I think most of us reading this blog or other eating disorder blogs agree that eating disorders do not discriminate. They affect different races, cultures, and ethnicities. This is truly not new news. I remember nearly ten years ago, there were studies looking at ethnic/racial proclivities towards eating disorders. I was even featured in a Washington Post article about it (sorry, can only read the first few paragraphs as it is archived). So to me, it seems a bit crazy that people continue to not "get" it.
Recently, there have been articles and studies about the increasing or rather "out of the closet" phenomena that African-American/black men and women are also affected by eating disorders. For a long time, people just thought this group of people were immune to eating disorders. They believed that African-Americans' definition of beauty was different--that curvaceousness was the more appeasing aesthetic. And that this would somehow protect them from ever developing an eating disorder.
Oh how wrong people can be. In a culture where thinness is prided, there is bound to be a cultural shift. In this 2005 New York Times, it explains how blacks join the eating disorder mainstream. From there, there have been other studies showing the prevalence of eating disorders among this population. Most recently, a study from USC showed that African-American girls were 50% more likely to develop bulimia than their white counterparts, especially those within the lowest income bracket.
Obviously, this is a problem. It is great that research is looking at this population. However, I think there is still a lack of personal story, biography, memoir for this specific group of people. Many times this can be helpful for sufferers to feel less alone.
This is where Stephanie Covington Armstrong comes in. Stephanie, a playwright and screenwriter in CA, has written a new memoir, Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat on her struggle with bulimia. I had not even heard of this book until I read this LA Times Blog asking if this book cover went terribly wrong.
The opinions vary with some feeling it is too graphic, while others feel it it blunt, raw, and to the point. Others say they never would have even guessed the symbolism of the cover had the controversy been stirred. I'm not exactly sure how to feel about the cover. To me, it is on the graphic side, but at the same time, it puts the disorder out there. (or at least one form of bulimia)
I have not read this book, so I cannot say whether it is good, triggering, provocative, etc. But what I am glad about is that there is now a book for this audience. Even though there have been tons of memoirs on eating disorders, people often want to feel a sense of understanding, and sometimes that happens to be because of race or ethnicity. In the end, my hope is that people do not judge the cover of the book, but rather the contents. After all, that is all what we want eating disordered or not.
Note--*Here is a transcript by NPR about African-Americans and eating disorders.