""I wish to be the thinnest girl at school, or maybe even the thinnest eleven-year-old on the entire planet,"" confides Lori Gottlieb to her diary. "I mean, what are girls supposed to wish for, other than being thin?"
For a girl growing up in Beverly Hills in 1978, the motto "You can never be too rich or too thin" is writ large. Precocious Lori learns her lessons well, so when she's told that "real women don't eat dessert" and "no one could ever like a girl who has thunder thighs," she decides to become a paragon of dieting. Soon Lori has become the "stick figure" she's longed to resemble. But then what? "Stick Figure" takes the reader on a gripping journey, as Lori struggles to reclaim both her body and her spirit.
By turns painful and wry, Lori's efforts to reconcile the conflicting messages society sends women ring as true today as when she first recorded these impressions. "One diet book says that if you drink three full glasses of water one hour before every meal to fill yourself up, you'll lose a pound a day. Another book says that once you start losing weight, everyone will ask, 'How did you do it?' but you shouldn't tell them because it's 'your little secret.' Then right above that part it says, "'New York Times" bestseller.' Some secret."
With an edgy wit and keenly observant eye, "Stick Figure" delivers an engrossing glimpse into the mind of a girl in transition to adulthood. This raw, no-holds-barred account is a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of living up to society's expectations.
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Based on diaries written in 1978, when she was eleven years old, the author offers a chronicle of her battle with anorexia and the pressures from family, peers, and society that led her to starve herself.Review:
In the image-conscious world of 1970s Beverly Hills, 11-year-old Lori knows she's different. Instead of trading clothes and dreaming of teen idols like most of her pre-adolescent friends, Lori prefers reading books, writing in her journal and making up her own creative homework assignments. Chronically disapproving of her parents' shallow lifestyle, she challenges their authority and chafes under their constant demands to curb her frank opinions and act more "ladylike." Feeling as though she has lost control over her rapidly changing world, Lori focuses all her concentration on one subject: dieting. Her life narrows to a single goal--to be "...the thinnest eleven year old on the entire planet." But once she achieves her "stick figure," Lori really sees herself for the first time in a restaurant bathroom mirror and decides then and there to bring herself back from the brink of starvation.
Stick Figure is a surprisingly upbeat memoir, mainly due to Gottlieb's descriptions of her upper-crust parents: "Mom and I usually don't like the same movies. For example, she didn't like my favorite movie, Star Wars, probably because no one goes shopping...." But despite the sly humor, Lori comes to a sobering conclusion that is, sadly, still relevant today: "...you can be too thin and not even know it, because you spend so much time listening to everyone talk about how ladies are supposed to diet, and how something's wrong with you if you aren't worried about being thin, too." Culled from Gottlieb's pre-teen diaries, Stick Figure is a wry and engaging observation of an eating disorder and the society that contributed to it. --Jennifer Hubert
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