Passing for Thin
Losing Half My Weight and Finding My Self
By Frances Kuffel
Crown Archetype, Hardcover, 9780767912914, 272pp.
Publication Date: January 13, 2004
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An intimate and darkly comic memoir of a woman who does a 180 with her body.
In the opening pages of Passing for Thin, Frances Kuffel waits at the airport to be picked up by her brother, Jim. He strides past her without a glimmer of recognition because she barely resembles the woman he is expecting to see. Jim had last seen her when she was 188 pounds heavier.
What follows is one of the most piercing explorations of the limits and promises of a body since Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face. With unflinching honesty and a wickedly dark sense of humor, Frances describes her first fumbling introductions to the slender, alien body she is left with after losing half her weight, shining a light on the shared human experience of feeling, at times, uncomfortable in one’s own skin.
Buoyed by support from a group of fellow compulsive eaters she deems “the Stepfords,” Frances adjusts not only to her new waistline, but to a strange new world—the Planet of Thin—where she doesn’t speak the language and doesn’t know the rules. Her lifetime of obesity had robbed her of the joys of lovers, a husband, children—and even made it impossible to enjoy a movie, when standing in line was too painful, or travel, when airplane seats were too small—and hadn’t prepared her for the unexpected attention from strangers, the deep pleasure of trying on a tailored suit, the satisfaction of a good run on a treadmill, or for the saucy fun of flirting and dating. She joyfully moves from observer to player, while struggling to enjoy the freedom her new shape has given her.
As Frances gradually comes to know—and love—the stranger in the mirror, she learns that this body does not define her, but enables her to become the woman she’s always wanted to be.
Frances Kuffel is a literary agent who has published poems and short stories in literary journals, such as Triquarterly, the Georgia Review, Glimmer Train, Prairie Schooner, and the Massachusetts Review. A native of Missoula, Montana, she has an M.F.A. from Cornell. She currently makes her home in Brooklyn, New York.
"This is a book that will grab you and hold you in its grip, and break your heart even as it inspires you. Frances Kuffel's memoir is so real, so alive with honesty and clarity, you will never forget it. It is a Pilgrim's Progress toward the holy city of thin. Kuffel is our confessional poet of fatness, and the struggle toward fitness, beauty, love. She is entertaining and tough, vivid and funny, in a story of victory that will delight every single reader."
--Robert Morgan, author of Brave Enemies
"Frances Kuffel set out on a true adventure, navigated the dangers, endured, and emerged transfigured. What makes her tale intriguing is that the terrain in question was her own body and its tyrannies. This is a story for our times from a writer with the language, courage and experience to tell it."
--Deidre McNamer, author of Rima in the Weeds and My Russian
This book is simply riveting. There is not a woman who's ever carried more than her share of body weight, who won't identify with every word that Frances Kuffel has written. Kuffel's journey is rich in wit and wisdom. Her book is a jewel and a must have for anyone who's ever contemplated improving their body as well as their mind."
--Pam Peeke MD, MPH, Pew Foundation Scholar in Nutrition and Metabolism, Assistant Professor of Medicine University of Maryland School of Medicine, Author of Fight Fat After Forty, NBC Today Show Medical Expert