Ophelia Speaks: Adolescent Girls Write About Their Search for Self, edited by Sara Shandler, various contributors
Ophelia Speaks is a response to an earlier book, Reviving Ophelia, and contains short essays, poetry, and other pieces of writing by American teenagers. There are two chapters about body issues, ‘Media-Fed Images’ and ‘Eating Disorders’. The pieces are very short but it’s interesting to see a range of snapshots from different lives, and what real teenagers think about their bodies. The rest of the book features pieces of writing about other issues affecting teenagers today, on subjects like abuse, depression, death, friendship, sex, racism, religion, and academic pressure.
The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women, by Naomi Wolf
I’ll confess I haven’t read the whole of this book yet – I read the first chapter, the last, ‘Culture’ and ‘Hunger’ for an essay I wrote whilst studying for my first degree. I do intend to read the rest soon. The Beauty Myth is a look at history, politics and advertising that shows how false the idea of beauty is and how it stops women from achieving as much as they could. It’s not perfect, it has received a lot of criticism for only really looking at how the beauty myth affects middle-class, white, heterosexual and able-bodied women, and the accuracy of the statistics is often called into question. I’m aware that there are books and articles that go a bit more in depth and up to date, but as an intro to the ideas it presents, I think it does a good job. The third to last paragraph of the ‘Hunger’ chapter, beginning ‘What if she doesn’t worry about her body and eats enough for all the growing she has to do?’ (p179-180 in 0701134313) is one of my favourite paragraphs of all time. I wish I could quote the whole thing here, but it’d probably go beyond fair dealing.
Wasted, by Marya Hornbacher
I’m reading this book at the moment and will post a full review when I’m done. It’s a memoir by a recovering bulimic/anoretic. The author first decided that she was fat at the age of five. It’s well written, but quite heavy going. My head was aching earlier today as I was reading it, just trying to imagine how a child so young would develop these ideas and become so ill. Also, although it’s not a thick paperback, the font is quite small, so it’s not ideal for reading with contacts in. I might have a better time tomorrow when I can just take my glasses off and hold it closer!