Supersize it 

My gut reaction usually tells me to avoid faux-celebrity drivel, books whose jacket notes include phrases like so-and-so "is at it again," or any glossy with a ghost writer. But Skinny Women Are Evil (Atria), the stunning, scholarly debut from Mo'Nique, challenges any such prejudices based solely on appearances.

The comedienne and star of "The Parkers" produces a probing missive on conformity and gender relations, arriving at a rousing call-to-arms for marginalized people everywhere. Co-written with Sherri McGee, the book elevates the overripe genre of B-list tell-all into a post-feminist essay on empowerment.

The 220-pound Mo'Nique makes no apologies for her F.A.T. (Fabulous And Thick) self, using her own success story as inspiration for her sistahs who "like to get their eat on." Though its title may suggest a heavy-handed meditation on the nature of good and evil, the book is written in an appropriately colloquial clip. "Refuse to allow folks to snicker when a HEFTY honey shows up in a miniskirt that has creeped up in the back ... due to extra JUNK IN THE TRUNK, also known as bootie-age," she writes.

The author's rampant disregard for grammar and penchant for capitalization are clearly bold, postmodern experiments in language informed by our Internet Age.

Mo'Nique, who admits she added the apostrophe to her name only after launching her stand-up career (a statement itself about the disfiguring culture of Hollywood), wisely peppers her memoir with handy, often ironic lists, such as "BIG Girls Who've Got Flavor" or "Your-Mama's-So-Fat Jokes."

In the end, Skinny Women Are Evil is neither coming-of-age story nor comic manifesto, instead a sturm und drang protest against body fascism. Mo'Nique proudly rejects fin de siecle notions of beauty and maps out a plan for full-figured liberation in the new century. Part Betty Friedan, part Margaret Cho, this book surely will be studied and debated by generations of gender theorists to come.

Then again, maybe I should have listened to my gut.

Mo'Nique appears April 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstore, 946 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. 404-752-6125.

Shelf Space is a weekly column on books and Atlanta's literary scene.



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