About the Podcast : “Brave Girl Eating” Book Review
I created a podcast review of the memoir Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle with Anorexia by Harriet Brown as part of an assignment for my Technology for Teaching and Learning class. The memoir details a Wisconsin mother’s experience helping her fourteen-year-old daughter recover from anorexia using Family Based Therapy (otherwise known as FBT or the Maudsley Method). I recommend this book to educators because the story:
- Provides insight into the effects that eating disorders have on sufferer’s families.
- Dispels commonly-held myths about anorexia and other eating disorders, and is a scientific and narrative-based introduction to eating disorders for people who may find them perplexing.
- Weaves scientific evidence into the narrative to argue that people often incorrectly blame eating disorders on the sufferers’ psychological states. Likewise, it suggests that the United States is not doing enough to encourage eating disorder research and help sufferers receive support.
However, the story tells another story about a thin, white woman. These experiences dominate much of the literature about eating disorders. I encourage teachers to supplement this text with accounts from suffers whose identities health care providers, research, and in the media often marginalize. As the text also details the appearance of thin bodies, I encourage teachers not to make it “required reading” for the whole class. These descriptions could impact the mental and physical health of a person with an eating disorder. Teachers will ideally make this book available to students as a “choice reading.” They should include proper content warnings on the front cover so that students can make an informed decision if it is the right novel for them.
Podcast Reviews in the Classroom
Podcasts reviews are a great way to ask students to consider the cultural impacts of a text. The assignment encourages them to think about how a text might speak one way to particular audience demographics while communicating a different meaning to others. For instance, the text I reviewed helped me find the language and scientific evidence I needed to talk about eating disorders with my family, friends, and colleagues. However, it could also harm people suffering from eating disorders and perpetuate the idea that eating disorders always manifest in thin, white bodies. In other words, the podcast review helps students move away from dichotomizing a text as “good” or “bad,” as well as “problematic” or “helpful.” Likewise, asking students why they would recommend this group to one demographic of readers versus others will prompt them to find textual and cultural evidence that proves books have diverse impacts and meanings. This exercise can be a great warm-up to large-group discussions of a text because it reminds students readers will respond differently to the same language.
Statistics from NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association). “Statistics & Reseach on Eating Disorders.” Retrieved from: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-research-eating-disorders
All quotes from Dr. Daniel Le Grange can be found in the foreword of “Brave Girl Eating”.