"I don't want you to feel sorry for me. I do not feel sorry for myself. I am what I am."
This is not the first autobiographical memoir written by Judith Moore. "Never Eat Your Heart Out" was a mixture of personal history with food factoids. Except for a few pages on being a fat adult most of "Fat Girl" is about Moore's childhood. Low self esteem ruled her life because of her abusive mother and grandmother. Days that were suppose to be filled with laughter, friends and special moments, were filled with routine torments of pinching, hair pulling and name calling. All supposedly because she was her father's daughter. The only sense of well being young Julia experienced was when she ate.
It's important to note this book is titled "Fat Girl" not "Fat Girls". This is the story of one fat girl and her struggle to find love and is not meant to be a representation of all fat girls. Although any abused child (fat or not) may find glimpses of their life within these pages. Moore insists, "All I will do here is tell my story."
Moore divulges the history of fat amongst the people in her family but mostly her and her father. Many pages are dedicated to her father's love of food and their struggle with "This will be the last. I'll eat no more," syndrome. She says, "For my father and for me, who are this story's primary fatsos, food was the source of some of our greatest pleasure and most terrible pain." It's obvious throughout that young Judith is searching for and aches for love. Which she never seems to find.
The first person account is depressing on so many levels. After the first chapter I debated about not reading any further. In fact, numerous times I thought about quitting. There is a lot of self loathing which becomes quickly unnerving. It's interesting, in a voyeuristic kind of way I guess.
Little Judith comes across as neurotic numerous times. When she lived with her grandmother she would sic the dog on the hens and watch them die with "disorienting pleasure". She also committed two break-and-enters by the time she was 12 for the sole purpose of walking around the homes to look through their personal items and most importantly to eat their food.
One moment you're thinking she needs therapy and then the next you're reading about her mother screaming and beating her. Worse was the verbal abuse. Her mother stopped beating her when she was a teenager (because of outside influence) but Moore says she "did not cease keeping me aware of what an unattractive, deplorable, selfish shit I was, the person who had ruined her life."
I'm sure some will be concerned with further stereotyping of all fat people: they stink, they sweat heavily, and they can't control their eating. More of a concern for me was the negativity around menstruation appearing at various points throughout. There's been so much negativity about our periods for decades I'd hate for some girl to read this and think anything other than positive thoughts about her menstruation. It's important for readers to know some of the things Moore says may relate to all fat people and some of the things she says are just for her. We are not all the same regardless of how similar. The content is definitely for an adult mind.
"Fat Girl" almost seems incomplete. While Moore briefly mentions marriage and children there is a whole area of her life that seems ignored in this rather short 196 page, memoir. For what there is, it is effectively blunt in describing the suffering of a young fat girl and while the purpose was not meant to be an inspiration, she did survive and go on to have a productive life. But for such a depressing read whose sole purpose seems to be to shock, I'm not moved to recommend someone put out $25 for it. Try the library first or wait for paper back.
Hudson Street Press/Penguin, 2005
Purchase Fat Girl from Amazon.com.
Purchase Fat Girl from Amazon.ca.