“Zaftig, in Yiddish, means juicy. It also means voluptuous, plump, and round in a deliciously sensuous way. Used to refer to people’s bodies, it suggests opulence and abundance, a sort of unconventional beauty built on heft and curves and softness. Zaftig is also, often, a euphemism for saying that someone is fat.”
So begins Hanne Blank’s introduction to her provocative and delightful new anthology entitled Zaftig: Weil-Rounded Erotica (Cleis Press, $14.95). The stories range from the comical to the staggeringly beautiful, with one commonality; not one shies away from an intimate (and even occasionally uncomfortable) focus on big, fat, sexy, zaftig women and men. And while this is indeed a book of erotica, with plenty of randy sex to keep things juicy, it is also a collection that includes exceptional stories of sweetness and depth.
The entries in Zaftig vary greatly in tone and style. “How Loretta Got a Sh long” by Anne Tourney is the gut-bustingly hysterical tale of an ordinary woman and her one day experience with acquiring a phallus, in the form of a large spicy sausage. “Rosina’s Bakery” by Veronica Kelly is a stand-out tale of romance between a regular patron and the 70-year-old owner of the best pastry shop in Pittsburgh. One of the finest contributions to the book is “Breathing Lessons,” by Eleanor Brown, the explicit struggle of a heavy woman simply to breathe and enjoy being loved.
In my own family, there’s always been quite a debate about the connotations of the word zaftig, with the older generations weighing in on the side of sexy and voluptuous, and the younger ones defining it as big and butch. This anthology takes us on a romantic, sensual, erotic journey, proving that zaftig is all of these and even more.
Janice Simsohn lives in Madison, Wisconsin.