Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Rules to a Popular Book

Alice Randall’s new novel draws attention and debate among readers

July 18, 2012 Alice Randall’s new book Ada’s Rules, part novel, part autobiography, and part self-help book, continues to generate new discussion and appeal as the summer goes on. Ada’s Rules is the fourth novel from the songwriter and writer-in-residence at Vanderbilt University, and it has been met with an enthusiastic reception among readers and critics alike.

Publishers Weekly included Ada’s Rules earlier this spring in a list of new books to watch out for. Juicy Mag had similar praise for Randall’s book, featuring it in a “worth reading” segment earlier in July.

The Augusta Chronicle gave Ada’s Rules a positive review, noting, “If you’re dieting, you’ll find sympathy here. If you’re already a skinny-minnie, you know that novels are fat-free, so bite into a copy of Ada’s Rules. It’s a book you’ll lose yourself in.”

Randall has also inspired debate among her readers—and others—for recent comments she made in an op-ed piece for The New York Times. “What we need is a body-culture revolution in black America,” she argued. “Why? Because too many experts who are involved in the discussion of obesity don’t understand something crucial about black women and fat: many black women are fat because we want to be.”

Those comments have been controversial on local and national levels. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution mentioned her comments in a preview of a reading event, and Randall herself appeared on National Public Radio twice, once on Talk of the Nation and again on Tell Me More to discuss both her novel and the implications of her recent comments on race, weight, and culture.

Noliwe M. Rooks responded to Randall’s comments for Time in which she countered many of Randall’s points. “While I certainly wish Randall luck in her quest and fully understand how difficult it is to lose weight,” she writes, “it is important to put her characterizations and generalizations about black women and obesity in a context larger than her own personal health journey. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one-third of all Americans are currently obese, and another third are seriously overweight. This phenomenon cuts across race, class and gender. Obesity is not just an issue for black women, nor is it only found in black culture.” Read the rest of Rooks’s piece here.