Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Published: November 8th, 2022
Buy at: Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Workman | Amazon | Add to Goodreads
According to family lore, when Rabia Chaudry’s family returned to Pakistan for their first visit since moving to the United States, two-year-old Rabia was more than just a pudgy toddler. Dada Abu, her fit and sprightly grandfather, attempted to pick her up but had to put her straight back down, demanding of Chaudry’s mother: “What have you done to her?” The answer was two full bottles of half-and-half per day, frozen butter sticks to gnaw on, and lots and lots of American processed foods.
And yet, despite her parents plying her with all the wrong foods as they discovered Burger King and Dairy Queen, they were highly concerned for the future for their large-sized daughter. How would she ever find a suitable husband? There was merciless teasing by uncles, cousins, and kids at school, but Chaudry always loved food too much to hold a grudge against it. Soon she would leave behind fast food and come to love the Pakistani foods of her heritage, learning to cook them with wholesome ingredients and eat them in moderation.
At once a love letter (with recipes) to fresh roti, chaat, chicken biryani, ghee, pakoras, shorba, parathay and an often hilarious dissection of life in a Muslim immigrant family, Fatty Fatty Boom Boom is also a searingly honest portrait of a woman grappling with a body that gets the job done but that refuses to meet the expectations of others.
Chaudry’s memoir offers readers a relatable and powerful voice on the controversial topic of body image, one that dispenses with the politics and gets to what every woman who has ever struggled with weight will relate to.
Food memoirs have my heart. I have always been drawn to them with Be My Guest by Priya Basil being one of my favorites. When I was invited to promote Fatty Fatty Boom Boom: A Memoir of Food, Fat, and Family by Rabia Chaudry, I was excited to pick it up. All the more because it was about the food, culture, and traditions of the other Punjab we rarely read about.
Inspired by the colorful and vibrant Pakistani truck art, the cover is beautifully illustrated with a generous peppering of spices. Each chapter is named with a colloquial food-related title that every south Asian would relate to. Reflecting the author’s journey and relationship with food (and sometimes family) along the way. Sample jal bin machli (fish out of water) where she struggled to fit in. Or “ghaans phoos” (rabbit food) when she tried out all the fad diets. The writing style is conversational and peppered with anecdotes.
“My entire life I have been less fat and more fat, but never not fat.”
The first half of the book is devoted to the author’s growing years and extended family in Lahore. A short history of her grandparents who migrated from India to Pakistan during the partition. Her family’s immigration to the United States. Accepting the American culture while continuing to retain their roots. Where the comfort and ease of highly processed food did more damage than good. Occasional trips back to Pakistan with laugh-out-loud moments. And of course, delicious food. The food descriptions are vivid and you are transported to the streets of Lahore or the courtyard of the author’s grandmother’s house.
As I began reading the book, it just reiterated the fact that borders may have separated us but the culture is pretty much the same. I may as well have been reading about an Indian city. That after all, a Punjabi is a Punjabi, irrespective of which side of the border you are. Doodh (milk), dahi (curd), and makkhan (butter) are the go-to for all malaise. The birth of a daughter is rarely a cause for celebration. A mother’s parenting is judged by how marriageable her daughter is. She is always too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, or too dark. And of course, the ever-popular “how would we ever find a groom for you”. Not much has changed from the 80s and the 90s.
“I was supposed to be turning into a woman, not James Earl Jones.”
It is a memoir not just about food but also about fat shaming, body image, and the author’s lifelong struggle with it. A book about family, loving yet oppressive, with their subtle and not-so-subtle jabs about her weight and color. About a woman who married young (an abusive marriage) to prove that overweight girls can be desired. Going under the knife for gastric surgery and tummy tuck. As a public figure who struggled with body image before finally coming to accept her body.
Foodies are in for a treat with the author sharing recipes for some of their favorite dishes towards the end. Dishes that have been mentioned throughout the book. Her ode to Pakistani cuisine.
The memoir shares an inspiring takeaway that it is not achieving the goal weight but the goal to invest in yourself that is the more important. In spite of it being drilled into young girls from early childhood, body weight is not the enemy of dreams, prospects, and happiness. What we often subject our body to “fit in” is not just worth it.
The book is extremely relatable. I enjoyed reading it and would highly recommend it. Particularly to women and young girls who have grappled with body issues and faced fat shaming.
Trigger warnings: Fat shaming, domestic abuseFatty Fatty Boom Boom by Rabia Chaudry #BookReview #RabiaChaudry @rabiasquared @AlgonquinBooks @CindyAnnDSilva @nooranand #BlogaberryDazzle #BohoPonderings Click To Tweet
About Rabia Chaudry
Rabia Chaudry is an attorney, advocate, podcaster, and author of the New York Times bestseller Adnan’s Story and executive producer of a four-part HBO documentary The Case Against Adnan Syed, which was based on her book. Chaudry is also co-producer and co-host of three podcasts, Undisclosed (360 million downloads), The 45th (four million downloads), and the new The Hidden Djinn. A 2021 Aspen Institute/ADL Civil Society Fellow and a 2016 Aspen Ideas Scholar, she serves on the Vanguard Board at the Aspen Institute. She is a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project, a Fellow of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute, a Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute. Currently, she is a founding board member of the Inter-Jewish Muslim Alliance and the Muslim Jewish Advisory Council, both of which focus on building Muslim-Jewish coalitions around pressing policy issues and educating across communities to break barriers.
Follow her on Twitter: @rabiasquared and Instagram: rabiasquared2
This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter.
This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla.
I would like to thank Algonquin Books for providing a digital copy of the book for the blog tour. All opinions are my own.
November 21, 2022 @ 12:21 pm
This seems to be a book with a difference. Your review has got me interested in it.
November 26, 2022 @ 5:48 pm
A non fiction book that is humorous and with a strong story line… must have made up for an awesome read. Really liked your review Ritu… it gave me the real feel of the book. And I can’t agree more with what uv stated, that in the end we are the same people whether living on that side of the border or this.
November 26, 2022 @ 9:31 pm
I never read this author before but the way you penned the review already made me curious to read the book as I can smell it will be very interesting . Thanks for the recommendation.
November 26, 2022 @ 9:52 pm
The book seems to be dealing with an interesting perspective on both food and body. Thanks for the recommendation.
November 26, 2022 @ 10:36 pm
I look forward to your reviews, Ritu. This one has piqued my curiosity. My friend is not even 5 feet tall but her daughter is very huge. Strange are the ways of the creator. He gives birth to such different sizes.
November 26, 2022 @ 11:24 pm
I’ve been fat all my life and have faced fat shaming very early on. I’m sure there are going to be several relatable instances in this book.
November 27, 2022 @ 10:17 am
Seriously I know what can fat do to one person, I have been plump kid amd a fat girl and finally a fat lady. Somehow I never wanted to be skinny, I wanted to be just fit enough but I love myself the way I am chubby cheeks.
November 27, 2022 @ 12:32 am
Recently my neighbors delivered a baby girl which is too much fatty. When she was 3 months old she look like 7 -8 months baby. I always wonder how can she manage. Your review make me curious to read this book. It is about the character and food too.
November 27, 2022 @ 6:35 am
I saw this book a few weeks ago and almost picked it up. Delighted to get your perspective on the book. Your write up is so vivid, I love it. Agree with you about the similarities in culture. I have seen it first hand in states, Indian Mom’s not allowing their preteens to eat grapes so as to maintain a certain body weight. Mothers carry and pass on the guilt. Body shaming is a mental health issue on either side of the scale. I enjoy reading you reviews. 🙂
November 27, 2022 @ 1:39 pm
I liked the way you said that borders may have separated us but the culture is the same. This looks like a really good book. I will pick it up soon. And I also want to check out the recipes.
November 27, 2022 @ 3:48 pm
A nonfiction book that is both humorous and has a strong story line piqued my interest. Not only are our cultures similar, but so are we. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review.
November 27, 2022 @ 6:07 pm
Such a playful title which draws interest on what the book is really about. I love the storyline of it and how light the story went. It sure is a great and easy read. Love how you written the book review of it!
November 27, 2022 @ 8:04 pm
We definitely judge a book by its cover. And the title sounds super interesting! Your review has made me curious!
November 27, 2022 @ 10:20 pm
Your recommendations are always so unique! This book also sounds amazing. Specially the journey from being fat to a cook. I will definitely read this book as it resonates with my journey.
November 28, 2022 @ 1:17 am
Never heard of the book but it sounds really interesting. Will definitely check it out.
November 28, 2022 @ 8:28 pm
I heard about Rabia Chaudry but never heard about this book. The review is soo well written that it intrigued me to read the book as soon as possible. Thank you.
November 30, 2022 @ 2:58 am
i had seen this book on Kindle store i think recently but hadn’t gone to reading the details. Though fiction is my favourite, iam also liking selective real life stories these days. And your recommendations are always awesome…..so maybe i will go ahead and try this one.
December 3, 2022 @ 3:07 pm
…a body that gets the job done but that refuses to meet the expectations of others. All I’ve needed to hear to not just immediately look up this book, but also to validate my own struggles with my weight over the years.
Noor Anand Chawla
January 24, 2023 @ 9:44 am
This story seems strangely like mine though I’m from the Punjab of this side. Will definitely pick it up!