An engrossing account of the myriad aspects of hunger, from its psychological and physical effects on the body to the spiritual, therapeutic and political motivations for fasting.
Russell (Writing/ Western New Mexico University), author of The Anatomy of a Rose (2001) and other books on natural history, undertaken a period of fasting to learn firsthand what real hunger feels like. Hunger, she reports, is as big as history and as intimate as the self. Besides providing disturbing statistics on hunger and riveting accounts of famines, she explores the physiology of digestion and the mystery of anorexia nervosa, delves into the curious practice of competitive fasting and reports on the use of hunger strikes by Gandhi, English suffragettes and Irish Republicans. Perhaps the most fascinating sections of her book are her accounts of hunger studies. One amazing study was conducted by Jewish doctors trapped inside the Warsaw ghetto in World War II, when official Nazi policy was starvation of the Jews. The results of the project, which ended in 1943 when the inhabitants were liquidated and the ghetto razed, were smuggled out to aryan doctors, published in French in 1946 and remain today the most detailed portrait of extreme starvation. Another study conducted in 1944 and 1945 in Minnesota used conscientious objectors as medical guinea pigs, putting young men on a semi-starvation diet for six months and then refeeding them in order to determine the most effective and economical way to help starving populations at the war’s end. Also noteworthy are descriptions of how hunger shapes human culture. Here, Russell turns to the work of anthropologist Colin Turnbull, who studied the starving Ik people of Uganda and Kenya in the 1960s and created a chilling portrait of human behavior under the stress of chronic hunger. Following her account of relief efforts around the globe, her penultimate chapter includes the recommendations of the U.N. Task Force
<\b>Against Hunger for reducing hunger in the world. While the subject is often somber, the presentation is one of verve and style–and the end-of-book notes provide a useful guide for readers whose interest has been piqued.