THE BODY TOURIST: a Memoir by Dana Lise Shavin

THE BODY TOURIST: a Memoir by Dana Lise ShavinThe Body Tourist by Dana Lise Shavin
Published by Little Feather Books on November 15th 2014
Pages: 360
Genres: Memoirs
ARC provided by BookSparks

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In this moving and funny memoir that spans the six years following the author's purported recovery from anorexia, Dana Lise Shavin offers a candid and ultimately optimistic window into the mindset and machinations of a mental illness whose tentacles reached deep into her life, long after she was considered "cured."

In 1981, Shavin graduated from college with a BA in Psychology. It had been a difficult venture that included an expulsion, a four-month institutionalization, and a multitude of transfers. By the time it was over, she was convinced she was cured, and that it was time to start curing others. "I’m ready," she told her parents, her therapist, and friends—all of whom shook their heads in horror at her 95-pound, 5’9” frame. Undaunted, she landed a job as a counselor in a halfway house for drug and alcohol addicts. If anyone knew what it took to become a happy, functioning adult, Shavin was convinced she was the one.

As anyone would suspect, the burden of self-contempt, faulty logic, and interpersonal turmoil that are the character traits of depressive disorders and addictions do not miraculously disappear once medication and therapy have taken effect. Where, then, do these dangerous obsessions, such as the wish for obliteration (which often co-exists with the wish for immortality), go once a person sets foot on the road to recovery?

For Shavin, they lived beneath the radar of her supposed new-found health, disguising themselves in the falling-down houses she happily moved into and the dangerous neighborhoods she somehow didn't fear. They announced themselves in the deeply flawed men she professed to adore, the food rituals she thought were normal, the ordinary sex she could not have, and, most profoundly, her inability to acknowledge her father’s illness and encroaching death.

While many writers have written candidly and eloquently about their struggles with depression, addictions, and eating disorders, those stories usually conclude once there is progress toward recovery. Beyond recovery—whether from addiction, illness, the death of a loved one, or divorce—there is another story, one that is about how we re-join the world, and, in the living years that follow the darkness, pursue a life that is creative, engaged, and deeply felt in one's body.

Reading time 3 mins

My Review

One of the most engrossing memoirs I have ever had the privilege to read. The Body Tourist is a diamond in the rough. Like the anorexic self depreciating narrator tells us, in a round about way, we are all a work in progress. I really enjoyed this tale, the flip flops through time, the honesty and raw truth, looking back everything is so clear and yet necessary.

I found myself completely absorbed in this book. Dana tells about her journey out of the anorexia with humor and truth. She is counting calories and storing them for later. The book, like the title and cover, is very witty and facinating. Her writing is really engrossing and filled with insights into purpose and reason. In the mind of someone who makes a living counseling, she is honest with herself in the retelling enough to make this believable. Dana’s actions of omission in her employment, housing, and affairs of the heart are almost like a car crash. I can’t look away. I can’t stop thinking about her.

Dana starts this story right after getting her BA. She takes employment counseling others out of drugs and alcoholism, and she is not out of the woods herself. Fresh out of rehab she is still unable to even eat in front of other much less give advice about how someone should proceed on their recovery. Her journey is littered with obstacles and she really rises to the challenge. Slowly and surely like any real person coming into their own. Her taste in men, or lack of sex, is jolting. Her struggle for “normal” while ignoring her own needs was heartbreaking. I laughed out loud and wept while reading this book. It is so brutally honest.

This book is so authentic. I don’t struggle with anorexia, but I can relate to the plight of an addiction, to something other than reality. To wanting things that are no good for you, to settling for less than is required for survival. I read this whole book in two days, between hanging Christmas lights, parenting four children, and dealing with sister’s issues. To say I loved this read is a gross understatement. It was so fascinating, I could not put it down. I grateful for the glimpse into Dana’s life. I highly recommend this read.

My Rating

5kisses


About the Author

Dana Lise Shavin was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and lives in her father’s hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 1986, she obtained her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and worked for fifteen years as a therapist, behavior specialist, and psychological examiner. She left the mental health field to pursue a career in art and to focus on her writing. For the past fifteen years, she has made her living as a fine art painter, exhibiting at outdoor art fairs and in galleries throughout the US.Dana’s essays have appeared in Oxford American magazine, The Sun, The Writer, Zone 3, Alaska Quarterly Review, Fourth Genre, Third Coast, Puerto del Sol, Hawaii Pacific Review, Willow Review, Palo Alto Review, Skirt!, Gravy, Chatter, and numerous alternative health, arts, and entertainment newspapers. She has been a monthly columnist for the Chattanooga Times Free Press since 2002, and is the editor of the Chattanooga Jewish Federation newspaper, The Shofar. She has been a panelist and workshop presenter at Keystone College’s literary conference, The Gathering, since 2012, and has spoken and read at venues as diverse as the Unitarian Universalist Church, the Jewish Cultural Center, as part of the University of Tennessee Women’s Speakers Series, the Meacham Writers Workshop, the Hunter Museum of American Art, and at various book clubs, writers groups, and performance venues. She received a MakeWork literary arts grant in 2008. In 2011, Dana returned to her mental health roots and became a certified professional life coach. She specializes in finding balance and fulfillment in life and work, and goal-setting with soul.

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