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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From Publishers Weekly
After happening upon the diary she kept when she was 11 years old, Gottlieb was moved to publish this chronicle of her struggle with anorexia nearly 20 years after she wrote it. In the late 1970s, she lived with her parents and brother in Beverly Hills, where Gottlieb's loneliness and concern about looking attractive to boys swiftly transformed into an obsession with dieting, although she had never been overweight. In her diary entries, she presents her father as a successful but emotionally withdrawn stockbroker, and her mother as a controlling airhead whose major concerns were her appearance and shopping. Gottlieb's parents became very alarmed, however, when their daughter, who believed that even smelling food would make her gain weight, kept refusing to eat. They took her to their family physician and then to a therapist who hospitalized her for several months when her condition continued to deteriorate. Though it is clear that Gottlieb, who is a regular contributor to Salon, has polished her childhood diary, her descriptions of preteen vulnerability and self-consciousness ring true--for example, when she recounts how, at lunchtime one day, her popularity skyrocketed because she could figure out a diet plan for every girl. In the context of the daunting (though unfootnoted) statistic Gottlieb cites, that "50% of fourth grade girls in the United States diet, because they think they're too fat," her diary offers haunting evidence of what little progress we have made. Agents, Jill Grinberg and Laurie Fox. First serial to YM; BOMC and QPB alternates; 3-city author tour; foreign rights sold in Germany, Finland and Portugal. (Mar.)
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