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Dietland: (TV Tie-in) (Inglês) Capa Comum – 2 ago 2018
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Told mainly through the lens of its 300-pound main character, Plum, this is a book that makes you cringe at the way society tends to treat people who don't fall within an "acceptable"--whatever that means--body type.
However, the book is more than that as the narrative is framed as a deep, deep deconstruction of what drives the kind of discrimination and cruelty Plum faces. It's an exploration of themes of acceptability that encourage women to subvert their feelings and subject themselves to extreme dietary and beauty methods in order to fit into the narrow (quite literally) role society defines for them. The book is a pretty disturbing meditation on the ways women are encouraged to strive for a "best self" that has little to do with a woman's own happiness or interests in life.
This aspect of the book in particular left me unsettled. It's as if Plum isn't a person, but a project. Rather than engaging with and living her life, she's put it on hold until a future version of herself can start living it. After being bombarded with messages both implicit and explicit, it's easy to see why she lives in the kind of stasis she does, and it's a state I think many women can probably relate to. It's sadly common for women to think things like "when I'm ten pounds thinner, I'll...", begging the question of what they'll do in the interim. Why do women often do this? Why not go out and live the life we have while we have it to live?
I thought Plum herself was a good embodiment of the utter frustration, confusion, and outright pain of being a woman. This book tackles a lot--weight, beauty standards, porn, rape--precisely because women are bombarded with all of these things, often on a daily basis. In a startling scene, one character discusses this and then asks whether it could be considered a form of terrorism. I think there's something to that point.
I could not put this book down, but I gave it four stars instead of five because I was uncomfortable with the violence, even though I suspect that's part of the point. After all, we live in a world where violence is disproportionately visited on women, and we're making very slow progress with changing that sad fact.
Plum Kettle has tried it all since she was sixteen. Waist Watchers. A famous diet of frozen meals and pills supplemented with meetings of evangelical proportion, called the Baptist Plan after founder Euylayla Baptist. Nothing has worked. Now pushing thirty, Plum is awaiting bariatric surgery. She's apprehensive, but after a life of dieting, willing to take the risk. Plum works from home answering emails for a 'tween beauty magazine Daisy Chain, spending hours a day responding to girls' questions about cutting, small breasts, creepy stepbrothers, and more. When editor Kitty Montgomery calls her into the office one morning, Plum falls into a rabbit hole of revolutionary feminists whose goal is to bring the system down. Some of the revolutionaries are social justice workers with a positive, albeit radical, outlook--and others, not so much. (Which is where the kidnapping, murder, and dismembering--usually with the emphasis on "member"--of those men comes into play.)
Plum's first awakening is to let go of her obsession with food--instigated by an offer of $20,000 if she follows a transformative "diet" plan suggested by Verena Baptist, daughter of the late weight loss guru. Plum finds community at a women's cooperative. She sleeps (and eats) a lot. She develops a fashion style. Plum, like so many women who finally come to terms with their bodies, recognizes she needs to change from the inside out.
Walker alternates the stories of the characters' present with their past--and we discover that even the women who resort to violence are driven by our culture's misogynist response to them. Dietland is a difficult book to read in many ways--one that tells the truth, but tells is slant, as Miss Emily Dickinson would say.
I couldn’t help but hope against hope that Plum would discover food addiction before the book ended. Alas, this was not to be. I wanted the release from cravings for her. I hope Ms. Walker will tackle the abuse of women by the food industry in a future work. I look forward to the next book.
As a caveat to food addicts, there are brief evocative descriptions of addictive foods in the book.