Irving- The Irving Public Library’s North Texas Teen Book Festival presented author Julie Murphy’s newest release ‘Pumpkin’ on Monday, May 25. Murphy spoke with authors Adam Silvera and John Corey Whaley about her latest book.
“’Pumpkin’ introduces readers to Waylon Brewer,” Murphy said. “Waylon is fat, because that’s what I like to write about: fat kids. He’s a fat gay kid, and he is obsessed with drag. He loves his twin sister. They are like the best of friends.”
Murphy uses her personal experience to bring her books to life and to embrace the person she has become.
“I’m going to show them that I am this thing, and it’s not a bad thing,” Murphy said. “It was really [hard] for me accepting the word ‘fat’ and deciding to use it in an empowering way instead of a weaponizing way. One of my things is that moment where you decide to reframe your own narrative.”
Murphy watched drag as she was growing up, and she used that experience to put a spin to her character Waylon.
“I think in this specific book drag is a really good way of allowing Wayland to accept his body,” Murphy said. “When he’s Pumpkin Patch [Waylon’s drag name] he feels like an extension of himself. He still feels like himself, but he feels like he can be prouder of what he can do and who he is and what he looks like, and it helps.”
For people who are fat, it can be hard to find a group where they feel they can fit in, and some fit in with the LGBT community.
“A lot of fat people find a home in the queer community, even if they aren’t queer,” Murphy said. “It felt like a good way to tie it all together. Waylon kind of felt like a missing link.”
While discussing the book, author John Corey Whaley talked about how Murphy’s book explores different aspects that are normally not seen.
“[Murphy] leans into, and plays on tropes and stereotypes,” Whaley said. “[She] sort of blows them up so we can see them at their most microscopic levels and then empathize with people we may not have empathized with before.”
Another aspect Murphy wanted to explore with Waylon’s character was the social acceptance of male masculinity.
“[Waylon] didn’t satisfy those typical masculine things. If Wayland wanted to learn how to do all those things, he could learn how to do all those things,” Murphy said. “But what happens when boys don’t fit that cookie cutter shape we create for them.”
Murphy used her body shape to exploit problematic issues by combining fatness and queerness to her novel.
“I tried to compensate for my fatness by being funny,” Murphy said. “I lean into ‘what are the things that we tried to hide’ or ‘what are the things we use to hide ourselves with.’”
As the authors discussed the book, they talked about how being gay and fat both have their own stereotypes of each other.
“I was a skinny person, even I didn’t fit in with the mold of what gay men look like on Instagram,” Silvera said. “I’ve had body dysmorphia for years, and it’s because I’m never what people are obsessed with on Instagram.”
“I’ve always identified as a fat person, and so, I think it’s very interesting, when you’re trying to figure out your identity as a queer person,” Whaley said. “But you don’t look like the other queer people who are shown to you on a screen as an example of what gay men look like.”
Whaley further explains the importance of reading Murphy’s book ‘Dumpling.
“[Murphy said] ‘hi I’m fat, I’m going to talk about it, and I’m going to make you talk about it,’” Whaley said. “That was important for me at that point in my life. I think about it a lot. I think about queerness and being someone who does not fit into it, and it’s also part of the patriarchy to fit into a model of the perfect man or the perfect woman.”
“We still are prioritizing like cis men,” Murphy said. “I think it’s probably something you guys can really speak to if you have anything to say, but fat phobia in the queer community is scarily alive.”
“I mean ‘Dumpling’ was that book that really did help me register ‘oh that’s not a bad word that’s not an insult,’” Silvera said. “I watch so many shows now where I’m like, ‘New Girl’ is incredibly fat phobic until the very end.”
As they write their own fictional stories, the authors bring in parts of their personal lives to make it more relatable.
“Even after the series is done [body dysmorphia] still going to be with him [referring to ‘Infinity Sons’],” Silvera said. “I’m turning 31 in a couple of weeks, and it’s still with me.”
“I am a queer person, and I am a fat person, and those are two main things that I brought to Wayland’s experience, and he’s one of my characters that I felt most connected to.” Murphy said.
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