Cover image for Wasted : a memoir of anorexia and bulimia
Wasted : a memoir of anorexia and bulimia
Hornbacher, Marya, 1974-
Personal Author:
First HarperPerennial edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : HarperPerennial, 1999.

Physical Description:
298 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
Originally published: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1998.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RC552.A5 H67 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
RC552.A5 H67 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
RC552.A5 H67 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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Marya Hornbacher grew up in a comfortable middle-class American home. At the age of five, she thought she was fat. By age nine, she was secretly bulimic. She added anorexia to her repertoire a few years later and took pride in her ability to starve. This is the story of her difficult recovery.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Why, Hornbacher asks in this profoundly distressing chronicle of her struggle with eating disorders, do so many young women suffer from self-hatred, a mania for being thin, and the twisted sense of power self-starvation engenders? Hornbacher entered with the realm of the body-obsessed at the precocious age of nine, came a frail heartbeat away from dying in her teens, and now, at age 23, has the gumption to tell her wrenching story in an effort to expose the societal roots of this complex disease. In spite of coming of age during the 1980s, an allegedly sophisticated and open-minded time, she was denied the same basic information about puberty, sexuality, and self-respect that women have always been denied, a crime made even more deplorable by virtue of the media's glorification of thinness. Hornbacher's severe illness was willfully ignored by every adult in her life, from her parents to her therapists, a failure to recognize the severity of her self-destructiveness appalling in its implications. Hornbacher's courage and candor may help solve the riddle of why young women punish themselves for being female. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Eating disorders have the centripetal force of black holes," states Hornbacher, 23, midway through this riveting, startlingly assured account of her bout with anorexia and bulimia, a decade-long struggle that brought her to the brink of death at age 18 and left her with chronic physical ailments. The only child of the troubled union between a former theater director and his actress-turned-school-administrator wife, Hornbacher was bulimic by the age of nine and anorexic by 15, finding in masochistic self-denial a seemingly dependable‘and quickly indispensable‘way to control the anxiety that wracked her. Repeatedly hospitalized during high school, she studied briefly at American University while also working as a journalist, until the final crisis, when her weight dropped to 52 pounds and doctors gave her a week to live. Hornbacher's unblinking testimonial has the nuance and vividness of an accomplished novel, and is evenhanded enough to shake the whiff of solipsism that often clings to tales of personal woe. While her fluent prose occasionally seems too off-the-cuff, for all its apparent spontaneity her narrative supplies a wealth of information from varied psychologists and theorists, and she sensitively traces the crazy quilt of overlapping motivations and influences behind her disease. Eating disorders, she argues, are as much a biochemical addiction as a psychological disorder. While rooted in familial dysfunction, generational malaise and our national obsession with feminine thinness, these disorders quickly take on, she says, a life of their own. It is to Hornbacher's credit, and to readers' profit, that she eventually managed to kill the golem that had laid waste to her childhood and teenage years. First serial to New Woman; author tour; dramatic rights: Frances Goldin. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This gritty, bluntly honest personal account read by the author tracks Hornbacher's downward spiral from bulimia at age nine to life-threatening anorexia requiring five lengthy hospitalizations. Interwoven with the remarkably vivid chronicle of this struggle is an adept examination of the complex causes of eating disorders. While accepting that a troubled, chaotic family life and the relentless bombardment of cultural messages exhorting thinness played a role, the author acknowledges that her underlying neurotic intensity and perfectionism contributed to the problem; she concludes that she is "a victim, primarily, of myself, which makes victim status very uneasy and ultimately ridiculous." This abridged version sharpens the focus of the original text, and the outstanding narration by Hornbacher enhances the unblinking tone of the work. Highly recommended for all public libraries.‘Linda Bredengerd, Univ. of Pittsburgh, Bradford, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-Eating disorders are frequently written about but rarely with such immediacy and candor. Hornbacher was only 23 years old when she wrote this book so there is no sense of her having distanced herself from the disease or its lingering effects on her. This, combined with her talent for writing, gives readers a real sense of the horror of anorexia and bulimia and their power to dominate an individual's life. The author was bulimic as a fourth grader and anorexic at age 15. She was hospitalized several times and institutionalized once. By 1993 she was attending college and working as a journalist. Her weight had dropped to 52 pounds and doctors in the emergency room gave her only a week to live. She left the hospital, decided she wanted to live, then walked back and signed herself in for treatment. This is not a quick or an easy read. Hornbacher talks about possible causes for the illnesses and describes feeling isolated, being in complete denial, and not wanting to change or fearing change, until she nearly died. Young people will connect with this compelling and authentic story.-Patricia Noonan, Prince William Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Wasted Eating Disorders and the Culture of Cont Chapter One Childhood 1974-1982 "Well, it's no use your talking about waking him," said Tweedledum, "when you're only one of the things in his dream. You know very well you're not real." "I am real!" said Alice, and began to cry. "You won't make yourself a bit realer by crying," Tweedledee remarked: "there's nothing to cry about." "If I wasn't real," Alice said--half laughing through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous--"I shouldn't be able to cry." "I hope you don't think those are real tears?" Tweedledee interrupted in a tone of great contempt. --Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland It was that simple: One minute I was your average nine-year-old, shorts and a T-shirt and long brown braids, sitting in the yellow kitchen, watching Brady Bunch reruns, munching on a bag of Fritos, scratching the dog with my foot. The next minute I was walking, in a surreal haze I would later compare to the hum induced by speed, out of the kitchen, down the stairs, into the bathroom, shutting the door, putting the toilet seat up, pulling my braids back with one hand, sticking my first two fingers down my throat, and throwing up until I spat blood. Flushing the toilet, washing my hands and face, smoothing my hair, walking back up the stairs of the sunny, empty house, sitting down in front of the television, picking up my bag of Fritos, scratching the dog with my foot. How did your eating disorder start? the therapists ask years later, watching me pick at my nails, curled up in a ball in an endless series of leather chairs. I shrug. Hell if I know, I say. I just wanted to see what would happen. Curiosity, of course, killed the cat. It wouldn't hit me, what I'd done, until the next day in school. I would be in the lunchroom of Concord Elementary, Edina, Minnesota, sitting among my prepubescent, gangly friends, hunched over painful nubs of breasts and staring at my lunch tray. I would realize that, having done it once, I'd have to keep doing it. I would panic. My head would throb, my heart do a little arrhythmic dance, my newly imbalanced chemistry making it seem as though the walls were tilting, the floor undulating beneath my penny-loafered feet. I'd push my tray away. Not hungry, I'd say. I did not say: I'd rather starve than spit blood. And so I went through the looking glass, stepped into the netherworld, where up is down and food is greed, where convex mirrors cover the walls, where death is honor and flesh is weak. It is ever so easy to go. Harder to find your way back. I look back on my life the way one watches a badly scripted action flick, sitting at the edge of the seat, bursting out, "No, no, don't open that door! The bad guy is in there and he'll grab you and put his hand over your mouth and tie you up and then you'll miss the train and everything will fall apart!" Except there is no bad guy in this tale. The person who jumped through the door and grabbed me and tied me up was, unfortunately, me. My double image, the evil skinny chick who hisses, Don't eat. I'm not going to let you eat. I'll let you go as soon as you're thin, I swear I will. Everything will be okay when you're thin. Liar. She never let me go. And I've never quite been able to wriggle my way free. California Five years old. Gina Lucarelli and I are standing in my parents' kitchen, heads level with the countertops, searching for something to eat. Gina says, You guys don't have any normal food. I say apologetically, I know. My parents are weird about food. She asks, Do you have any chips? No. Cookies? No. We stand together, staring into the refrigerator. I announce, We have peanut butter. She pulls it out, sticks a grimy finger into it, licks it off. It's weird, she says. I know, I say. It's unsalted. She makes a face, says, Ick. I agree. We stare into the abyss of food that falls into two categories: Healthy Things and Things We Are Too Short to Cook--carrots, eggs, bread, nasty peanut butter, alfalfa sprouts, cucumbers, a six-pack of Diet Lipton Iced Tea in blue cans with a little yellow lemon above the word Tea. Tab in the pink can. I offer, We could have toast. She peers at the bread and declares, It's brown. We put the bread back. I say, inspired, We have cereal! We go to the cupboard, the one by the floor. We stare at the cereal. She says, It's weird. I say, I know. I pull out a box, look at the nutritional information, run my finger down the side and authoritatively note, It only has five grams of sugar in it. I stick my chin up and brag, We don't eat sugar cereals. They make you fat. Gina, competitive, says, I wouldn't even eat that. I wouldn't eat anything with more than two grams of sugar. I say, Me neither, put the cereal back, as if it's contaminated. I bounce up from the floor, stick my tongue out at Gina. I'm on a diet, I say. Me too, she says, face screwing up in a scowl. Nuh-uh, I say. Uh-huh, she retorts. I turn my back and say, Well, I wasn't hungry anyway. Me neither, she says. I go to the fridge, make a show of taking out a Diet Lipton Iced Tea with Little Yellow Lemon, pop it open, sip loudly, tttthhhpppttt. It tastes like sawdust, dries out my mouth. See? I say, pointing to Diet, I'm gonna be as thin as my mom when I grow up. I think of Gina's mom, who I know for a fact buys sugar cereal. I know because every time I sleep over there we have Froot Loops for breakfast, the artificial colors turning the milk red. Gina and I suck it up with straws, seeing who can be louder. Your mom, I say out of pure spite, is fat. Gina says, At least my mom knows how to cook. At least my mom has a job, I shout. At least my mom is nice, she sneers. Wasted Eating Disorders and the Culture of Cont . Copyright © by Marya Hornbacher. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.