wannabe world traveler, and advocate of laughter.