Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa (Vintage) Paperback – 8 Jul 2001
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" Full of fascinating cases, from medieval saints and Victorian spiritualists to contemporary college students and media celebrities." --Alison Lurie
" Brilliant--. A masterful blend of history and contemporary issues." --"Journal of Social History"
"Full of fascinating cases, from medieval saints and Victorian spiritualists to contemporary college students and media celebrities."--Alison Lurie
"Brilliant--. A masterful blend of history and contemporary issues."--"Journal of Social History"
From the Inside Flap
Winner of four major awards, this updated edition of Joan Jacobs Brumberg's Fasting Girls, presents a history of women's food-refusal dating back as far as the sixteenth century. Here is a tableau of female self-denial: medieval martyrs who used starvation to demonstrate religious devotion, "wonders of science" whose families capitalized on their ability to survive on flower petals and air, silent screen stars whose strict "slimming" regimens inspired a generation. Here, too, is a fascinating look at how the cultural ramifications of the Industrial Revolution produced a disorder that continues to render privileged young women helpless. Incisive, compassionate, illuminating, Fasting Girls offers real understanding to victims and their families, clinicians, and all women who are interested in the origins and future of this complex, modern and characteristically female disease.See all Product Description
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I really enjoyed the histories of the individual "fasting girls." And Ms. Brumberg's description of the Victorian middle class was priceless and eye opening, considering how that era is so romantizied by a lot of us today.
The book revealed so much about how culture (present and past) shapes our opinions of ourselves, especially us women. Reading the book brought out my anger that society and culture expect women to have "perfect" bodies..."perfect" everything, and the pressure that is on us, both as teenagers and adults.
I recommend this book to anyone who would like to know more about anorexia nervosa and its history. There is a great deal of fascinating information. Just keep your dictionary handy to look up all the medical terms Brumberg quotes (and for some of her own words as well). My only disappointment in the book was that it ended too abruptly. Her book had me hooked, and then, finally, it had to end. I think there is a great deal more to be said about this disease, and I hope that she keeps up with the history and maybe writes another volume. Kudos to you, Ms. Brumberg. Very well done.
When they brought in a girl who was probably 5'8" and weight 78 pounds, it was fascinating to see the guys in the class who were normally very vocal and aggressive, totally shut up! From behind she looked like someone from a Nazi concentration camp, yet she continued to consider herself 'fat'. When she left, the MD had the nerve to turn around and tell the boys, that basically...anorexia was the fault of men. All of us were stunned. He put up an obviously much used power point slide showing the weights of women in both Playboy magazines and in the Miss USA pageant from the beginning to that year (1997). The line was steep and steady from the upper left-hand corner of the slide to the bottom right corner of the slide. This was the change in weight of the women who were participating in these 'endeavors' that the MD said were run by men (it was a male MD). Then he went further and said...most women's magazines are still mainly male bastions, as is the fashion industry both here and in Europe. The men in the class were absolutely horrified (and the women were thrilled that someone had the nerve to say this to them!)
This outstanding book is a must read for anyone going into psychology, neuroscience, working with adolescents, education, public health, etc. I've read few books with such deep understanding as to the history and ramifications of social mores on young women and girls. Since I am a mother and a grandmother of girls, I have been truly horrified at picking up Bazaar magazine in the doctor's office and seeing what they are promoting as being beautiful. I told them to remove that magazine, because the models in it were way beyond Twiggy-skinny. When society promotes models whose bones are showing through their pelvic in whatever they wear, then something has gone desparately wrong in our society.
I am not a feminist per se, but I do believe in equal rights for all. Yet, viewing this particular disorder is a feminist need, and Brumberg does that magnificently, without overdoing it or carping on feminist thinking. I wish more 'feminists' would express deep concern and become activists to change our society from it's obviously deep-seated biases towards what constitutes beauty, for the sake of our girls. This is definitely more important in controlling and curtailing than almost any other societal gender-related bias...because it is literally killing our young women.
Brumberg's ability to write medical history is phenomenal. This is definitely one of the finest books I've read in this genre. Her research is meticulous; I was surprised and impressed with the sheer amount of information she provides concerning this problem during the 19th century. Many in the medical profession still believe that this disorder is something brought on by our society in the 20th century, but she shows that anorexia has been with us for a long time. I highly recommend this book!
University of Pittsburgh
The subtle strength of this book is its format for discussing disease development in a social and political context. Anyone interested in disease etiology beyond simply the biochemical approach should also read this book, as a guide to how to put disease in a realistic context.
Brilliant all round!
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