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Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and…

Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing

by Jennifer Weiner

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32. Hungry Heart : Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing by Jennifer Weiner, read by the author
published: 2016
format: Overdrive digital audio, 13:15 (~368 pages)
acquired: Library
listened: July 24 - Aug 8
rating: 4

Hang on, this was good. I'll deal with the chick lit aspect farther down.

Weiner writes about growing up overweight and socially rejected, or feeling that way, with parents who have some issues for reasons that maybe or maybe don't become clear. She grew up Jewish in Connecticut, but far from her extended family in Detroit and her family was pretty well off until her father cut out and ran and went bankrupt.

But she had a plan, become a journalist, maybe like Nora Ephron, write a novel by age 30, have it made into a movie. She would go to Princeton and study under J. D. McClatchy, Ann Lauterbach, John McPhee, Toni Morrison, and Joyce Carol Oates - the biggest influence being McPhee. Then...she would pursue her plan.

At some point midway through the book Weiner is a best selling chick lit author who has a book being made into a movie and complains about a talk she did with Kurt Vonnegut, a hero to her (like a lot of us) and how he trashed her work. (keep perspective, she was on stage with Vonnegut who knew her work well enough to spend time in a talk trashing it. It's not all bad.) Anyway, I figured the interesting part of the book was done. I was wrong.

The book switches gears to a series of set pieces, personal essays about this or that, including her mother, her weight, discovering too much about her father postmortem, having a movie based on her book made, and, my favorite, comparing pets and boyfriends. These essays are terrific. They're smart, entertaining, funny, insightful and a perfect treat for anyone who makes it this far into her book.

So, a moment on the chick lit. We all have our own perspectives, but too me this genre casts an evil pall over literature - crap filling up the best seller lists. But, of course, I haven't read it. But, then what is it? I skimmed samples of Weiner's books and found the opening first person narratives painfully self-indulgent, then I found one I liked that opened 3rd person - it was a young adult novel. But, there is a personal problem, my own biases doing - what - I don't know. I liked how Weiner talked about her books, their autobiographic basis and how she made a thing of making her heroines overweight and having issues with it, like she has had herself. It's, in her own summary versions, of certain value.

I don't know where I stand on all this, other than to see some shades of gray (ha!) in what I thought was concluded. I can't say she pried open my mind, but she had me thinking. The whole first half of this book I was sweating whether I should be wasting my time listening to an author of chick lit, and yet it was good and the book got better and all that concern was unfounded. It just is what it is I guess.

Anyway, this was rewarding to me (and terrifically read by Weiner herself.) ( )
  dchaikin | Aug 14, 2017 |
You fall down. You get hurt. You get up again. You know Jennifer Weiner as many things: a bestselling author, a Twitter phenomenon, and "an unlikely feminist enforcer" (The New Yorker). She's also a mom, a daughter, and a sister; a former rower and current runner; a best friend and a reality TV junkie. Here, in her first foray into nonfiction, she takes the raw stuff of her personal life and spins it into a collection of essays on womanhood as uproariously funny and moving as the best of Tina Fey, Fran Lebowitz, and Nora Ephron.
  mcmlsbookbutler | Apr 6, 2017 |
Author Jennifer Weiner's memoir is more like a collection of topical essays than a strictly chronological autobiography, with issues ranging from the shallow (e.g., her love affair with reality TV shows) to the intensely deep and personal (e.g., her fraught relationship with her mentally ill father).

The book starts out seemingly straightforward and chronological, talking about her early years growing up. Much of this part (about a tenth or so of the whole book) is about how she never felt cool enough or thin enough to fit in anywhere. While this should seem fairly universal, the very specific situations mentioned made it feel less so and I was getting a bit tired of hearing how she always felt the other kids in her social sphere weren't hanging out with her because she was overweight. As I was listening to the audiobook version of this title, I found myself flipping back to the radio fairly often because I was frankly a little bored with hearing yet another high school drama incident that should have stayed behind in high school.

But after this, the book really picked up speed for me as Weiner discussed a number of interesting stories from her early career, first as journalist and then as a budding novelist. From this point on, Weiner's tone goes from accusatory and bitter about past slights to jokingly buddy-ish with the reader. It's a nice shift, and Weiner reading the book aloud does an excellent job. She broaches happy and unhappy romantic relationships before talking about motherhood in frank and honest ways. In a heartbreaking tale, she relates the details of a miscarriage, noting how these stories are frequent occurrences but rarely shared. Her voice wavers as she reads this section, and I think it would be difficult to find a soul untouched by it.

On more lighthearted notes, Weiner writes an essay on her love of Twitter, which gets a bit much when it becomes a long litany of her reading past tweets solely about the reality TV show The Bachelor, and another about traveling with her lovable but flaky younger sister. And then she follows up with another difficult piece when she writes about her father, who she became estranged from later in life after gambling, compulsive spending, drug use, and mental illness (precisely which one is never mentioned, unless I somehow missed it) leave him a shell of his former self.

Throughout the book, Weiner takes up her feminist mantel and talks about topics that concern her in our current culture. Why are her stories about women, relationships, and love downgraded to the literary ghetto of "chick lit" while men's stories on similar topics can be considered worthy enough to be esteemed "literature"? Why is socially acceptable for male journalists to make sexist comments or ask shockingly inappropriate questions of female celebrities? Body image is a frequently mentioned issue, whether it is her own struggles with weight, her concern for her daughters growing up in a society that values the way women look more than their intellect or character, or her thoughts on judging a beauty pageant. Her opinions are clearly set and articulated (and happen to align with my own for the most part), but I think her opening up this line of conversation will allow readers to think and debate with and among themselves.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book and recommend it, especially the audiobook version. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Apr 3, 2017 |
Found parts of the book entertaining others drug on a bit. Liked her theme of strong women being comfortable with who they are and their bodies. I don't tweet, but her chapter on this intrigued me and due to all of Trump's tweets I now scan the site without being a tweeter - very interesting to follow! ( )
  carolfoisset | Jan 17, 2017 |
So much better than expected, Jennifer Weiner's mostly-nonfiction book. I didn't know what to expect from this "book of essays", and when it began autobiographically I had my doubts about whether I'd continue or not. But I am so glad I did!
Her "few words about bodies" are awesome: You are never as fat as you think you are.

Seriously, you're not.

Ten years from now you will look at pictures of yourself and think "God, I was so thin". (You will also wonder what you were doing with your hair and clothes, but that's neither here nor there.)

Nobody is judging you as harshly as you're judging your own body.

When you feel insecure, follow the money. Which people & industries profit when women hate themselves?

Every time you judge another woman's appearance, an angel gets a gallstone.

Every time you think evil things about yourself, your daughters can hear.

Yes, even if you just think it.

Yes, even if you don't have daughters.

Hungry women are easy to lead and easy to fool and extremely easy to sell stuff to. Diets are the tool of the patriarchy. Also of the devil. And they don't work.

No woman ever said on her deathbed, "I wish I'd eaten less cake."
From there she progresses to books, and she gets even better. Why is "chick lit" so named & so denigrated while thrillers and mysteries respected by the Literate Who Knows? She takes on the New York Times & Jonathan Franzen (whose books I will never again buy, not even in a rummage sale, for 50 cents. Or less. Nor will I check them out of the library). She takes on the Male Literary Establishment, and she does it with facts, citing a Slate piece in which the reporter had actually gone through and counted reviews. The NYT reviewed 545 fiction books between June 2008 & Aug 2010. 338 were written by men; 207 by women. 62% - 38%. 101 fiction books received two reviews in that time period; 72 had male authors; 29 female. This was the tip of the iceberg, and other entities picked up on it, namely VIDA, an org of women in the arts. The Atlantic, Harper's, NYReview of Books - all are way tilted toward the male in the book world. Men as authors, as reviewers, as magazine/newspaper Power.
Just an awesome, awesome book. ( )
  JeanetteSkwor | Nov 24, 2016 |
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"I wrote my way out." --"HURRICANE," HAMILTON
For my family
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The other day, I was walking from the hair salon to pick up my eight-year-old after school.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Weiner's hilarious and insightful chronicles of her life cover everything from her bad dates to her mother coming out of the closet at age fifty-four to casting a goat in her sitcom. She pairs her trademark sharp humor with disarming candor in this, her first nonfiction work. No subject is off limits.… (more)

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