Rabia Chaudry is best known as an advocate, attorney, and author, especially known for her work on the Adnan Syed case—which she brought to the attention of podcast host Sarah Koenig and thus spawned the ever-popular Serial podcast (season one focuses on Adnan’s story).
But Fatty Fatty Boom Boom is about none of that. It is a memoir of food, fat, and family, and is told in Rabia’s sometimes funny, oftentimes heart wrenching voice as she recounts her life and her complicated relationship with food.
Rabia’s story takes us to the streets of Lahore, Pakistan, to the beginning of her parents’ marriage, to her birth, and toddlerhood when she was given frozen sticks of butter to help her aching gums during teething. We then continue on to her journey to America where her family discovered the plethora of fast food and the ease with which they could access it.
She tells us about growing up as one of the only South Asian girls in her entire school in the ‘80s and ‘90s as her family traveled across various states for her father’s job, and the feeling of never fitting in. When we reach Rabia’s teen years, there’s a sweet story about her first time making bread, as her mother removed all the pots and pans from her never-used oven so Rabia can bake a loaf of bread.
Happy or sad times, Rabia tells us how she has always found comfort in food. But she continues to battle with her weight through her teens and early adult years, all through her sister’s first job at McDonalds, living alone on campus for college, and her early years of marriage, and then divorce. She tells us her struggles with her weight, both before and after her pregnancies, by that constant nagging she received from well-meaning friends and family about her weight gain or subsequent weight loss. Food is also what brings her and her husband together now, as she tells us how neither of them go to bed without a steaming cup of chai and a few biscuits.
Rabia is candid about her struggles, and the procedures she undergoes to achieve some semblance of luck. Her book will strike a chord with anyone who has struggled with weight loss or even loving their body. It’s not a totally body positive book—Rabia definitely does love her body by the end of her tale, but as she tells us, it’s an ongoing process and there is really no end to it. It is a personal tale of one woman’s life and how she comes to terms with her goals and dreams.
Additionally, as culture plays a huge part in food and how food is enjoyed and perceived, this book is a tasting menu of Pakistani culture. Rabia’s family is a big part of her journey, and it is clear how much they love and support her, despite the constant fear for her health and her weight.
Each chapter starts off with a food-related idiom in Urdu, with the English translation written beside it. Food is a huge part of Pakistani culture, and it is also at the center of Rabia’s story. The book is filled with mouth-watering descriptions of all the different Pakistani foods that she grew up with. She wants to let the reader know that Pakistani food, while similar to its Indian cousin, isn’t quite the same or as well-known. She also includes an addendum at the end with some of her favourite recipes, but is quick to point out that there are multiple different ways to make these dishes, based on regional differences.
Fatty Fatty Boom Boom will make you laugh and it might also just make you cry. But it will also make you hungry.