It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
When I was researching for books that would fit our current reading theme, I was amazed by so many comic books that tackle this very difficult experience. Here are two graphic novel memoirs that fearlessly depict what it’s life to suffer from an eating disorder
Inside Out: Portrait Of An Eating Disorder
Written and Illustrated by: Nadia Shivack
Published by: Ginee Seo Books, Atheneum Books For Young Readers, 2007. ISBN: 0689852169 (ISBN13: 9780689852169)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
The first page of the book shows a beautiful black-and-white photograph of the author-illustrator, Nadia Shivack, who wrote this:
Day by day, meal by meal, millions of girls and women in the United States struggle with eating disorders.
I am one of them.
I first became aware of food when I was six years old. I would hoard candy in my sock drawer. I only showed special people my hidden treasure.
I never touched any of it. It was sacred.
Nadia did not come from a happy household. They were pretty much terrorized by their father who was very regimented in his ways, while Nadia’s mother was a Holocaust survivor who repressed all those horrific memories, and also had very “strong ideas” about food, not allowing any morsel to go to waste, after suffering from such massive deprivation when she was young.
Nadia shared that her eating disorder began when she started competing for swimming – that is when she became hyperaware of her body, how it looked, and her obsessive need to become very thin. Not only did she diet excessively, this was accompanied too by binges which was aided by her taking medication such as ipecac that would allow her to throw up everything that she consumed.
Much of Nadia’s narrative reminded me of the nature of addiction, the compulsion also parallels that of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) – and the inability to take control of one’s urges and emotions. Throughout Nadia’s sharing of her own struggles with her eating disorder, the pages are also peppered with facts about bulimia or anorexia or women’s dietary habits, side effects from purging, etc.
While I could not connect that deeply with the art, as well as the often confusing handwritten text, I feel that this is an important story – as it gives voice to an illness that has heretofore been regarded largely as a taboo topic.
Lighter Than My Shadow
Written and Illustrated by: Katie Green
Published by: Jonathan Cape, 2013. ISBN: 0224090984 (ISBN13: 9780224090988)
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
In contrast to the first book, I fell in love with Katie Green’s art here. It evoked such feelings of despair and ravenous hunger that can not seem to be satiated in any form.
It is also a sobering account of just how unpredictable mental illness can be. Unlike Nadia in the first book, Katie had, by and large, a happy childhood. She is surrounded by a loving and supportive family. She excelled academically and took pleasure in her art.
However, she was driven by this obsessive desire for perfection – that she had to be the best in everything that she does, and that she had to look thin to look good. Initially, it seemed harmless enough, until she found herself just “wasting away” and crying during meal times because she could not bring herself to take a bite.
She also had strong social support with friends who were very concerned about her well-being, a college roommate who just let her be, until the time that she was ready to seek help for what was clearly a horrible relapse of her anorexia.
I suppose what really complicated matters for Katie was when she went to this alternative healer who removed “negative” blockages in her energies, allowing her to feel light and happy. It really disturbed me to no end, seeing how people in a position of power and influence could simply manipulate vulnerable beings such as Katie. I won’t say any more since the last thing I want is to ruin this reading experience for you.
Ultimately, though, I feel that this is a story of forgiveness – forgiving not just others but one’s self, a gradual and painful journeying inwards to find value and meaning, and the need to truly do something that one can take joy and pride in, with the knowledge that you are more than your body.