RAW by Bella Mahaya  Carter


My Journey from Anxiety to Joy
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A detailed memoir that addresses diet, therapy, and spirituality.

Carter (Secrets of My Sex, 2008) begins her account in 2003 in a gastroenterologist’s office. At the time, she was 43 and had endured chronic stomach pain for years. She worried she might have cancer but refused invasive procedures and instead embarked on a raw food diet. The first third of her book, “Body,” details the challenges of this transition—including finding social acceptance for a diet that seemed extreme to many people, including her parents. Raw food helped Carter in some ways, but she remained unsatisfied; she yearned to be a writer and bemoaned her failure to be financially independent. Carter returned to dance, which she’d once studied at Juilliard, and explored Bikram yoga and energy-healing concepts. But she realized that her mind—particularly her anxieties—needed attention. In the second section, “Mind,” Carter tells of entering a spiritual psychology program at the University of Santa Monica, devising a course in transformational creative practices for alma mater Scripps College, and becoming a life and writing coach. She also published a poetry book in 2007. Still, her fears and self-doubt remained. The final third, “Spirit,” focuses on spiritual healing. After her mother’s death, Carter’s anxiety became “disabling,” she says, but after exploring reiki, craniosacral therapy, breath work, shamanic training, meditation, holistic psychiatry, and conventional medicine, she learned self-acceptance. Carter’s decade-spanning quest covers countless forms of therapy and self-help. Her relentless unease is palpable throughout, deftly portrayed through effective dialogue and memorable recollections. But it’s never quite clear what was specifically wrong with her—and therefore, what her book is truly about. She admits at one point that the book started as a memoir about raw food but gravitated far beyond that topic. The title would suggest a focus on her anxiety, but she never delves fully into that subject, either. She returns to the theme of her writing practice often, but her book isn’t about becoming a writer. As a result, readers may find themselves roaming through the book in search of its purpose.

Not sufficiently expansive or introspective to engage a wide audience.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-63152-345-8
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: She Writes Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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