EMPTY

A MEMOIR

A powerful picture of anorexia and binge-eating disorder that would benefit from being shorter and more targeted.

A debut memoir painstakingly re-creates a history of disordered eating.

As a young woman, This American Life editor Burton alternated between anorexia (“the world responds to thinness, and the girl subsists on its compliments”) and binge-eating disorder. She convincingly traces her body issues back several generations: As a nonagenarian on her deathbed, her grandmother wished that she could weigh herself. Burton is also haunted by her mother’s self-assessment: “I knew nobody would ever love me for my body. They would have to love me for my mind.” The author’s extremely finicky childhood eating was a sign that she “perceived food as a threat.” A traumatic upbringing—her parents’ divorce, a move from Michigan to Colorado, her mother’s alcoholism—meant she couldn’t be like the carefree teens she saw in Seventeen. Not eating, she writes, gave a pleasurable “feeling of less inside—light, relieved, unburdened.” But in November 1989, “the weekend I lost power,” she started binge-eating. Burton recounts how she would gorge herself on carbs and sweets until her belly was distended. By the time she was a freshman in college, she’d gained 50% of her body weight. The author has been a vigilant personal archivist and chooses pertinent anecdotes to exemplify her mental and physical states. For instance, after eating most of a pan of brownies, she lost control of her bowels while out running: “a moment of total abasement.” However, the surfeit of information on her high school years—friends, acting, a summer job, boyfriends, and so on—distracts from the bigger picture. The level of detail is evidence of Burton’s original aim of writing a history of teenage girlhood. While the book is a valuable addition to the literature on eating disorders—which Burton likens to heroin in their addictiveness—the focus slips, making the middle third a slog.

A powerful picture of anorexia and binge-eating disorder that would benefit from being shorter and more targeted.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9284-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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