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Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body [Bargain Price] [Hardcover]

by Courtney E. Martin
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 17, 2007 0743287967
Why does every one of my friends have an eating disorder, or, at the very least, a screwed-up approach to food and fitness? writes journalist Courtney E. Martin. The new world culture of eating disorders and food and body issues affects virtually all -- not just a rare few -- of today's young women. They are your sisters, friends, and colleagues -- a generation told that they could "be anything," who instead heard that they had to "be everything." Driven by a relentless quest for perfection, they are on the verge of a breakdown, exhausted from overexercising, binging, purging, and depriving themselves to attain an unhealthy ideal.

An emerging new talent, Courtney E. Martin is the voice of a young generation so obsessed with being thin that their consciousness is always focused inward, to the detriment of their careers and relationships. Health and wellness, joy and love have come to seem ancillary compared to the desire for a perfect body. Even though eating disorders first became generally known about twenty-five years ago, they have burgeoned, worsened, become more difficult to treat and more fatal (50 percent of anorexics who do not respond to treatment die within ten years). Consider these statistics:

  • Ten million Americans suffer from eating disorders.
  • Seventy million people worldwide suffer from eating disorders.
  • More than half of American women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five would pre fer to be run over by a truck or die young than be fat.
  • More than two-thirds would rather be mean or stupid.
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychological disease.

In Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, Martin offers original research from the front lines of the eating disorders battlefield. Drawn from more than a hundred interviews with sufferers, psychologists, nutritionists, sociocultural experts, and others, her exposé reveals a new generation of "perfect girls" who are obsessive-compulsive, overachieving, and self-sacrificing in multiple -- and often dangerous -- new ways. Young women are "told over and over again," Martin notes, "that we can be anything. But in those affirmations, assurances, and assertions was a concealed pressure, an unintended message: You are special. You are worth something. But you need to be perfect to live up to that specialness."

With its vivid and often heartbreaking personal stories, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters has the power both to shock and to educate. It is a true call to action and cannot be missed.

--This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It is no longer enough for girls to be good, says journalist and teacher Martin in her debut book. Girls must now be perfect, and that need for perfection is played out in women's bodies. But beneath the high-achieving "perfect girl" surface, seven million American girls and women suffer from an eating disorder; 90% of high school–aged girls think they are overweight. Drawing on more than 100 interviews with women and girls ages 9–29, Martin constructs a cultural critique of a generation of girls steeped in the language of self-control. "If I'm not thinking about my body or calories, I'm probably sleeping or dead," a 14-year-old confesses. Such heartbreaking quotes fill the book and fuel Martin's anger. In chapters devoted to the influence of "porn culture," the role fathers play in shaping their daughters' self-image, eating disorders among athletes, the narrowly circumscribed role of women in hip-hop and more, Martin explores the forces that drive young women to sacrifice themselves on the altar of perfection. A self-described perfect girl, Martin brings a personal perspective to the topic. If occasionally overambitious in her reach, Martin has a valuable mission: calling on young women to harness their intellectual and emotional energy and learn to enjoy their bodies, "imperfect" though they may be. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"With a sharp analysis communicated through heartbreaking stories, Martin exposes how hard most women have it these days when it comes to being secure in their physical appearance. Martin delves into the psychological, emotional and social side effects of a generation gone perfect. Anyone who has ever felt that twinge of not being good enough, skinny enough, pretty enough for the world at large should sit down with this book and see how deep the rabbit hole goes. We can only begin to act on our own behalf once we see how comprehensive this social disorder is -- Martin makes it clear that the time to act is now!"

-- Adrienne Maree Brown, Executive Director, The Ruckus Society --This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (April 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743287967
  • ASIN: B0013L4DKS
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,529,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Courtney E. Martin is the award-winning author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women called "a hardcover punch in the gut" by Arianna Huffington and "a smart and spirited rant that makes for thought-provoking reading" by the New York Times.

She is also a widely-read freelance journalist and regular blogger for Feministing. She is a Senior Correspondent for The American Prospect Online and her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Newsweek, and the Christian Science Monitor, among others.

In addition, Courtney consults with social justice organizations throughout the nation, including the Ms. Foundation for Women, the National Council for Research on Women, and the Bartos Institute for the Constructive Engagement of Conflict. She has conducted workshops for the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty throughout the nation.

Courtney also co-wrote the life story of AIDS activist Marvelyn Brown, called The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive. She is currently at work on a book for Beacon Press about ten people under 35 creating innovative social change and an anthology for Seal Press about the moments that made young women feminists.

In addition, she has essays in many anthologies, including A 21st Century Ethical Toolbox (Oxford University Press), and Declare Yourself: Fifty American Talk about Why Voting Matters (Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins).

She has been on Good Morning America, the TODAY Show, the O'Reilly Factor, and MSNBC, and spoken on radio programs and at colleges, non-profits, and parenting organizations across the nation.

Courtney has an M.A. from the Gallatin School at New York University in writing and social change and a B.A. from Barnard College in political science and sociology. She is a Woodhull fellow and part of the Progressive Women's Voices Project at the Women's Media Center. She was awarded the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics in 2002 and was a Resident at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center this summer. Courtney also founded The Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy, just named one of the NEW York 100.

When she isn't working, which is not nearly enough of the time, she is walking in Brooklyn's Prospect Park or conspiring to create unselfconscious dance parties with her amazing friends.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
You know about eating disorders. Who doesn't? You might have a friend who eats every other day. Another friend who throws up after lunch. You, yourself, might eat a whole pint of ice cream late a night while watching Buffy reruns and hate yourself for it afterwards. So, what will Courtney Martin's book do for you? Why this book? Why now? Well, I'll tell you. Courtney is the first non-expert, non-psychologist, normal girl, outraged and passionate, to write about the subject. Reading her book feels very insider. She got the real dirt, the stuff people don't talk about or admit, and it never, not once, feels exploitative. She interviews her subjects with love, compassion and empathy and gets to the bottom of this very real, very dark phenomenon in our culture today. In order to change, we have to make the dark light (not to butcher Jung). That is what Courtney Martin does. She makes the dark light and urges women not to settle for self-hatred. If you do hate yourself, don't worry. She won't judge you. Reading her book feels like the hug you never got, like the "you're beautiful no matter what you weigh" that you never heard. I guarantee you will feel beautiful by the end of this book and be inspired to change.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We are not immune June 9, 2007
I have to disagree with the reviewer who disliked the author's youthful perspective. While I'm an older Gen X'er, I understand that the world has changed since I was young and each generation rebels in different ways against the one before. I happen to prefer books about young women written by young women, as it gives insight to their generation that I could never have.

I also didn't think that the author blamed older feminists for their eating disorders, or claim that Generation Y is the first generation to truly suffer from issues with food. She acknowledges the rise of male eating disorders as well as in older women, but explicitly states that she was focusing on young women and all the factors that they process which may or may not be attributable to the fact that there are many more young women and girls starving themselves, than we (the older generations) know about. I personally found the feminism discussion interesting and hope to hear more from the author on this topic in the future.

I was particularly interested in the book because the group that seems to be most susceptible to eating disorders are the very same over-achievers that many of us are hoping will finally trample on the remains of the glass ceiling. But, how can they do that if they don't eat????

I actually liked the anecdotes about the author and her friends. I found these at times to be even more engaging than the focus group results. As noted, the author is a wonderful writer, which helps the book unfold as more of a story than a chronicle of a disease. And, despite the fact I can't relate to the world she grew up in, I saw many parallels and even recognized a few of my own unhealthy attitudes about food.

I urge anyone who has as daughter or a friend, or who personally may have either flirted with (or battled with) an eating disorder pick up this book.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
To say I was blown away by Courtney E. Martin's Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, would be a huge understatement. I've read lots of books on eating disorders, having gone through a bout of anorexia and bulimia in college, and struggled with "disordered eating" and body image issues ever since. Martin's tone hits the perfect edge between journalistic and compassionate; one never gets the sense that she is talking down to her readers or has conquered all these issues and is now looking at them from a distance. By including her own stories and those of her peers, she personalizes the issue, as both someone who's been "on the edge" of developing an eating disorder as well as someone caring for people with eating disorders. One of the most poignant moments here, in fact, is when a friendship ends over one woman confronting another over her eating issues.

Martin is angry, but also hopeful, and, most of all, non-judgmental. Clearly, she doesn't like what she sees but rather than direct her wrath against her subjects, she takes a more nuanced, helpful approach. She feels for her subjects even as the culture (including families, friends, peers, coaches, and media) around them pushes them forward. She wants them to succeed, but not at all costs. In fact, in the last chapter, she praises these starving girls for their strength, albeit a twisted kind of strength. By highlighting the ways girls cut each other down and size each other up, Martin brings some needed honesty to the ways women try to please each other, and how harsh we can be about our own kind.

There are so many brilliant insights here, I cannot document them all.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The only thing I can say is that this book has changed my entire mindset and has been the only thing that has ever helped me in my struggle with anorexia and binge + overexercising tendencies. Written by a woman of OUR generation, I have never heard from someone who truly understands the mindset of the girls of today - the girls I have grown up with - how much pressure is put on girls nowadays to be perfect. Throughout reading the book (which I finished in 1 day), the author's words gave me chills because never have I encountered words that so accurately describe EXACTLY what goes on in my mind. I have struggle with anorexia for over 7 years now, been in and out of therapy, antidepressants and various treatments - and nothing has ever truly helped. But THIS book, has! If I could, I would spend all my savings to buy copies of this book to give to every girl who has ever struggled or is struggling with body image or an eating disorder. I soo urge you to buy Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters. Learn to no longer be enslaved by eating disorders and to disconnect who you are from how you look, because even if you WERE perfect - you will not be happy. Life is full of choices and messiness that many of us try to avoid by restricting our food or narrowing our world to encompass only our looks and the word NO - but inevitably, we cannot control the world, we cannot control everything and honestly, some of the world's greatest gifts - love, fun, spontaneity, relationships - are worth the risk of shedding our perfect girl mentalities!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read for all women
Very shocking how honest this book is. More women should read this book to understand you and your food and image battles don't need to be fought solo. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Ashley Ritzert
5.0 out of 5 stars great book!
Great book. Definitely a must-read if you are interested in eating disorders from a modern day perspective. I thought it was a bit extreme however. Read more
Published 6 months ago by tangerine
4.0 out of 5 stars Scarily accurate
One of my personal favorites; I read this while in treatment and have been coveting it for my shelves ever since. Read more
Published 16 months ago by bekah
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters Book Review
Courtney Martin does an amazing job of capturing the idea and the causes of eating disorders in her book Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The New Normalcy of Hating Your Body. Read more
Published on March 29, 2010 by Allison Reid
2.0 out of 5 stars One word: EDIT
First of all, if you have an eating disorder don't read this book. I bought it because I hoped to learn something about eating disorders, instead she just went on and on, saying... Read more
Published on December 25, 2009 by L. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic - truly a wake-up call for young women!
Here's one of the many excerpts from the book I've highlighted:
"Obsessing over every little thing we put in our mouths may not lead to death or some of the other tangible... Read more
Published on September 23, 2009 by TranquilDiva
5.0 out of 5 stars Blessed that this book exists
First, let me qualify myself: At the time I read this book, I was working in a clinical hospital setting conducting groups for adults in partial hospitalization mental health... Read more
Published on July 15, 2008 by WichacpiHoskila
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic book
This is an amazing book. Written from the heart of every college girl, a must-read for girls in high school and beyond, or anyone trying to understand the world of girls today. Read more
Published on May 15, 2008 by A. Horwitz
5.0 out of 5 stars A Perfect 10.
This could quite possibly be the greatest book on body image I've ever read. Courtney has a way of writing that informs, intrigues, and most of all, causes us to dig deeper within... Read more
Published on March 3, 2008 by mrsnc
5.0 out of 5 stars The book we have all been waiting for!
Immediately after I finished this book, I bought a bunch more copies to give to all of my friends. THAT is how good it is. Read more
Published on December 27, 2007 by Samantha
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