Synopses & Reviews
Youve heard the phrase “the mirror is not your friend.” For Valerie Frankel, the mirror was so much more than “not a friend.” It was the mean girl who stole her lunch money, bitch-slapped her in the ladies room, and cut the hair off her Barbie.
Like most women, Valerie spent most of her conscious life on a diet, thinking about a diet, ignoring a diet, or failing on a diet. At age eleven, her mother put Val on her first weight-loss program. As a teen, she was enrolled in Weight Watchers (for which she invented creative ditching methods). As a young woman, her world felt right only when she was able to zip a certain pair of jeans. Not wanting to pass this legacy on to her own daughters, Valerie set out to cleanse herself of her obsession. Thin Is the New Happy is the true story of one womans quest to exorcise her bad body-image demons, to uncover the truths behind what put them there, and to learn how to truly love herself.
"Since childhood, Frankel (Thin Is the New Happy) suppressed her emotions, to the detriment of her emotional and physical health. After a health scare at age 44, her doctor tells her she must reduce stress: 'The hate in me just had to come out.' As the author reflects on a lifetime of being determinedly upbeat, she ponders dysfunctional friendships, asserts herself with a bitchy neighbor and selfish gym-goer, even visits a nearby Zen center. Family and friends are supportive, especially when she 'outs' her jealousy of fellow authors turns out, they're all jealous of somebody, too. It's refreshing to read along as Frankel realizes that anger can be cathartic, even entertaining, when expressed, and 'feel all your emotions, all at once' makes for a fuller, more fun life. Fans of her recent memoir, her many novels, or her collaborations with Joan Rivers (Men Are Stupid... and They Like Big Boobs) and Nicole 'Snooki' Polizzi (A Shore Thing) will especially enjoy learning more about what makes the funny, warm Frankel tick. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Frankel, like most women, has endured years of dieting, starvation, and total preoccupation with her weight. Not wanting to pass this legacy on to her own daughters, she sets out to cleanse herself of these painful and damaging cycles, which she chronicles in this hilarious, unflinching memoir.
About the Author
Valerie Frankel has been an editor for Mademoiselle magazine and is a contributor to Self, Good Housekeeping, and Parenting magazines. She has written fourteen novels. This is her first memoir. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, two daughters, and three cats.
Reading Group Guide
1. A show of hands: Is anyone on a diet right now? Who has been on a diet during the past year? What kind of success have you had trying to lose weight?
2.Valerie Frankel begins her book by sharing a series of dieting metaphors. A drug addiction. A gambling addiction. The five stages of grief. Do you have any of your own youd like to add?
4. Did you find the authors tales of chronic dieting humorous or sad? Empowering or self-defeating? Discuss the issues of beauty, body-image, and self-acceptance that are raised in Thin Is the New Happy. Does the book cover these issues in a unique way? How are they typically discussed—and portrayed—in mainstream American culture?
5. Valerie decided to tackle her dieting obsession once and for all around the time her daughters were reaching puberty. In what ways do you think Valeries attitudes about her own body changed once she became a mother? Do you think weight is different issue for children than it is for adults? How?
6. In her “postscript,” the author mentions that her mother, Judy, never read Thin Is the New Happy. Judys friends did, however—and were outraged on her behalf. What do you think of Valeries portrayal of Judy in this memoir? Was it fair and balanced? Did Judy emerge as a sympathetic character…or a bad mother? And what do you think of Judy now?
7. “I am a connoisseur of insult and criticism,” writes the author. “My ears prick up to catch the slightest intonations, the smallest hint of negativity, even in a seemingly benign comment.” Another show of hands: Who in the group can recall at least one episode of childhood taunting?
(Some of you may want to share your stories.) How can “innocent” teasing have a lifelong effect on ones sense of self?
8. Take a moment to talk about the men, past and present, in Valeries life. How did they view her? Were they able to see her for who she is on the inside? Also, how did you react when her husband told her: “I adore every inch of your body. And itd be even better if you could get rid of the stomach.” In what ways did this one remark unleash a lifetime of bad feelings Valerie had about her weight? How would you feel in her shoes—or his?
9. Having read the author Q&A in this Gold guide, do you agree with Stacy London that bad body image is a symptom, not a disease? Which was it for Valerie? Why?
10. Valerie decided that, with this book, she would finally tell the “naked truth” about her weight obsession. With this in mind, have a look at one of Valeries nude Self magazine photographs (go to: http://origin.www.self.com/health/2007/06/how-nude-portraits-can-help-self-image). What do you think, now that youve seen it? Does it make you think any differently about the authors journey? How?