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Women suffering from eating disorders are often portrayed as obsessed solely with appearances. They are seen to be vain, selfish, and crazy (typical example of how women are marginalized in fiction). However, more works of fiction are accurately exploring the causes and behaviors associated with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Common themes of struggles with perfectionism, sense of control, and hopelessness can be found in many novels dealing with eating disorders. Another frequent element associated with these conditions are tense family dynamics and the role that familial relationships can have on the development of eating disorders. These recurring themes can be found in the three novels, The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, Pearl by Mary Gordon, and My Sister’s Bones by Cathi Hanauer. All three books demonstrate the widespread similarities in women with eating disorders, while avoiding perpetuated stereotypes of these women as either nutty or hysterical.
Literature Review on Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are an extremely dangerous set of mental conditions. One in every 200 American women suffers from anorexia. According to information found on the Mayo Clinic website, women with anorexia nervosa can display the following symptoms: refusal to eat, fear of gaining weight, negative or distorted body-image, excessive exercising, flat mood or lack of emotion, preoccupation with food, social withdrawal, dizziness or fainting, soft hair present on the body (which is called lanugo,) loss of menstruation (amenorrhea), abdominal pain, being cold, irregular heart rhythms, low blood pressure, and dehydration. These symptoms can be fatal—most anorexics die from heart attacks or organ failure. Greta Olson writes in “America Confesses Its Fear of Fat and Food,” that anorexics often display “an obsessive interest in physical appearance, and exaggerated concerns about thinness” (280). In the three novels, the characters suffering from eating disorders show obsessive thinking regarding how they look. These cognitive obsessions work as deflectors to keep the women from worrying about other upsetting elements in their lives (click to read an essay on how beauty pageants impact women negatively).
Additionally, two to three in every 100 American women suffer from bulimia. Symptoms of bulimia include eating until the point of discomfort or pain, self-induced vomiting, laxative use, excessive exercising, unhealthy focus on body shape or weight, distorted and negative body-image, abnormal bowel functioning, damaged teeth and gums, swollen salivary glands in the cheeks (which result in the appearance of ‘chipmunk cheeks’), sores in the throat and mouth, dehydration, and constant dieting or fasting. Serious problems can result, including irregular heartbeats and organ damage. Bulimia and the complications that go along with it can also be fatal.
Alarming Health Implications of Eating Disorders
Studies from the National Eating Disorder Association show that 5-10% of anorexics will die within 10 years of contracting the disease and 18-20% will die within 20 years. Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness. In the three novels, transformative healing occurs in treatment centers. Olson also states that many important events occur in eating disorder hospitals which serve as a “setting where confession is cultivated or coerced” (282). In two of the three novels, true steps towards recovery are taken during these bouts of treatment, while the third character is able to alter her behaviors on her own without intervention from anyone else.
Literary Examples of Eating Disorders
Novels published in recent years are beginning to showcase the true dangers of eating disorders. Additionally, the three novels previously mentioned have all accurately demonstrated the severity of anorexia. The novel The Edible Woman by Atwood was published in 1969, and was already raising awareness of disordered eating and distorted body image several decades before much research had been conducted on these diseases, and well before the public had become aware of the conditions. The novel follows the story of Marian, who is an independent woman who comes face to face with the problem of maintaining her self-worth and identity after she becomes engaged. When her life begins to change, she finds she is unable to eat certain foods. Little by little, specific food groups become inedible. First it is meat: “She looked down at her own half-eaten steak and suddenly saw it as a hunk of muscle. Blood red. Part of a real cow that once moved and ate and was killed” (Atwood 164). Although, Marian describes her inability to eat as involuntary, she does exhibit other signs of anorexia, including finding pleasure watching others eat and experiencing a growing disgust with her own body.
In Kirsten Braun’s “Contending with Feminism: Women’s Health Issues in Margaret Atwood’s Early Fiction,” Marian is portrayed as someone who “enjoys preparing food for others but restricts her own intake” (142). There are several scenes in the novel when Marian prepares elaborate meals for her fiancée and friends. She spends large amounts of time planning the menus, shopping for the food, and then cooks for hours. After serving everything, Marian picks at what is on her plate, and hardly eats anything. This is an accurate portrayal of how someone with an eating disorder would behave.
Example from ‘The Edible Woman’
In The Edible Woman, Marian feels repulsed by food itself: “The loaded table made her feel gluttonous: all that abundance, all those meringues and icings and glazes, those coagulations of fasts and sweets, that proliferation of rich glossy food” (Atwood 179). Like other anorexics, Marian finds herself constantly comparing and evaluating other people’s bodies. Atwood writes: “But now she could see the roll of fat pushed up across Mrs. Gundridge’s back by the top of her corset, the ham-like bulge of thigh, the creases round the neck, the large porous cheeks; the blotch of varicose veins glimpsed at the back of one plumb crossed leg, the way her jowls jellied when she chewed” (181).
This passage demonstrates that Marian “shares the anorexic’s phobic fear of fat” (Braun 144). Also, Marian worries how others will perceive her refusal to eat, and is often very concerned with how others see her, indicating that she feels her plates are always ‘exposed’ to those around her. However, the main difference that separates Marian from typical eating disorder cases is the fact that, at the end of the novel, she simply starts eating again. Although she feels strangely about it, she does not seem to have any trouble resuming healthy eating habits. This is far from true regarding most women suffering from anorexia, who often deal with some form of the disorder for the rest of their lives (even with treatment.) But overall, despite Marian feeling like she has no control over how her body rejects food, she exhibits many similar symptoms of other anorexics. It is Atwood’s dedication to giving accurate descriptions of disordered eating that helps Marian become relatable and realistic, instead of disregarding her obsessions as crazy or nutty.
‘Pearl’ by Mary Gordon – Another Example of Anorexia in Literature
The second book being discussed, Pearl, also has a character who wouldn’t strictly fit under the diagnostic guidelines for most anorexics. The titular character is a young girl who has become so hopeless about the state of the world that she has decided to go on a hunger strike, and subsequently chains herself to a flagpole outside the American embassy in Ireland. The novel follows the events that led to Pearl’s decision, while also examining how Pearl’s mother copes with her daughter’s condition. Although Pearl views her own refusal to eat as a statement about the human capability of harming others, she does exhibit several traditional hallmarks of anorexia. Pearl is extremely disciplined in her eating behaviors, as well as in her restriction of consuming water. In order to be so close to death that doctors will be unable to save her, Pearl sticks to a regiment of no food for six weeks prior to taking action at the embassy. Gordon writes: “She has understood, rightly, that the great threat to life is not starvation but dehydration—or a combination of the two. She has taken nothing to drink for six days. She knows it is much easier to rescue a person from death by starvation than from death by dehydration” (84).
Pearl has also previously demonstrated a hatred for her body in the past. Her mother remembers Pearl coming home from school and almost bingeing on cakes and chips, and then spending “afternoons hating the company of her own body, wanting only to get into her unmade bed, where she’d explore what she believed were the disgusting parts of her own body” (Gordon 129). Then the novel takes the reader back to the present to display the true severity of Pearl’s case: “There is a sprinkling on her arms and legs and breasts of a fine coating of light hair—lanugo it is called—the starved body’s protection, the same hair grown by babies” (Gordon 134). Pearl is so close to death, in fact, that due to dehydration, her body cannot even produce tears.
Accuracy of the Literary Depiction of Anorexia in ‘Pearl’
The struggle to get Pearl well is also similar to other anorexics in treatment. She is force fed through tubes and given fluids in IV’s in order to return her body to a normal balance. The effort that is required from Pearl to enter recovery is also true of other anorexics. Pearl had coped with her depression and sorrow by starving herself, and is faced with a whole new set of troubles when she begins to be fed. Gordon writes: “Starved, she was exalted and exultant. But with nourishment, she has grown hungry and she has begun to fear. Starved, she needed nothing. Now she knows her own aloneness” (297).
Although Pearl defined her refusal to eat as a way to make her opinions known to the public, her methods for seeking control are the same tactics that other anorexics use. Pearl feels that she is using her body (and her death) to make a statement. In Braun’s piece “Contending with Feminism,” she writes that there has been “recognition that the anorexic’s body is a site of protest rather than the passive conformity to a thin ideal” (133). This certainly reflects how Pearl views her actions and behaviors—she sees her refusal to eat as a statement against how people perceive women (especially in the media) and their ability to fight back. Pearl’s desperate attempts to disappear demonstrate that she focuses on food instead of looking at her more troubling feelings.
In Caroline Knapp’s memoir, Appetites: Why Women Want, she writes that “the state of one’s waistline [is] easier to contemplate than the state of one’s soul” (17). Pearl has indeed learned to cope with feelings of loneliness and guilt by focusing on the will power and drive it takes to starve oneself. Gordon effectively displays the complicated feelings and thought processes that have contributed to the development of Pearl’s disordered eating.
My Sister’s Bones
The third novel, My Sister’s Bones, follows the story of two sisters when the eldest begins to display signs of anorexia. As the novel progresses, Hanauer describes how the rest of the family attempts to cope with Cassie’s illness. Cassie begins to show signs of having a problem during her freshman year of college. She starts losing weight, and begins to make comments like “People don’t need three meals a day anyway. We don’t need anywhere near the amount of food we consume” (Hanauer 82). A common sign of anorexia is the desire for others not to know the extent of their problem. Cassie demonstrates this by “sneaking her food to the dogs or back to its boxes and jars as soon as my mother leaves the room” (Hanauer 112).
Hanauer follows Cassie’s struggle through treatment where she is required to gain weight, and then later through her struggle to overcome her symptoms of depression. Cassie’s sister says “I think she’d like to just disappear, that in fact she is disappearing; that under that sweat suit, she’s nothing but a twig” (Hanauer 140). This statement gives an accurate illustration of what anorexics experience, and Hanauer uses realistic descriptions of family conflicts to accurately portray the far-reaching effects of an eating disorder.
The Body Betrayed
In Kathryn J. Zerbe’s book The Body Betrayed, the author cites a study conducted recently that stated that over 75% of women polled said they wanted different bodies (149). This statistic demonstrates that in our culture, it is rare for women to be entirely accepting of their bodies. Often women with eating disorders feel that appetite (even for things other than food) is dangerous. In Food, Consumption, and The Body in Contemporary Women’s Fiction, Sarah Sceats writes that eating disorders “emphasize[s] the predatory nature of appetite and perhaps, more importantly, the protest signaled by its lack” (95). In all three of the novels previously mentioned, women with eating disorders can be seen as inherently self-destructive.
In Geoffrey V. Davis’ Towards a Transcultural Future, he writes that many women are: “described as violently, ‘madly,’ acting out their anger on their bodies, causing themselves physical pain, depriving themselves of food, and maiming their bodies. Some women in fiction develop self-destructive eating disorders which seem to be related more to anger than madness (Davis). This statement further demonstrates that women in fiction are more likely to be accurately portrayed as experiencing hurt and suffering rather than just being seen as crazy. In Dina F. Waxman’s piece, “A Strenuous Game: The Portrayal of Eating Disorders In Young Adult Novels,” she states that novels often show the pattern of the “coexistence of a comorbid mental illness and three of the most commonly portrayed individual risk factors: perfectionism, low self-esteem, and need for social approval” (96). These factors can definitely be seen in the three novels being discussed.
Like what you’re reading? Read more about women, traditional gender roles, and class in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare.
Recurring Themes of Suffering
In Gordon’s Pearl, one of the main characters is a doctor who is providing treatment for the anorexic girl. She states that “connections between the mind and body are inextricable” (Gordon 223). This theme reoccurs throughout many works that portray women with eating disorders in an accurate way. Additionally, in Aimee Liu’s non-fiction work, Gaining, she states: “People who develop eating disorders often live ‘out of order.’ They have difficulty trusting their instincts. Their relationships make them feel anxious instead of supported. So instead of engaging with the outer world from the position of internal strength, they substitute the demands of media culture for their core beliefs—living, in effect, outside in” (xxvii).
Liu’s research on women with eating disorders correlates directly with the way the characters in the three novels are portrayed. The three characters suffering from eating disorders are highly intelligent, self-motivated women who still feel entirely separated from the outside world. Instead of labeling these feelings as those of a crazy person’s, the novels describe the characters as women who are merely struggling with their self-worth. They aren’t hysterical, just lost, and for the most part, their behaviors make sense in relation to what they are experiencing.
The Quest for a “Perfect Body”
A universal component of nearly all women suffering from eating disorders is the quest for perfection. Zerbe writes that women with eating disorders are most often “described as anally retentive. They are the individuals who must maintain such firm control over themselves—and others—that they cannot give an inch” (149). In Hanauer’s My Sister’s Bones, the main character describes her anorexic sister: “My sister is someone who makes life harder than it has to be; that’s what I think…if a page gets messy, she’ll copy it over. On the rare chance she ever slips. Then, before a test, she highlights furiously, a rainbow of streaks over everything” (8). This woman strives for perfection so strongly that she makes her own day-to-day life nearly impossible to live with.
Liu describes these women as the: “conscientious ‘good girls’ who aim to please, excel, and conform. They worry about the details but are often so fearful of making a mistake that they can’t get their work in on time. They read an arched eyebrow as contempt, a frown as a stiletto through the heart. They are intensely self-critical” (37).
All three women in the novels are perfectionists. Each of them got straight-A’s, excelled in school (and writing), but never really bloomed socially because they felt out of place in situations removed from the academic world. They sink into spirals if anyone criticizes or suggests they aren’t doing their best. Liu writes “if you are a perfectionist, your instinct is to perform flawlessly or else, in your mind, you’re a failure. This is why criticism feels so threatening” (52).
In Pearl, Gordon describes how the main character has decided her weight is another way to reach perfection. She has developed “the habit of thinking herself impure by virtue of femaleness. The female: insufficiently fine. The female: overfleshed. There was nothing in her life to suggest that the female body was anything but something to be overcome” (Gordon 130). Gordon also writes that the quest for starvation helps the character to feel perfect. She writes “As she began to starve herself, her weakness had a sweetness, her exhaustion was as desirable as the slaking of a thirst. To fail to live. To fail to live up to things. Simply to fail” (Gordon 15).
Each of the characters suffering from eating disorders clings to the feeling of being hungry as a way to escape the pressure they put on themselves to be thinner. Although the character’s reasons for wanting excellence are different, each novel portrays the women as perfectionists. These women come to see their refusal to eat and their thinness as an area in which they can completely succeed.
Most women suffering from eating disorders have some interesting family dynamics occurring in their lives. Knapp writes “There is always a family at the center” (5). Some families may consist of divorced parents or conflict in their household, but in most cases of women with eating disorders there is a premium placed on keeping up appearances. In Liu’s book, a woman interviewed for the piece states: “so much of the problem comes from not being able to admit unhappiness, or to see that unhappiness is normal, to see that dissatisfaction and anger are normal. In my family there was only a small spectrum of emotion that was ever allowed to become public. Real, full emotions had to remain hidden. So if you’re not allowed to tell the truth, you start thinking up internal kinds of solutions” (110).
Like the parents in all three novels, most mothers and fathers of restricting anorexics discourage honest discussions or healthy arguments. Usually, “kids study hard, clean their room, go to bed on time, never talk back—and if asked to describe their families, most obediently give them high marks. Restrictors usually claim to feel well loved and nurtured” (Liu 141). However, when anyone observes these families, it is obvious that there is often an immense amount of tension and feelings of being uncomfortable among the family members.
Family Pressure Results in Eating Disorders
The authors of all three novels effectively show that family pressures are often a catalyst for the emotional and physical development of eating disorders (as a result of development during critical periods). In My Sister’s Bones, issues of food in the family are representative of a specific lack of boundaries between family members. Hanauer writes “We’ve always been a family that shares food. In restaurants we pass around forkfuls and samples on butter plates as if we’re playing Go-Fish. By the time we start eating, our plates look like an artist’s palette—a little taste of each thing, each person’s” (82). A lack of boundaries plays a huge part in an anorexic’s desire for control and set rules. This family dynamic often appears in cases involving eating disorders, because the anorexics are setting their own boundaries in place of ones that were missing growing up.
The Importance of Family Dynamics in Eating Disorders
Family dynamics often become even more strained once the presence of the eating disorder is made known to other relatives. Waxman writes that most novels dealing with eating disorders describe “the victim’s gradual descent into their disorder until a second traumatic or notable event, such as a family member discovering their disorder, occurs” (94). In My Sister’s Bones, the sister of the anorexic identifies her own family while doing research about eating disorders, when she comes across a passage that states “The family of an anorexic, like the anorexic herself, may deny that a problem exists, the former for the very reasons that lead to the disorder in the first place: an emphasis on the external, on success and achievement and maintaining a ‘perfect’ appearance” (Hanauer 63). This description fully depicts her family: there is a father who is focused solely on grades and wealth, and a mother who denies that her daughter has lost a considerable amount of weight when she is noticeably thinner. Hanauer uses the two parents to accurately illustrate the effect certain family dynamics can have on the development and treatment of anorexia.
The issue of family dynamics can also be seen in Gordon’s Pearl. While Hanauer describes a family that wants to ignore the existence of an eating disorder, Gordon describes a mother who is almost too involved in her daughter’s life. The mother becomes nearly unable to cope after discovering that her daughter could die of malnourishment and dehydration. Instead of allowing her daughter to recover, she becomes enmeshed in the process alongside Pearl. Gordon writes: “How can she be eating when her daughter is starving herself? How can she fill herself when her daughter is empty? How can her daughter be doing this to her body now? And why?
Starvation: a female tactic of self-punishment, Maria thinks, and then more desperately: What does she think she needs to be punished for?” (128). This response from the mother demonstrates another family dynamic that occurs frequently: codependency. Gordon successfully describes the mother-daughter relationship and the events that led to their complicated intertwined behaviors. With these three novels, the authors are all able to successfully explain the impact of family dynamics on the development and recovery of those suffering from eating disorders. Instead of merely assuming that anorexics or bulimics are the only ones responsible for their diseases, the authors accurately describe the importance of family and how it affects the women who are struggling.
Control and Eating Disorders
Another common motif in novels about women with eating disorders is the topic of control. Anorexics and bulimics often have an intense desire to have control over every single area in their lives. Waxman writes that “the most common factors were low self-esteem and a feeling of lack of control/need for control” (94). Because these women cannot find peace with themselves, they seek to micromanage everything. They often feel like they have no answers to life’s questions, and so they attempt to control things like food and weight. Zerbe writes that “building one’s life around the quest for a perfect body avoids the vital existential issues of life that are probably never completely answered” (195).
Knapp also writes about the topic of control: “Your needs are overwhelming? You can’t depend on yourself or others to meet them? You don’t even know what they are? Then need nothing” (9). In Liu’s Gaining, she echoes this sentiment and writes of her own struggle to find control: “No matter who denied my existence, I could deny myself first. If I took out my anger on nobody else, I could still take it out on myself. No matter how much or what I lost, I could always reassure myself by wanting nothing” (xxiv). Eliminating the need for food or overindulging during binges often works as an escape for the eating disordered. Liu writes: “You flee anxiety by pulling into yourself; you purge your fear by vomiting it up; you become so obsessive about your body that nothing else in the world seems to matter. The result is that you feel you have this body—your contained world—under control” (20). In Pearl, Gordon has the main character endure starvation in order to protest about her political beliefs.
The main character often feels powerless—she feels that anyone can inflict hurt on others. Gordon writes “As she gave up eating, this sense of purpose, the joy of pure statement, pure act, took her over. She felt at rest” (19). Thus, this fictional character perfectly describes how anorexics feel—that their choice over what they put in their bodies gives them utter control over their lives. Pearl often felt helpless in her life because for the first time she was becoming aware of a human’s capacity of evil. After witnessing the destruction and death related to terrorist attacks in Ireland, Pearl felt an inability to predict the actions of those around her. Her feeling of a loss of control directly correlated to the development of her eating disorder.
In Atwood’s The Edible Woman, the main character, Marian, feels she is losing control when she becomes engaged to her fiancé. She finds herself acting out just to feel like she isn’t losing her identity. Once she begins to think about her married life and her loss of freedom, her disordered eating commences. After her body begins to reject certain foods, she feels like she has already taken some kind of action. She writes “I had broken out; from what, or into what, I didn’t know. Though I wasn’t at all certain why I had been acting this way, I had at least acted. Some kind of decision had been made, something had been finished” (Atwood 81). Unfortunately, as with most anorexics, Marian reaches a point when she no longer feels she has control over eating either, the one area in her life that she thought she could still manage. Atwood writes: “This thing, this refusal of her mouth to eat, was malignant; that it would spread; that slowly the circle now dividing the non-devourable from the devourable would become smaller and smaller, that the objects available to her would be excluded one by one” (166).
Atwood honestly portrays Marian’s eating disorder so that her behaviors directly relate to her worries, instead of allowing Marian to sound crazy or mentally unstable, her actions are described as logical and necessary. This inability to control the behaviors surrounding food is also evident in My Sister’s Bones. The anorexic, Cassie, even after spending time in a treatment facility, realizes that she no longer has control over her eating disorder. At this point, she has finally come to understand what she is doing to her body. Cassie explains: “But then you go and get weighed, and you’ve lost a quarter-pound from yesterday, and they tell you your bones are deteriorating, and your hair’s falling out, and your blood pressure’s down. And you take your shoes off and your feet are all swollen up like dead rats, and suddenly you’re so scared. You know? Your rational side takes over, and you’re completely freaked, you’re like, ‘What am I doing to myself?’” (Hanauer 180).
Despite Cassie becoming aware of her loss of control over her disorder, she still faces a tough recovery process. Like Cassie, even after reaching the stage of realizing the dangers of the disease, many women continue with their restricting (or bingeing and purging) because they are still able to feel at least some small form of control from these behaviors. Most studies note that anorexia has a 97% recidivism rate, because of the fact that even during periods of recovery, anorexics can still revert back to dangerous behaviors when they feel that other areas of their lives are spinning out of control.
Feelings of Hopelessness
Another common theme in fiction among women with eating disorders is the recurring feeling of hopelessness. All three novels describe these feelings experienced by the characters, which often leads to a somewhat desperate tone in the work. When trying to explain her hopelessness, the main character in the titular Pearl says: “know that you are a person of hope, a person at home in this world, and that you will go on. Try to understand that I am not a person of hope and I am not at home in this world, which I believe to be a place of harm…I have become more convinced than ever that the darkness is stronger than the light. At least it is stronger than I am” (Gordon 17).
When describing these feelings of depression, the authors are doing a great service to those suffering from eating disorders. Each of the three writers delves deep into the characters and describes accurately their despondence, instead of just labeling them as moody or dark. The characters are depicted as having great compassion, but often feel too much. Gordon writes: “All of us have our days when life doesn’t seem worth it, but we usually get over them. A suicide has no other day. It’s as if she’s always looking directly at the sun or at some sort of unfiltered light. Not that the light isn’t there, the rest of us retain our vision by a series of filters that block things out and protect us. A suicide can’t protect herself from the things that most of us protect ourselves from. It’s not that she’s seeing things that aren’t there or that the rest of us have never seen, but we push them out of our field of vision because we have to” (250). Feelings of hopelessness are also present in My Sister’s Bones. Cassie, writes to her sister that “sometimes I get so scared, thinking this is how it’s gonna be from now on—working my butt off all the time, and then screwing up anyway…Maybe this is just what life is. It makes me want to close myself off in a room” (Hanauer 33). Hanauer helps to give an honest illustration of depressed anorexics by shining a light on how they feel when they are in the midst of their disorder.
An Honest Portrayal
Overall, the world of fiction is making great strides in describing women with eating disorders accurately and fairly. Instead of stereotyping these women as only caring about food or thinness, there is a broader picture being developed that demonstrates that anorexics are not crazy, they are simply in a lot of pain. The three authors discussed have all contributed greatly to a better understanding of the mind of someone suffering from an eating disorder by portraying the quest for perfection and control and the effect family dynamics has on a person with anorexia.
After examining the true dangers associated with eating disorders, it is encouraging to find that there are authors who are working to accurately describe not only the inner workings of an anorexic mind, but also to focus on the many significant factors that contribute to the development of eating disorders. There could be a tendency to use the more salacious elements of eating disorders and describe the conditions by only looking at the more shocking aspects. These three authors do a service to those suffering from anorexia to portray all the many complexities of the disorder. Many people have access to these books, and the authors have acted responsibly and honestly by making sure that their characters are truly realistic.
- Atwood, Margaret. The Edible Woman. New York: Anchor Books, 1969.
- Braun, Kirsten. Contending with Feminism: Women’s Health Issues in Margaret Atwood’s Early Fiction. Diss. Griffith University, 2004. Queensland: Griffith, 2004.
- Davis, Geoffey V. Towards a Transcultural Future: Literature and Society in a Post-Colonial World. New York: Editions Rodopi B.V., 2005.
- Gordon, Mary. Pearl. New York: Pantheon Books, 2005.
- Hanauer, Cathi. My Sister’s Bones. New York: Delta Books, 1996.
- Knapp, Caroline. Appetites: Why Women Want. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2003.
- Liu, Aimee. Gaining. New York: Wellness Central, 2007. Mayo Clinic. Eating Disorders. 15 Jan. 2010
- National Eating Disorder Association. 2010.
- Olson, Greta. “America Confesses Its Fear of Fat and Food.”
- Sceats, Sarah. Food, Consumption, and the Body in Contemporary Women’s Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
- Waxman, Dina. “A Strenuous Game: The Portrayal of Eating Disorders in Young Adult Novels.” Mar. 2007.
- Zerbe, Kathryn J. The Body Betrayed: A Deeper Understanding of Women, Eating Disorders, and Treatment. American Psychiatric Press, 1993.