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Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa

Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa
Author: Joan Jacobs Brumberg
ISBN 13: 9780375724480
ISBN 10: 375724486
Edition: 9.10.2000
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: 2000-10-10
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
List Price: $16.95

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.


Once upon a time, not so long ago, young girls paid no attention to their weight. Not a fairy tale, this resource for anyone working with teens examines the "curious psychic burden of the dutiful daughters of a people of plenty," a burden brought on by social and cultural messages that define a woman's worth in the postindustrial world. Although Americans are bombarded by messages to eat, with foods more varied and plentiful than ever before, we worship the slim female body. We "graze"; family meals and families themselves have lost structure or disappeared altogether. A young woman must have it all—marriage and motherhood, career and wealth. The control required to become Superwoman also is applied pathologically to the appetite and the body. The book begins with memorable fasting zealots of the fourteenth century and famous preindustrial fasting girls, including frauds. The author simultaneously investigates the medical and social aspects of the problem, ending with a detailed look at this distinctly modern disease. She predicts growth of both anorexia nervosa and obesity as characteristics of modern life, calling them "consumption disorders" as well as citing more elaborate medical classifications and treatments. Although eloquently written, this second edition might have more on the subject than readers really want to know. It should be required reading, however, for adults who work with young women. Fasting Girls gives a thorough historic understanding of anorexia nervosa and includes information about diagnosis and treatment options. Index. Photos. Source Notes. 2000 (orig. 1988), Vintage Books, 374p, Ages Adult. Reviewer: Laura Woodruff SOURCE: VOYA, April 2001(Vol. 24, No.1)