Praise Be to the Plus-Sized Sister: An Interview with Author Kamané Malvo Marshall

Praise Be to the Plus-Sized Sister: An Interview with Author Kamané Malvo Marshall

Every year the female population adopts a new chick flick, the song that you play when your confidence is being challenged and a book that will be read and passed to your girlfriends, mom and sister because it spoke to your very soul.

Author Kamané Malvo Marshall not only opens up about this emotionally satisfying book but her personal journey that taught her to learn to how to love herself. Enjoy!

[Maddy] When I first came across your website I was immediately captivated by the title of your book.  Can you tell me about Praise Be to the Plus-Sized Sister?

[Kamane] The title, Praise Be to the Plus-Sized Sister, is a play on words pulled directly from my own personal spiritual beliefs that was sparked out of a Christian women’s conference I attended.  During my testimony, I talked about how God had healed me from the devastating effects of low-self esteem, and there was indeed a “Plus-Sized Section In Heaven!”  This statement brought the house down; sisters of every shape, size, and ethnicity shouted out “Amen, Sister” that day.  This encouraged me to find my voice; answering the call on my life which is to be a living and  breathing example of size acceptance and the miracle working power of God’s love. Praise be to the Plus-Sized Sister: Stories of redemption for full-figured women with modern day issues,  is made up of six stories of redemption: Out of the Mind of Israel Ming, Daddy’s Girls, The Vibrator Virgin, Count it all joy, Saving Sister Jared, and Forgiving Liberty.  What makes this collection unique is that the seven leading ladies are all linked together by six degrees of separation.  The reader must finish the book to its completion to know the actual ending of each character’s experience. Terry McMillan’s novel, Waiting to Exhale and Eric Jerome Dickey’s overall urban chick-lit style can be compared to my approach of developing realistic relatable characters. My characters are well developed, multi-dimensional, beautifully flawed, and deeply spiritual. I utilize the life experiences of each character to compare and contrast the complexities of religion, spirituality, and faith with the more controversial subjects of adultery, promiscuity, and homosexuality. With the underlying themes of self-acceptance, second chances, and the healing power of God’s love, the audience will be inspired to keep the faith.

[Maddy] You chose to bring seven plus size African American women to the forefront as the main characters. How do these characters differ and are any of the characters based on someone you know?

[Kamane] A year ago, I almost died from the misdiagnosis, and under treatment of an endocrine disorder called Grave’s Disease, and a subsequent lymphatic disorder called lymphedema.  By the grace of God, and a whole lot of prayer, I walked out of the emergency room that same evening considered a medical miracle.  This life-changing event changed the course of my life.  As I convalesced, I decided to write a book about what it means to be me: a full-figured African American Christian female who confronts racism, discrimination and prejudice on three fronts: race, gender, and size.  I also decided to go back to school, enrolling in a Masters Program at Capella University.  While majoring in Human Services, my studies center around the beautifully flawed human condition.  The knowledge gained from my studies, my current profession as a freelance writer, and my own individual life experience influenced the development of my novel’s characters: Israel, Sasha, Zinnia, Addison, Celeste, Lila, and Liberty.  Each character is a composite of me and certain full-figured women in my life; representing the full-figured African American female experience, the specific issues we’ve faced and the obstacles we’ve overcome.

[Maddy] How did you research for your book, have you been able to speak to plus size women and openly receive feedback about the issues that plus size women face?

[Kamane] I didn’t have to do much research because Praise be to the Plus-Sized Sister is about me.  The plot and story line of each character speaks to my own personal life experiences.  The character that is mostly like me is Lila Jared and her story is entitled “Saving Sister Jared.” Her transformation from an angry black woman extraordinaire into a compassionate self-actualized individual is truly my “coming out” story.  Lila is a controversial Christian who speaks her mind despite the consequences; she has a chip on her shoulder because of significant painful circumstances of her past.  Unlike Lila, I have a close relationship with my parents, and my family, which has always sustained me.  However, very similar to this character, I’ve also relied on my fists of fury and my witty tongue instead of my relationship with God to work out my problems.  By the end of her journey, Lila transforms into an overcomer, just like I have in my own life.  Living with lymphedema, I am now considered to be a disabled person, but just because I am dealing with physical challenges does not negate my effectiveness.  Lila’s story illustrates the context of my own personal journey with lymphedema and Grave’s disease.  Her happy ending, however, is fictionalized and is how I wished it would have happened for me.  This of course is why writing is so therapeutic.  I get to re-write history.

[Maddy] As plus size women – we are often “invisible” in the eyes of the media, fashion and sometimes the social scene. How do you hope to inspire plus size women reading your book?

[Kamane] My ultimate goal is to expose the humanity of those classified as big beautiful women.  Behind the hips, and the large-size curves is a beating heart attached to a woman with goals, dreams, and aspirations.  She’s somebody’s wife, mother, sister, daughter, lover, and girlfriend.   I especially want to empower women of size to recognize their individual uniqueness; no matter what Hollywood says, we are a relevant force to be reckoned with.   While being a big woman in a thin-obsessed society is rough, and the discrimination and prejudice we face is real, we do not have to be victimized.  Confronting size prejudice head on can be as simple as going out into the world and living your life on full blast.  Making yourself visible, exposing people to your beauty, talent, and vivaciousness advocates for a change of perception.  For me, it took almost losing my life; hooked up to a heart monitor and an oxygen mask, before I truly understood my purpose.  As I prayed to God to give me a second chance, I vowed that I would make a change for the better.  My self-destructive behavior was birthed from the vision society had of me instead of the purpose God had for my life.  In his eyes, I was acceptable just as I am.  I want to share this universal message of hope, self-love, and redemption with the world.  Plus-Sized Sisters unite and fight for what is rightfully ours: RESPECT!

[Maddy] I’ve been a plus size woman all of my life and I know the challenges I have faced. What are your tips to maintaining a healthy body and mind?

[Kamane] To be completely honest with you, Madeline, I’ve struggled to maintain both—a healthy mind and a healthy body.  Why?  Because I didn’t love myself.  This self-hate issue began with me when I was thirteen-years-old; and my family relocated from the diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area to a small suburban town called Vacaville.  I graduated high school in 1993, and I was one of the fifteen African American students graduating that day.  While attending this school, I was ridiculed for being a chubby black girl.  Back in my hometown, I was the same chubby black girl, but I was accepted and I didn’t have to explain myself because there were 20 other chubby black girls just like me with the same amount of sass and flavor.  It was rough, but by the time I graduated that ridicule had turned into praise.  However, it was many a day that I’d cried myself to sleep, asking God to make me look more like Mariah Carey instead of Oprah Winfrey.  Oh but that mantra has changed, I love every inch of my body, stretch marks included.  I love myself!  As a work in progress, I am now making better choices for myself that include better nutritional choices and an exercise program.

[Maddy] Besides writing Praise Be to the Plus-Sized Sister, I read that you are an avid promoter for Size Acceptance.  What other projects have you been involved in?

[Kamane] I’ve written size-positive articles since I graduated from college with a degree in Mass Communication with a journalism concentration in 2002.  My previous publications include Sister Speak Online Magazine, Small World Newsletter, Double Dare Press,, Betty Magazine, The Sacramento Observer, San Francisco Independent, and The Pioneer Newspaper.  Over the years, I have talked to, and interacted with several segments of the population, both male and female, who have given me positive feedback about bringing to light that size prejudice is still acceptable discrimination in this country.  Just look at Hollywood.  If an actress goes to rehab for drug abuse, she’s given a pass.  If an actress puts on weight, she’s shunned into obscurity.  Perfect example: Kirstie Alley.  I’ve also participated in spoken word events, in Oakland, California.  The poem that always rocked the house, bringing my listeners to their feet was “Ode to Lane Bryant!”  The first line in that poem is “I am not ashamed of my Lane Bryant charge card!”  I’ve also been an avid supporter of the BBW Community since my early twenties even lending my face and full-figured frame to a few flyers promoting a plus-sized dance club in the Bay Area.  Before having lymphedema, I was also a full-figured belly dancer, participating in events all of the Bay Area.  I have since given up my solo artist days, but just last week, I started a beginner tribal fusion dance class.  When I strutted into class last Saturday morning, I told the instructor, “I’m making a comeback!”  So, watch out world.  Kamane’ Malvo Marshall will shimmy again!

[Maddy] What’s next for you – are there any plans to revisit these characters?

[Kamane] Currently, I’m writing Praise Be to the Plus-Sized Sister Part II: Love is a Leap of Faith.  Since my current novel, Praise Be to the Plus-Sized Sister, is a self-publishing effort; my hope is to garner enough interest within the Size-Friendly community to advocate for a major publishing house to pick up the book.  In the meantime, I am working on developing my career as a motivational speaker through my entrepreneurial business, The Plus-Sized Sister Movement.  The ultimate goal of my company is to educate the masses about the relevance of full-figured women as contributing members of society whose vast accomplishments have nothing to do with size and everything to do with character.  Phase II of my career will hopefully include collaborating with  Tyler Perry in the writing of the screen play for my novel, and a guest spot on Oprah Winfrey and Tyra Banks’ talk shows.  I’m a visionary, and I have a big dose of faith pumping through my veins.  For me, the sky is the limit!

Praise be to the Plus-Sized Sister will be available for purchase in major book retailer locations by December 2009.