The Hunger Artist: A Sub­ur­ban Childhood

Joanne Jacob­son
  • Review
By – February 20, 2012

When Joanne Jacob­son was five years old, her fam­i­ly, whose Jew­ish roots were in the heart­land of East­ern Europe, moved to a Chica­go lake­side sub­urb in search of an Amer­i­can dream. In this mem­oir, Jacob­son takes the read­er through her family’s saga with a set of engag­ing short sto­ries that recall the days of her child­hood. Her fam­i­ly vaca­tions, the ques­tions she asked her father about the impact of the Holo­caust on the fam­i­lies, and her secret desires, dreams, and often night­mares are recalled with vivid detail. Black and white fam­i­ly pho­tographs are scat­tered through­out the book. The title chap­ter reveals painful secrets about the author’s strug­gle with food, and how that strug­gle affect­ed her abil­i­ty to buy clothes, par­tic­i­pate in fam­i­ly func­tions, and gain self-esteem as a young woman. 

At times the sto­ries lack cohe­sion and a clear point of view. Nev­er­the­less, Jacob­son is a com­pelling sto­ry teller, and her rich use of lan­guage keeps the read­er engaged. 

Bar­bara S. Cohen is a tri­al attor­ney in Los Ange­les who spe­cial­izes in child abuse cas­es. She is a mem­ber of NAMI and a sup­port­er of NARSAD, and is an advo­cate for those who suf­fer from men­tal illness.

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