I have a confession.
I have read exactly 0 fat/plus size/body positive memoirs. I have bought many memoirs – hey! I’m voting with my money!! – but I have read exactly zero.
I find my relationship with my plus size body, body positivity, etc to be precarious on the best days. And I don’t want to get shoved over that metaphorical precipice by reading about someone else processing their shit.
So, when Marie (founder and HBIC of this here website) asked if I wanted to interview Jes Baker, I said “HECK YES!” without hesitation. Even though I haven’t read Jes’s first book. Or most of the books by the people who wrote reviews for her back cover.
I said, “HECK YES!” because I stan for Jes. I first met Jes at Knockout PDX, a fat fashion show in Portland. She has this infectious energy. Jes careens through life. When Jes laughs at herself (and she does it often), she invites other people to laugh with her, creating little pods of people giggling at how ridiculous they are.
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I need to repent for judging Out-of-State drivers in Tucson. I'm in Portland driving an uncharacteristic + enormous Mustang, making turns like a total asshole because I don't understand bridges *AND* THIS CAR HAS A CALIFORNIA LICENSE PLATE. Basically, I look exactly like all the shitheads I curse at when driving at home. I KNOW everyone on the road hates me right now and it's totally okay- I would hate me too. 🤷♀️#KARMA #IMREALLYSORRYPORTLAND #FatGirlsTraveling #FatGirlsCANTravel
Heck yes, I’ll sign up FOR THAT.
Jes is ALSO an ex-mormon, and combine that with how much I loved her IRL, means that this interview is explicitly designed to make you fall in love with Jes and buy her book, Landwhale, that hits shelves on May 8.
You should especially buy Landwhale if you avoid reading books like this one.
Jes Baker is a Curvy Boss
The first chapter of her book is actually dedicated to talking about how she’s a crappy business woman, but, in my opinion, Jes is a stellar business woman. She communicates her inability to keep up with communication with precision. Within the first five minutes of our call, I complimented her on her auto-reply email (chock full of resources and honesty), and I also recommend she get a virtual assistant – even going so far as to recommend a friend for the job.
“Bri, I wouldn’t know where to start on training someone to manage my inbox,” Jes tells me with a sigh.
I accept the fact that I can’t save Jes from her inbox (maybe Jes doesn’t want or need to be saved?) and we move forward with the interview.
At the end of the first chapter, titled “This Was a Big Mistake,” Jes has effectively communicated with people that she expects to be paid for her work, that she isn’t great at email and that she’s game for just about anything.
Brava, business woman!
How Do You Get a Book Deal?
After talking about email, I asked Jes a question I’d been dying to ask:
“Jes, how did you get your first book deal?” (I’m all about figuring out the HOW so you can duplicate it).
Jes shared that it was a sort of “lucky break.” From Jes: “So, I was really fortunate. Years and years ago, I was on the TODAY show and my inbox exploded. One email was a literary agent who said, ‘Hi I want to represent you.’
We were turned down by a lot of publishers, who insisted that ‘body positivity would be irrelevant in a few years.’ Eventually, Seal picked it up. They published Cunt the first book I ever read about feminism. I still remember the moment I saw their logo on the spine of that book when I was 20 and working in a bookstore. It was a beautiful moment, because that publishing company changed my life – and then bought my book.”
And, safe to say, body positivity is still relevant.
Why *This* book? Why now?
“They [My publisher] asked for a second one after I wrote the first one, and I was like ‘FUCK NO,’” says Jes. “Landwhale was way harder than my first book. I think it may be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”
Jes continued on this thread, talking about sobbing over her computer, like body wracking sobs, as she wrote the book.
Jes wrote it because she needed it. We needed it.
— Substantia Jones (@Adipositivity) March 27, 2018
When reading any sort of activist-y book, I sometimes cringe, because the writer is convinced THEY KNOW the answers to everything. Landwhale is more of a guided wondering. Jes asks questions, shares stories and sources, but she never acts like “The Authority” on the given topic. Throughout our conversation, Jes underscores that she is not in charge of anything, or the authority on the topic she’s written 2 books about.
“I’m learning along with everyone,” says Jes. “The more I learn the less I know. I feel like that’s kind of the theme that runs through the book. When it comes to food, movement and my body – I’m not there yet. I conceptually understand all of it. But applying it is a totally different thing.”
After Jes said that, I knew I’d actually read her book, in its (almost) entirety – because what I’ve been wanting is a friend to tackle topics with like having sex while fat, PCOS, getting out of your comfort zone, etc. I think this feeling is shared by a lot of people in the plus community. We’re chock full of processing our own feelings – we don’t need someone telling us how to feel. Rather, we want someone to “consensually hold our hand” (as Jes says in the beginning of her book) while we figure our shit out.
Jes says she’s not allowed to “write a book for another 10 years,” so, what will be next? For most writers, the period between finishing a book and publicizing a book is kind of weird. It’s a waiting period. A recovery period.
Jes has partnered with Dia & Co for a book tour. “Think less ‘author readings’ and more panels and interactive conversations about the topics in the book,” says Jes. “I hope people show up and disagree with me, and I hope people show up and share their experiences with me.”
YOU GUYS. THE LANDWHALE BOOK TOUR IS HAPPENING AND I HAVE ZERO CHILL RIGHT NOW.
Dia&Co, CHEERS TO YOU!
— The Militant Baker (@militant_baker) May 2, 2018
After the tour, I hope Jes takes a solid nap. And then…?
“I’m speaking more, and I love speaking,” says Jes. “I’ve been booked by clothing companies, HR folks, body positive conferences, etc.”
You can purchase Jes’s book, Landwhale on Amazon.com!
Want to have her speak? Book her to speak at themilitantbaker.com!
What did you think of this Curvy Boss interview? Are you working on a book? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!