Reading memoirs are sometimes hard for me, not because I don’t enjoy them, mainly because I want to know for sure that what I’m reading is really true. In my mind certain writers start out with the basic truth but they inflate, or exaggerate things to a point where I personally think it should be classified as fiction. Now onto Moose: A Memoir Of Fat Camp, it opens with an author’s note, which is always a plus for me, it lets you get a feel for the person before jumping into the middle of their life. But in this case it helped clear up some of my fact versus fiction worries. Stephanie Klein clearly states in this note that she has combined five years worth of fat camp experiences into one for this book, she explains why and how, and ends off by saying that even though the timeline has been altered, all the events described really did happen to her. This is awesome! Just those two small pages at the beginning made my reading experience all the more enjoyable – honesty, straight up front in a memoir is a great thing. (This has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the book, but it’s an important element to me, so maybe it’s important to other readers out there too.)
Moose is the story of Stephanie Klein’s battle against her weight and her body issues throughout her adolescence, and the reader is first introduced to her during a prenatal check-up during her pregnancy. This was a good time to meet her, as she has just been told by her doctor that she needs to gain fifty pounds. This must have been such a blow to her mentally, I mean after years of watching to make sure the numbers on the scale stay low, she’s now being told she needs to weigh more, a lot more. Fifty pounds is quite a lot even to a perfectly healthy body. This news takes her back to her childhood, when her mother tells her that she’s made an appointment for her to see a fat doctor, which will eventually lead to her first summer at a fat camp.
Retold from memory and diary excerpts the reader follows Stephanie as she becomes a new member of the summer fat camp society. And it is indeed it’s own society, complete with ranks, cliques and popularity contests. Even though Stephanie is overweight, and ridiculed at her regular school, once at the summer camp she sees that she will be higher on the social ladder. Why? Well because she may be fat, but the majority of the kids there are larger than her. This was really interesting and made me think a lot about how people are judged and where they fit in with their peers – it’s not so much the person, but the people who surround them that decide where a person falls in the social order.
Moose is not only about an overweight girl spending a summer at fat camp, it’s also a book about growing up, being a kid, and struggling with all the other crap that comes with adolescence. Boys, sex, discovering your own body, troubles with parents and friends - all these things come into play along the way, in an open and un-self-conscious way. The way that Stephanie Klein writes is blunt and to the point, but it’s also funny, sad and confusing, just the way life really is.
This memoir was one that I enjoyed reading quite a bit, I really like Klein’s style. This story deals with a lot of serious issues, but it never gets too deep or overly analytical. Her story is told in such a way that the reader can either take it or leave it. She tells it like it is. I had quite a discussion over this memoir with a friend of mine. I liked it, she didn’t. We agreed that it was well-written and engaging, but ended up debating the message behind it and the lack of a miraculous psychological recovery. It’s true that the author doesn’t find a magic cure to fix her negative body image issues, she still has problems seeing herself as healthy and fit, and still worries about her weight. But to me personally, I didn’t have a problem with this, I think that a weight problem would be extremely hard to get over and the fact that Stephanie Klein admits these things makes her story all the more fascinating to me.
It’s a sad fact, but the society we live in is so obsessed with looks, and that makes a weight struggle all the more difficult. Whether a girl/woman is underweight or overweight or average, there will always be someone, or something telling her that she isn’t ‘right’ – so not only must you change your own perceived body image, you also have to ignore what’s all around you everyday.
About The Author
Stephanie Klein is an acclaimed writer and photographer with a cult-like following. Her work has been published in the UK, Europe, India, Australia, Japan, China, and elsewhere. Her blog, Greek Tragedy, is visited by more than 400,000 readers a month. Klein's photography is on permanent exhibit in New York's Hotel Gansevoort. Her first memoir, Straight Up and Dirty, is currently in development as a half-hour comedy series. While she enjoys living in Austin, Texas with her husband and twin son and daughter, she'll always be a New Yorker.
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