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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Read this: Purge: Rehab Diaries by Nicole Johns

Well, two things: 1. I haven't read this yet but I want to and will very soon. 2. I pretty much want to read everything Seal Press publishes (and I am so not saying that just because they published Dirty Girls) - I've felt that way for years. They are probably the first imprint I ever truly followed, and have been for about a decade.

With that out of the way, I can say that while I have a bazillion books I'm reading/want to read, Purge: Rehab Diaries by Nicole Johns is right at the top of the list. It's just been published and is based largely on her journal entries started in rehab. You can read more at her blog.

I think this book, along with Harriet Brown's anthology Feed Me! Writers Dish About Food, Eating, Body Image, and Weight and the YA anthology Does This Book Make Me Look Fat? edited by Marissa Walsh are all going to be very important contributions to the literature around both eating disorders and body image. The Carolyn Mackler essay in Does This Book... is a must-read for YA fans as well as any fiction writer who's ever been mistaken for her characters.

Here's what Kirkus wrote (via Nicole Johns):

A young writer recounts the trials and treatment of her eating disorder.

Midway through graduate school, 22-year-old Johns checked herself into the Wisconsin Eating Disorders Center, where she would spend 88 days trying to break the self-destructive regimen of restricting and purging that had plagued her since age 13. The memoir tracks her time at the EDC and the many harrowing experiences that led her there. Since she technically wasn’t underweight or morbidly obese, and still menstruated, the 130-pound Johns was diagnosed with EDNOS, or an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, what she terms an “island between anorexia and bulimia, a no-man’s-land that borrows from both diagnoses.” Years of limiting herself to 500 calories per day and compensating when her intake exceeded that by popping diet pills, chugging Diet Coke, purging and frantically exercising when overwhelmed all resulted in Johns developing multiple health problems, including severe heart irregularities. The author often narrates in present tense and occasionally second person to mimic the compulsive urgency of her fraught state of being: “There is no way out, so you binge on and purge an entire tube of Pillsbury rolls (half-cooked—you are too impatient to wait for them to bake), an entire box of chocolate Malt-O-Meal, a pint of Godiva ice cream, and a mug of chai tea.” Spare and unyielding, Johns’s prose distills the pain of her self-loathing while objectively charting the efforts of the center’s staff to help her and her fellow “Sisterhood of the Starving” curb and, hopefully, overcome such frenetic tendencies.

A revealing glimpse into the trauma wrought by eating disorders—especially important for the afflicted and those who care for them.

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