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Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self Paperback – November 17, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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 In her diary entries, she presents her father as a successful but emotionally withdrawn stockbroker, and her mother as a controlling airhead whose major concerns were her appearance and shopping.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.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (November 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439148902
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439148907
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A startling look at the progression from complete body-innocence to complete body-consciousness. This book is comprised of Lori's diaries from when she was about 11 years old. When it starts out, she's a pretty normal kid: goofing around, worrying about being liked, and just, basically, being 11. However, Lori was surrounded by women who were constantly telling her they were fat or she was fat or they/she would BECOME fat if they did this or that. As the result of this constant brainwashing (really, that's what it is, you guys), she slowly begins to think real women just don't eat. So, she quits eating too.
It was horrifying to watch her mind go through the changes -- one minute she's a happy kid munching on a cookie after school and the next minute, she's in the hospital weighing less than 50 pounds and thinking her thighs are fat. She even believes breathing in air that SMELLS like food is enough to gain weight and her desperation to avoid gaining a single ounce is just gut-wrenching. I have felt that fear and I felt it again when I read this (a sign of good writing, incidentally). But when people tell her to stop dieting, she doesn't understand why since everyone around her is dieting too. Her friends throw away their lunches, her mom eats a few bites of salad for dinner and then sneaks down to the kitchen for cookies later, etc. etc. etc. The only people eating normally are her brother and father, and they're both too oblivious to really see what's going on.
One of the scariest parts of this book for me was realizing how many things Lori did when in the throes of anorexia that I do or have done. It's a real wake-up call. I mean, how can I yell at Lori to EAT THE DAMN COOKIE!
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Format: Hardcover
This story is the memoir of a Beverly Hills woman's descent into anorexia at the age of 11. Her mother's constant "real women don't eat dessert" attitude, her perfectionistic nature, and the realization of how much power she could get by not eating were the main factors I saw that lead to the disease.
Strikingly first person, the story is written based on Gottlieb's childhood diaries. Therefore, it has a very unique tone to it. Her attitude that the rest of the world is crazy gives the reader a sense of what could be going on in the minds of other young girls with anorexia. It is exceptionally poignant; humorous at times and heartwrenching at others.
I literally wanted to jump in the book and knock some sense into her parents, based on the way they were "handling" Lori. Her mother's comments made me jerk with agitation at some points. Of course, it was 1978 when much less was known of the disease. Fortunately, the support today is much stronger for the families of anorexics, who can then better support the terrible situation of their loved ones.
What surprised me the most about this book was how Lori was such a brilliant student. In my mind, smart people don't get anorexia. It certainly shifted my thinking about who the prime candidates for this disease are.
I would recommend this book to anyone who deals with girls as young as 10. It is amazing how early anorexia starts, and this book gives a great new perspective on the disease, and of some of the warning signs.
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Format: Hardcover
Because I struggled with an eating disorder in high school and college (I'm now in my mid-20s), I've read a lot of memoirs on this subject with particular interest. A friend who also recovered from anorexia recommended STICK FIGURE to me, saying, "You'll see yourself in this girl. And you'll LOVE her as much as you want to help her." What she meant wasn't just the very realistic depiction of obsession and distorted thinking that occurs with an eating disorder, but the fact that because these are real diaries, we see the whole girl, not someone looking back and talking only about how many hours it took to eat an apple. In other words, we see a girl who's funny and smart and as impossible as your average adolescent, who just HAPPENS to also be falling into a devastating illness. (I wonder what the author is like now -- she was HILARIOUS as a kid.)
Most books about anorexics depict them as being incredibly controlling, compulsive, and monomanical about dieting - which they ARE - but that's usually ALL you see. Here, as in another great memoir, WASTED, you realize how complicated this illness can be. At times, Lori seems so "normal" -- even MORE "normal" than her friends and their dieting mothers. And you can really see how she's influenced by the attitudes around her, even though they don't "cause" her anorexia, they definitely contribute and add wry commentary on our media-driven culture.
Most people gave this book five stars, and if I could give it six stars, I would! I TOTALLY disagree with the two people who thought the book didn't depict Lori's recovery realistically -- I LIVED her recovery and really related to the book's ending -- it isn't all neat and tidy.
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