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Something other than a memoir of a life well lived, Body Story conveys Julia K. De Pree's troubling journey from adolescence to adulthood and from anorexia to health.
For De Pree, between being a girl and being a woman, there was starvation. Body Story is her intimate account of girlhood, virginity, anorexia, and motherhood. De Pree's prose is spare and unguarded, revealing in vivid flashbacks and poignant vignettes the sources of her inner pain.
In high school, the five-foot-ten De Pree weighed as little as 114 pounds. She was too weak to raise her arms above her head. “In a paradoxical way, I starved my body in order to understand my life,” she writes. “I had to place my body in suspension before I could move physically into sexuality. Starving allowed me to create an interim space between innocence and experience.”
De Pree renders the starkness of anorexia along with the process of recovery, relapse, and, ultimately, redemption. She also tells the story of the physical landscape, from her origins in the Midwest to the American South, Paris, and the vast New Mexican desert, as well as the psychic landscape of her body as it encounters the joys and challenges of maturation, childbirth, and motherhood.
De Pree offers readers a new way of understanding women¿s bodily experience, as she writes about the mystery and the meaning of her illness. As many as eight million Americans suffer from eating disorders. Body Story, unlike clinical reports or news accounts, illuminates the complexity of anorexia as the narrative moves toward a subjective and deeply personal truth.
This evocative and often radiant vision is a unique window into womanhood and selfhood in middle-class, contemporary America.
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Julia K. DePree is an associate professor of French at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta. An award-winning poet, in her recent articles she explores the intersections between literary representation and psychoanalytic theory.From Publishers Weekly:
DePree, a poet and French professor at Atlanta's Agnes Scott College, has struggled with anorexia for most of her life. In this sensitive memoir, she describes her experiences with the disease and the related behavior patterns that have threatened to disrupt (sometimes successfully) her work and personal life. DePree's illness began at age 13, after her grandmother's death, and continued for nearly 20 years. Although she was an excellent student and skilled violinist in high school, her daily life was overshadowed by anorexia. Starving allowed me to create an interim space between innocence and experience, between being a girl and being a woman." DePree's difficulties continued when she left home for college and during her stints studying overseas. There were brief periods when she gained weight, but DePree was always aware she was hiding in a "glass box" in which she felt safe. Only after the birth of her second child in 1999 did she start undergoing psychoanalysis and taking medication, finally beginning to learn why she was so comfortable as an anorexic. Less graphic than other anorexic autobiographies, this memoir is nevertheless quite moving, thanks to DePree's eloquent writing. She focuses on her feelings, rather than chronicling her diet and exercise, which should help her work resonate with both readers familiar with anorexia and those helping anorexics.
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