Award-winning radio documentarian, producer of This American Life, & writer, Susan Burton reads from her new memoir, EMPTY.
Synopsis: For almost thirty years, Susan Burton hid her food obsession and secret life of compulsive eating and starving that dominated her adolescence. When Burton was thirteen, her stable life was turned upside down by her parents’ abrupt divorce, and she moved to Colorado with her mother and sister. Seizing on this move as an opportunity to reinvent herself from middle-school nerd to popular teenage girl, her fixation on thinness went from “peculiarity to pathology.”
Susan entered into a painful cycle of anorexia and binge eating that formed a subterranean layer to her sunny life. She went to Yale, scored a dream job at a magazine out of college, and married her college boyfriend. But the compulsive eating got worse, and she descended into anorexia, her attempt to “quit food.”
Binge eating is more prevalent than anorexia or bulimia, but there is less research and little storytelling to help us understand it. In tart, soulful prose Susan Burton strikes a blow for the importance of this kind of narrative and tells an exhilarating story of longing, compulsion and hard-earned self-revelation.
“Residing inside all of us is a secret so fraught that it becomes unspeakable, and for Susan Burton, that secret was food: How it controlled her and how she tried to control it. How it haunted and comforted, becoming at turns her fiercest adversary and comforting companion. Empty is a tour de force of both vulnerability and strength, a memoir so unflinching and brave that it forces us to peer into our own dark places with newfound honesty and compassion. By giving voice to her shame, Burton teaches herself—and the rest of us—how to find power and freedom in the telling.” Lori Gottlieb, New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed
“Burton’s memoir is valuable because she goes beyond simply confessing her shame; she rakes herself over the coals, and in doing so she models how anger can be used to clarify a story. Her anger gives the book its considerable power, its substantial grace and even, in the end, its meaning. Her fury is like a flashing light in a cave, or a portal. The force of it makes us not just appreciate but actually feel the force that drove her to commit her actions in the first place. The result is a book that wields a fearsome intimacy.” Claire Dederer, The New York Times