POETRY / FICTION
Reviews of books, articles, and poetry written by or about ssbbw/bbw
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The Lovely SSBBW of the Desert Wind
By: Jeffrey Kenneth Mitchell
“How far would you go for your family? How far would you go to learn the truth about who you are? What would you be willing to endure? Pain? Loss? Suffering? War? Would the entire world being stacked against you cause you to lose hope? These are the questions assaulting the seventeen-year-old boy named Azx (as if having a weird name wasn’t enough!) and he now finds himself, against all odds, in a war that should have ended 2000 years before his birth in order to find his lost mother. After suddenly going head-to-head with a renegade dragon, Azx endures harsh storms, makes deals with shady drifters, travels over mountains, rivers and fields, and unravels a mystery several millennia in the making—all for the truth about his life and family. Welcome to a world where dragons rule and the unexpected is commonplace—and where teenagers become heroes.” –Back cover of The Dragon of the Desert Wind
As a general rule, unless the theme of a particular show, book, or movie is “it’s what’s on the inside that counts” it’s pretty much a safe bet that any characters who are overweight, or even the slightest bit heavyset for that matter, will be relegated to comic relief status at best. At worst, they’re portrayed as all sorts of stereotypes (lazy, big-eaters, excuse-makers, etc, etc, etc) and any reasoning employed to justify their weight – including but not limited to genetic factors, glandular issues and several other actual medical conditions – are all written off as unscientific excuses and are often turned around and used to further abuse the character in question. This particular role is further worsened if the character in question is also female as she will be reminded a minimum of ten to twenty times per season (if not once an episode) that she will forever be viewed as undesirable and irrelevant because of what she looks like.
Needless to say, breaking the chains that hold that alleged comedic failsafe in place is no small task, but I set out to do just that as I was writing my first novel – The Dragon of the Desert Wind. The character creation process for my first book started in my sophomore year of high school, alongside my good friend, Dan. With him in tow, I would often draw my characters so as to have a better mental image of them while actually writing their stories. Creating the main characters was something I took quite seriously and I also wished to make them quite varied in that no two primary characters would share so much as the same hair or eye color. Creating the main hero, Azx (pronounced like the word “asks”), his best friend, Drift, and his mother, Jayde, was a rather simple process. However, I feel that with every good hero stands an equally good heroine and so I began the arduous process of creating his perfect match.
The fantasy, action-adventure feel of the book gave me a lot of room to experiment with different designs and character concepts. In contrast, however, I decided to be remarkably picky about what would be “good enough” in this case and had a tendency to run through seven to ten character designs a day. Seeing as how I’d learned to draw by looking at and, in turn, mimicking aspects of other artists, I didn’t have very much in terms of experience with drawing women (at least, not the least bit realistic ones) and this problem became compounded when I decided I didn’t want just another Hollywood bimbo. I decided I was going to break the preconceived notions about what an alpha female could and couldn’t be, which (for me, anyways) meant that the readers were going to be surprised that she wasn’t just another cookie-cutter girl or stereotypically perfect to the finest detail.
I decided to express my own conceptualizations of beauty (in that I am an FA) to create a wonderful counterpart to the alpha male who would be larger than life in every sense of the term. Doing so was not particularly easy, though. Close friends heckled me mercilessly for my decision and even my parents gave me strange looks when I unveiled my ideas for the SSBBW I would soon dub “Angela”. However, I stood firm on my decision and found that my adamant stance on her plus-sized beauty brought on a lot of respect from friends and family as a result. Not too long after that, my dad and I chipped in together to have a pen-pal friend of mine from England, Ian “Ianardo” Strange, create a beautiful portrait of the woman I knew would help change the way society looked at plus-sized ladies, even if that change was just a small one. The portrait can be seen on his website (www.ianardo.com) in gallery 5.
I was met with a lot of mixed reactions when I took a copy of said portrait with me to my classes, and even used it as a visual aid in two speeches in my junior and senior years. Some were impressed, some were annoyed or repulsed, and others greeted her and me with confusion. One guy then took a moment to tell me in earnest, “Y’know, she’d be prettier if she wasn’t so big, Jeff,” so I then had to explain to him he was completely missing the point I was trying to make. I learned pretty quickly that being an FA brought on a lot of criticism and snide comments from those who didn’t understand what I saw in bigger women. I also learned that if you take the time and talk to people about it, some will actually begin to understand and become acceptant of it, while others never will. However, my experiences with it actually helped birth a lot of ideas for future stories and character concepts who might potentially go through much the same type of trials themselves.
Two years after her ‘birth’, in April, her story became available for the world to see during my senior year of high school. Whereas two years prior, I had been shy and reserved with my stance on BBW/SSBBWs it became accepted by friends, family and colleagues that those were my thoughts and that I was unashamed of them. In creating her and proudly showing her portrait off, I hope that little-by-little I can bring people to understand there’s beauty in all shapes and sizes, even if those sizes are plus-sizes. Even today people ask and comment all about Angela and her affectionate relationship with Azx, her somewhat less-than-friendly relationship with Drift, and her entire role in The Dragon of the Desert Wind, which excites me because until people start questioning the preconceived notions about weight and size, not much will change.
As a result of all that has happened over the past four years, I’ve grown as a person and as an FA. I now take it as a personal mission in life to espouse the idea that all men and women are created equal, period. Angela really helped me to not only tell a wonderful story for all to read and learn from, but she also helped me express to others what sometimes words alone cannot say. Both my writing and my drawing have improved a lot over the past four years, but the message remains just as true now as it was then and I think Angela really embodies the ideal of an end to size discrimination and stereotyping. With some time and maybe a little luck I know society at large can change. After all, there were times when racism and sexism were viewed as acceptable, but we overcame those times and I’m sure there will come a time when people, regardless of small, medium, large or whatever size category they fall into will understand the importance of overlooking the aesthetic and look for the heart, mind and soul of the person instead. I’m sure, if she were real, that would be Angela’s dream come true.
If you’re interested in purchasing the book, here are some links where it’s available:
Written and submitted by: Jeffrey K. Mitchell
|"One father is more than a hundred Schoolemasters."
|"To be a successful father . . . there's one absolute rule: when you have a kid, don't look at it for the first two years."