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Empty: A Memoir
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Random House Publishing Group 2020
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Description
An editor at This American Life reveals the searing story of the secret binge-eating that dominated her adolescence and shapes her still.

“Her tale of compulsion and healing is candid and powerful.”—People
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY MARIE CLAIRE
For almost thirty years, Susan Burton hid her obsession with food and the secret life of compulsive eating and starving that dominated her adolescence. This is the relentlessly honest, fiercely intelligent story of living with both anorexia and binge-eating disorder, moving past her shame, and learning to tell her secret.
 
When Burton was thirteen, her stable life in suburban Michigan was turned upside down by her parents’ abrupt divorce, and she moved to Colorado with her mother and sister. She seized on this move west as an adventure and an opportunity to reinvent herself from middle-school nerd to popular teenage girl. But in the fallout from her parents’ breakup, an inherited fixation on thinness went from “peculiarity to pathology.”
 
Susan entered into a painful cycle of anorexia and binge eating that formed a subterranean layer to her sunny life. She went from success to success—she went to Yale, scored a dream job at a magazine right out of college, and married her college boyfriend. But in college the compulsive eating got worse—she’d binge, swear it would be the last time, and then, hours later, do it again—and after she graduated she descended into anorexia, her attempt to “quit food.”
 
Binge eating is more prevalent than anorexia or bulimia, but there is less research and little storytelling to help us understand it. In tart, soulful prose Susan Burton strikes a blow for the importance of this kind of narrative and tells an exhilarating story of longing, compulsion and hard-earned self-revelation.
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
06/23/2020
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780679644040
ASIN:
B07YJZ7CWB
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Susan Burton. (2020). Empty: A Memoir. Random House Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Susan Burton. 2020. Empty: A Memoir. Random House Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Susan Burton, Empty: A Memoir. Random House Publishing Group, 2020.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Susan Burton. Empty: A Memoir. Random House Publishing Group, 2020. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
Jun 24, 2020 18:13:23
Date Updated:
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      • value: empty
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      • value: mental health
      • value: marriage
      • value: Alcoholism
      • value: Healing
      • value: anorexia
      • value: Autobiography
      • value: Memoirs
      • value: women
      • value: Divorce
      • value: psychology
      • value: self help
      • value: Binge eating
      • value: self help books
      • value: memoir
      • value: eating disorders
      • value: teens
      • value: binge eating books
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      • value: girlhood
      • value: teen girls
      • value: books for book clubs
      • value: psychology books
      • value: eating disorder recovery
      • value: relationship books
      • value: memoir books
      • value: eating disorder books
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      • bioText: Susan Burton's writing has appeared in Slate, Mother Jones, New York magazine, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine. She is a former editor of Harper's and a producer of This American Life. Her radio documentaries have won numerous awards. The film Unaccompanied Minors is based on one of her radio essays. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their two sons.
      • name: Susan Burton
imprint
Random House
publishDate
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title
Empty
fullDescription
An editor at This American Life reveals the searing story of the secret binge-eating that dominated her adolescence and shapes her still.

“Her tale of compulsion and healing is candid and powerful.”—People
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY MARIE CLAIRE
For almost thirty years, Susan Burton hid her obsession with food and the secret life of compulsive eating and starving that dominated her adolescence. This is the relentlessly honest, fiercely intelligent story of living with both anorexia and binge-eating disorder, moving past her shame, and learning to tell her secret.
 
When Burton was thirteen, her stable life in suburban Michigan was turned upside down by her parents’ abrupt divorce, and she moved to Colorado with her mother and sister. She seized on this move west as an adventure and an opportunity to reinvent herself from middle-school nerd to popular teenage girl. But in the fallout from her parents’ breakup, an inherited fixation on thinness went from “peculiarity to pathology.”
 
Susan entered into a painful cycle of anorexia and binge eating that formed a subterranean layer to her sunny life. She went from success to success—she went to Yale, scored a dream job at a magazine right out of college, and married her college boyfriend. But in college the compulsive eating got worse—she’d binge, swear it would be the last time, and then, hours later, do it again—and after she graduated she descended into anorexia, her attempt to “quit food.”
 
Binge eating is more prevalent than anorexia or bulimia, but there is less research and little storytelling to help us understand it. In tart, soulful prose Susan Burton strikes a blow for the importance of this kind of narrative and tells an exhilarating story of longing, compulsion and hard-earned self-revelation.
reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        January 27, 2020
        This American Life producer Burton debuts with an unfiltered discussion of how binge eating and anorexia plagued her throughout her adolescence and into her 20s and turned her into a “desperate wreck.” Around the time she entered puberty, Burton began worrying about getting fat; she started controlling her portions and took “perverse pleasure in smallness.” Burton ably recreates her anxiety-filled youth, when she struggled with her parents’ divorce, her mother’s alcoholism, and with eating disorders. She offers raw descriptions of binging late at night in her kitchen as a teen, eating ice cream, muffins, and power bars to fill a void (“This was tearing things, a frenzy”), then, later in life, starving herself to the point that she developed osteoporosis, all in an effort to feel “light” and “empty.” Burton traces her issues with food back to her grandmother, who obsessed about weight, but offers no easy answers about what ultimately drove her own behavior. Physically healthy now, she writes that she remains “inflexible, paranoid, and self-loathing about food,” and is still on the road to recovery, aided by therapy, writing, and family support. Burton convincingly conveys the desperation and darkness of eating disorders.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        April 1, 2020

        This American Life editor Burton provides a deeply personal memoir of her adolescence and young adulthood spent hiding her alternating cycles of binge eating and anorexia. In her early teens, the author's parents divorced and her life changed drastically, as she moved with her mother and younger sister from Michigan to Colorado. Burton, who describes herself as always having an uncomfortable relationship with food, began a secret life of compulsive eating and starving. She excelled academically in middle and high school, but often felt lonely and disconnected socially owing to her eating issues. As a freshman at Yale, the author hoped to reinvent herself as someone who was "good" with food. Unfortunately, the college experience only exacerbated her disorder. After graduation, Burton began a career in publishing and married her college boyfriend. She still struggled with disordered eating, and ultimately sought professional help. VERDICT This memoir will resonate with those who have experienced issues with food or know someone who has.--Mary Jennings, Camano Island Lib., WA

        Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        April 1, 2020
        A debut memoir painstakingly re-creates a history of disordered eating. As a young woman, This American Life editor Burton alternated between anorexia ("the world responds to thinness, and the girl subsists on its compliments") and binge-eating disorder. She convincingly traces her body issues back several generations: As a nonagenarian on her deathbed, her grandmother wished that she could weigh herself. Burton is also haunted by her mother's self-assessment: "I knew nobody would ever love me for my body. They would have to love me for my mind." The author's extremely finicky childhood eating was a sign that she "perceived food as a threat." A traumatic upbringing--her parents' divorce, a move from Michigan to Colorado, her mother's alcoholism--meant she couldn't be like the carefree teens she saw in Seventeen. Not eating, she writes, gave a pleasurable "feeling of less inside--light, relieved, unburdened." But in November 1989, "the weekend I lost power," she started binge-eating. Burton recounts how she would gorge herself on carbs and sweets until her belly was distended. By the time she was a freshman in college, she'd gained 50% of her body weight. The author has been a vigilant personal archivist and chooses pertinent anecdotes to exemplify her mental and physical states. For instance, after eating most of a pan of brownies, she lost control of her bowels while out running: "a moment of total abasement." However, the surfeit of information on her high school years--friends, acting, a summer job, boyfriends, and so on--distracts from the bigger picture. The level of detail is evidence of Burton's original aim of writing a history of teenage girlhood. While the book is a valuable addition to the literature on eating disorders--which Burton likens to heroin in their addictiveness--the focus slips, making the middle third a slog. A powerful picture of anorexia and binge-eating disorder that would benefit from being shorter and more targeted.

        COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from May 1, 2020
        Burton has been studying teenage girlhood since she devotedly read Seventeen magazine as a preteen; this powerful memoir is the studied biography of her own teenage years, with disordered eating as its focus. Already highly selective with food, Burton first went on a diet at age nine. She would go on to weather her parents' divorce, an ensuing move from Michigan to Colorado, and her high-school and college years through a constant process of self-reinvention that affected her behavior, her academic performance, and her eating: a cycle of anorexia and binge-eating disorder, which "wasn't on the list of things you could have" during Burton's 1980s and '90s youth. An editor for This American Life, Burton has been an avid reader, writer, and journal-keeper since childhood, the effects of which are felt throughout her stirringly crafted book. Just as she, suffering intensely and alone, pored over the few eating-disorder memoirs available in her college library, readers who see themselves in these pages will find invaluable identification and even comfort. It's also a breathtakingly related depiction of growing up and the intimacies of family, friendship, and romantic love. All memoir-lovers will be taken by Burton's elegant prose, rare self-insight, and layered, superconfessional storytelling.Women in Focus: The 19th in 2020(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

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shortDescription
An editor at This American Life reveals the searing story of the secret binge-eating that dominated her adolescence and shapes her still.

“Her tale of compulsion and healing is candid and powerful.”—People
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY MARIE CLAIRE
For almost thirty years, Susan Burton hid her obsession with food and the secret life of compulsive eating and starving that dominated her adolescence. This is the relentlessly honest, fiercely intelligent story of living with both anorexia and binge-eating disorder, moving past her shame, and learning to tell her secret.
 
When Burton was thirteen, her stable life in suburban Michigan was turned upside down by her parents’ abrupt divorce, and she moved to Colorado with her mother and sister. She seized on this move west as an adventure and an opportunity to reinvent herself from middle-school nerd to popular teenage girl. But in...
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