Guest Post: Blooming by Deborah Lytton

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Today, Deborah Lytton, the author of Jane in Bloom, is here with a guest post. You can learn more about her and her books on her website. I'd like to thank Deborah for contributing to my blog and for participating in BI&SP Month!

Blooming by Deborah Lytton

I first had the idea to write Jane in Bloom when I saw a piece on television about forgotten siblings. These were the forgotten children in families consumed with the care of a problem child. The problems were all different, but the result was the same. These siblings were invisible. Unseen and unheard because there was nothing wrong with them. I wanted to tell their story. And that became Jane’s story.

I decided to afflict Jane’s sister, Elizabeth, with an eating disorder because I see younger and younger girls focused on their bodies and media images of perfection. I wanted to speak out to girls and encourage them to find their own uniqueness and to embrace it. In Jane’s journey, there is a ray of hope—for Jane discovers gifts inside herself that give her self-esteem. She finds inner strength, courage, creativity and friendship. All of these things come to Jane not because of the way she looks on the outside, but because of who she is on the inside. The inner beauty begins to shine through her, and that is when Jane blooms.

Jane in Bloom depicts Elizabeth’s eating disorder through Jane’s eyes, so the details are blurred—this was intentional. There are many good books already on the shelves about eating disorders, many written by women who have personal experience. Jane in Bloom is unique because it deals with the impact of this disease on the family, and most specifically, on a younger sister. Jane sees her sister as popular and perfect. She sees only what she wants to see. And she thinks that she is less than her sister because she is different. Jane craves the attention Elizabeth receives, but it is only later in the book, after Elizabeth is gone, that Jane realizes the cost of that kind of attention.

Holding ourselves to a standard of perfection is impossible, no matter what our age. But I think girls have it the hardest. They are bombarded with images of thin, sexy young women, and they are told that this is how they should measure their worth. But I don’t blame the media for this. Movies have always featured beautiful seemingly-perfect people (think of all the MGM stars, in their Technicolor gorgeousness) and magazines have always had stunning models on the covers in exotic locations many of us will never visit. I think the problem comes from a trickle-down effect. Handed down from mothers to daughters. Girls see their mothers worried about their weight and their wrinkles. They see their mothers comparing themselves to airbrushed models, and they begin to compare themselves, too. In Jane in Bloom, Jane’s mother has an eating disorder as well. Again, since the story is told through Jane’s eyes, the specifics are subtle. But she has an image of her own perfection that has impacted her daughters. Happiness eludes her because she hasn’t accepted herself, flaws and all.

I think our only defense is to enlighten our girls and ourselves. We need to embrace ourselves, no matter what our size, shape and color. We need to remind ourselves that self-esteem and confidence are the tools we need to accomplish our goals and fulfill our dreams. We need to show by example that we love ourselves, just as we are. And then we need to instill this in our daughters and our friends. Women need to reach out to other women to remind them of their inner beauty. We need to water our daughters, sisters and friend with support so they can bloom.

Jane learns to look inside herself and no longer compare herself to Elizabeth, or to anyone else. This is the message I hope will reach girls who read this book—I want them to see how special they are and to nurture and value themselves. Jane’s babysitter and friend, Ethel, says it best, “‘We live in a world filled with comparisons. We’re always being compared. Asked to conform to a certain size, a certain weight, a certain beauty. But we have to learn to live with what’s in here,’ Ethel taps her chest. ‘Because we live with it forever. Believe me, beauty fades. But who you are inside, that’s who you can really depend on.’”


Cheryl Renee Herbsman said...

Thank you for this beautiful post! So thought-provoking. I think I love Ethel :)

Jo said...

What a beautiful guest post! I absolutely love it! Seriously awesome. I really need to read this book!

Caroline said...

What an amazingly beautiful post!
Thank you Deborah for sharing this wth us!

Jen said...

I'm really excited for my daughter Zoe to rad Jane in Bloom. I think she's going to love it.

Rosanne Parry said...

I love what you've said here, Debby.

Sometimes when I'm working with kid writers we get to talking about book covers, and one thing I often say is look at me and then look at this author photo on the flap--fewer wrinkles, whiter teeth, more lipstick. My publisher touched up this photograph because it is advertising. Almost every photograph you see that's advertising has been touched up in the same way. It's not because I'm not pretty enough, it's because advertising has a certain polished look that is different from news reporting and different from portraiture.

It's often the start of a great conversation about body image and also about how a characters perception of their appearance might differ from their actual appearance.

What I'd love to add to the conversation is a list of books like Jane in Bloom that address body image. I see lots of list of YA book lists about body image but fewer that are appropriate for the middle school kids I usually teach.

molly (a dazzling distraction) said...

Rosanne - I agree that a list of body image books for younger readers would be great - I've been thinking about compiling a list just like that. I teach 5th grade, and would love books that are applicable to 4th - 8th graders, because I see the pressure getting to the girls at even that young an age.

Sydney Salter said...

Great post! I loved reading Jane In Bloom--and I'm so happy to have a book like this for my own daughters. And I couldn't agree more about being a good role model at home (but I think wonderful books help too!).

Edie said...

Debby, thanks for starting such an important discussion here and in your book!

susan fine said...

love your post! so thoughtful.


sterrellfrench said...

Really interesting post. I think this is such an important topic and JANE IN BLOOM would be great read for my 12-year-old daughter!

Lauren Bjorkman said...

Great post! I'm moving this book to the top of my TBR, plus tweeting it, so more people can find it!!!

Jame said...

I love the idea of a book about forgotten siblings.

Also, the trickle-down idea is fascinating.

Looking forward to Jane in Bloom (great title too)!

Deborah Lytton said...

Thanks for all your sweet comments, everyone. I really appreciate it! xo

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