Body Image Week Guest Post: My Favorite Author
Today as a part of Body Image Week I am hosting Angela of My Favorite Author!! In this post Angela is sharing a different perspective on poor body image/eating disorders — that of a parent. This is her reaction to the newly released Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, which deals with the topic of Anorexia.
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Released March 2009 by Viking
AT A GLANCE:
Hardback, Paperback or Library: Hardback. This was a difficult but important book that I think every mom of girls should read and discuss.
The Next Person I’m Giving This To: All of my friends who have daughters.
To Re-Read or Not To Re-Read: I’ll definitely be re-reading this book with my girls when they get older.
“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.
Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit. In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery. (from GoodReads)
This book scared the crap out of me. It did. Unlike my review of PURGE that I described as being “easy” to read and humorous, WINTERGIRLS is raw and painful. I would almost say that it is an uncensored look into eating disorders, except that Lia censors her thoughts like in this excerpt:
From Page 27 (of the ARC):
Five days ago I weighed 101.30 pounds. I had to eat at Thanksgiving (vultures all around the table), but since then it’s been mostly water and rice cakes.
I am so hungry that I could gnaw off my right hand.I stick three pieces of gum in my mouth, throw out Emma’s potato chips, and fill the tank. I am disgusting.
The text is full of other visually disturbing formatting such as repeated words, right-justified thoughts that haunt Lia, counting, etc. It’s the kind of book where the formatting of the text is as important as the story itself. I don’t think you’ll get the same impact from the story if you listened to it on audio book or had it read aloud.
So why did WINTERGIRLS scare the crap out of me? A lot of reasons, but I was most affected as a parent. I wasn’t scared for myself — I know that I am not going to have this problem (although it’s so easy to see how you slide down the slippery slope into an eating disorder without realizing how big the problem has become). I wasn’t scared for my friends and family — I hope and pray that they do not have these kinds of thoughts, but if they do I know there’s nothing I can do but love them and be there if they need me.
But my kids? My little baby girls? EVERYTHING in my whole being is about protecting them! Eat healthy. Check. Get enough sleep. Check. Wash your hands. Check. Take vitamins. Check. Learn your colors, letters, numbers, shapes, etc. Check. Make sure I know who all your friends are and what their homes are like. Check. Don’t play outside alone where some stranger might kidnap you. Quadruple check.
It scares me how independent my daughters are already becoming, and they aren’t even old enough for elementary school yet. What am I supposed to do if they start to have negative thoughts about their body and spiral down the same path as Lia in this book? I can do all I can to be positive in what I say to them about their bodies and who they are, but in the end there is absolutely nothing I can do to protect my girls from this. And it makes me feel so helpless.
WINTERGIRLS is all from Lia’s perspective, so you get her warped perspective of her parents being “on her case” about eating. But from my experience as a parent I could taste the parent’s fear for their daughter and it scared me. Honest to goodness, I was terrified. No scary movie can come close to how this book affected me (and I am like the world’s biggest wuss when it comes to scary stuff … yes Kristi, I’m a bigger wuss than you are!)
No, Lia’s parents are not perfect but whose parents are? Lia’s mom, dad and stepmom don’t always approach the situation “correctly” but the biggest secret of parenthood is that we are all just winging it, you guys! Kids don’t come with instruction manuals, but oh how every parent wishes they did. And the other secret of parenthood? Your parents love you more than anything in the world, even if they aren’t very good at expressing it. Someday when you have kids of your own (if you don’t already), you’ll know what I mean.
After I finished WINTERGIRLS, I needed a few days to process it. My GoodReads review was simply: “This book scared the crap out of me” for about a week before I had a clue what to say. And when I went to see Laurie Halse Anderson to get the book signed for the Body Image giveaway, I wasn’t planning on buying a copy for myself. But right before I approached the author (I was the last in line), I was moved to pick up a copy for myself. I know that I won’t be re-reading this book any time soon. But when my girls are older, I want to read this with them. I want to talk about it. I want them to know that these thoughts indicate a problem and that I want to protect them and keep them safe.
If you are curious about the impact of WINTERGIRLS on teens who’ve read it or adults concerned about the subject matter, check out MyFavoriteAuthor today where we are posting videos of Laurie Halse Anderson addressing these questions and more.