Long the subject of magazine exposes and TV melodramas, eating disorders have also been chronicled in books. The first of note, Steven Levenkron’s haunting 1978 novel about a teen anorexic, The Best Little Girl in the World, was followed by Kim Chernin’s case studies of women and body image in The Hungry Self and The Obsession. More recently, Marya Hornbacher’s anorexia/bulimia memoir, Wasted, and Barbara Kent Lawrence’s account of her husband’s anorexia, Bitter Ice, added new perspectives.
But while these books are riveting, they tend to be grim. Until now. Lori Gottlieb’s memoir, Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self, is a smart, funny, compassionate journal of the author’s bout with anorexia at age 11. Gottlieb, a former NBC exec, based her book on diaries she kept in 1978, the year she landed in Cedars-Sinai after her weight fell below 60 pounds. She infuses her younger self with wit sharpened by hindsight: ”’Meals are highly charged events in your family,’ Dr. Gold said, like if you ate dinner at my house your hair would stand up and you’d get electrocuted.” Stick Figure stands out as a fresh, edgy take — not just on anorexia but on that perilous time in a girl’s life when she’s no longer a child but not quite an adult. B+