Author: hara, translated from Japanese by Athena & Alethea Nibley
Publish Date: November 22, 2022 English translation (original 2021)
Publisher: Yen Press
Catalog ID: ISBN: 978-1975347291
Author website: https://potofu.me/hara-atsume
by Soph Myers-Kelley
Embrace Your Size, by hara, is such a delightful read. Through a series of short comics (manga), we learn about hara’s teenage struggles with size and eating disorders, difficulty dressing and seeking a career as a large adult, and eventual path towards self-acceptance and body positivity. Hara has always been a larger child, and moving from middle to high school, she was inspired to lose a lot of weight (largely because of the culture and its overarching negative opinion of big girls). Losing an altogether unhealthy amount of weight in a short period, hara begins a difficult journey of managing anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and fluctuating weight.
We go alongside hara as she navigates changing rooms, coming-of-age photos, dressing for job interviews, and eventually coming into her own as a manga artist depicting happy, confident, comfortable women wearing fashion in sizes beyond L. In Japan, where she lives, there are oftentimes stores that don’t provide sizes larger than an M or an L. For her, discovering fashion in extended sizes and magazines catered to women with her body type was revolutionary.
In this diary-like amalgamation of hara’s memories and experiences, we also get the treat of two movie reviews (Hairspray and I Feel Pretty) and an interview with a Japanese plus-sized model named Nao Yoshino. The topics covered can be tough (both hara and Nao Yoshino share a background with eating disorders) but they are ultimately very healing for (I suspect) most anyone reading.
Embrace Your Size is a great look at both Japanese culture as well as one artist’s struggle and joy in finding her own self-worth, regardless of how poorly media and culture initially taught her to feel about her own body. Some may find a few comments still adhering to diet culture, unhealthy standards for femme beauty, or simply not as earth shattering as they’d like them to be (for example, hara still diets and exercises by working out when she can and limits her carb intake at dinner). I find the book worth reading as an example of how one woman grapples with a human-made-world that simply wasn’t built for her size, and how she creates room for herself, anyways.
Soph Myers-Kelley is a medical librarian, herbalist, and activist living in North Carolina. They can be contacted at https://www.smyerskelley.com/ and followed at https://www.instagram.com/sophmyerskelley/