Today YA author Suzanne Supplee is here to talk about her her novel Artichoke's Heart, and how there's a bit of herself in the main character Rosie.
I just got back from a three-mile run. It’s hot out. And muggy. I stayed up too late last night(old friend in town), got up too early this morning (new book to work on). My left hamstring is so tight you could play a tune on it, and I have a very long list of things to do today. Post run, I did some push-ups, buttock tucks, arm weights, sit-ups, and stretches. No shower yet. Or make-up, obviously. I really could use a trip to the hairdresser, too. Let’s just say this would not be a great time to run into an old boyfriend or one of those phony Bluebird types.
What’s strange, however, is that this time of day—when I’m sweaty and smelly and red-faced—is when I feel the absolute best about myself. Something inside says You’re okay, you know that? You did that run. You climbed all those hills. You didn’t stop, not even when that pesky hamstring started up again.
It took me YEARS to figure this out, though, that I was one of those people who functioned better, felt happier, had more self-confidence when I exercised regularly. As a teenager, I exercised mostly out of vanity. In my twenties, I did it to lose the weight I’d gained in college. During my thirties, it was for post-partum reasons. Now, I do it because it makes me feel good. Is it the endorphins? The fresh air perhaps? I’m sure a doctor could explain it in greater detail than I care to hear.
Rosie, the main character in Artichoke’s Heart, struggles with binge eating. She has junk food stashed everywhere, and she is constantly preoccupied with her next meal. Portion control? Sure, Rosie’s plate looked normal, but only because she kept going back for seconds and thirds and then some. Her mother worried about her constantly. Her aunt harassed her daily. The Bluebirds abused her. And Rosie just kept eating and eating and eating. All that pain and insecurity? Gone with a Hershey’s kiss. And the loneliness? Nothing Mr. Goodbar couldn’t fix.
Years ago when I thought I wanted to be a school guidance counselor, I took several courses in psychology. One professor said, “Pathological behavior always starts as a coping mechanism. For a while it works. After a while, it doesn’t.” And this was the case with Rosie. Food kept her company. It made her feel loved. Until it became the reason she couldn’t love herself. And, eventually, the reason she kept people at a distance.
While writing and revising this book, I had to consider many things. What was my point? Did I want to send yet another message to girls that happiness depends on looks? Was this just a story about weight loss? Certainly, I hope not. And this is where the artichoke metaphor came into play. You see, Rosie couldn’t get to her heart. She needed to peel away the layers of herself physically in order to get to herself emotionally. For some folks this might mean ending a bad romance or giving up drugs or alcohol or dropping a friend who doesn’t treat you so well. In Rosie’s case, loving herself was all tied up with food.
Sometimes, I think back to the girl I was in high school. The kid with just average grades. The girl too obsessed with popularity and fitting in and all things social. The young woman who’d suffered the tragic loss of her father, who’d witnessed her mother’s struggle to keep the family going financially. Nobody would’ve guessed at the pain inside. Insecurity burbled; low self-esteem lurked. At every turn I tried to please someone who didn’t really care about me.
Then one day I woke up from that bad dream. I changed some very significant things in my life. I got rid of a few insincere people. By some miracle, I started to see that I deserved better. It was a complicated journey, one I still don’t fully understand, but somehow, slowly, I began to peel away my own layers and get closer to the person I wanted to be. Exercise has been a part of my journey. Something as simple as sweat has sustained me when nothing else could. Praying doesn’t hurt, either, but that’s another blog.
Big or little, old or young, pretty or just average, I hope readers of Artichoke’s Heart will come away feeling the need to be good to themselves.
Copyright 2010 Suzanne Supplee
Thank you, Suzanne, for such a fantastic guest post! What do you think of what Suzanne has said?
Be sure to check out Suzanne's website, and read my review of Artichoke's Heart.