ELENA VANISHING

A Memoir

Elena Dunkle & Clare B Dunkle

“When I offered to help my daughter Elena write about her life with anorexia nervosa, I thought I already understood her disorder. Like most educated women, I’d been reading articles and watching focus pieces about it for years. But I quickly discovered how little I knew. Most of my basic assumptions were wrong.”

—Clare B. Dunkle

Seventeen-year-old Elena is vanishing. Every day means renewed determination, so every day means fewer calories. This is the story of a girl whose armor against anxiety becomes artillery against herself as she battles on both sides of a lose-lose war in a struggle with anorexia.

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“When I offered to help my daughter Elena write about her life with anorexia nervosa, I thought I already understood her disorder. Like most educated women, I’d been reading articles and watching focus pieces about it for years. But I quickly discovered how little I knew. Most of my basic assumptions were wrong.”

—Clare B. Dunkle

Seventeen-year-old Elena is vanishing. Every day means renewed determination, so every day means fewer calories. This is the story of a girl whose armor against anxiety becomes artillery against herself as she battles on both sides of a lose-lose war in a struggle with anorexia. Told entirely from Elena’s perspective over a five-year period and co-written with her mother, award-winning author Clare B. Dunkle, Elena’s memoir is a fascinating and intimate look at a deadly disease, and a must read for anyone who knows someone suffering from an eating disorder.

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  • Chronicle Books
  • Hardcover
  • May 2015
  • 288 Pages
  • 9781452121512

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About Elena Dunkle & Clare B Dunkle

Elena Dunkle spent her teenage years exploring the German countryside and considers Germany her second home. She was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of seventeen and has always wanted to shed a light on her experiences with this complicated and misunder­stood disorder. Elena currently roams across America with her wonderful husband and her travel-size Chihuahua, Mimsy.

Clare B. Dunkle is an award-winning author of seven acclaimed fantasy and science fiction novels, includ­ing The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy, the first book of which was a winner of the 2004 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. A Texan (and former Texas librarian), Clare now lives in Germany, but travels often to the United States to see her family, especially her two daughters, Valerie and Elena, and her grandchildren.

Praise

“A painfully honest look at a young woman’s struggle.” —School Library Journal

“This authentic, painful story adds a valuable firsthand perspective on eating disorders.” —Publishers Weekly

“Moving snapshots of a young woman’s struggles with anorexia nervosa.” —Kirkus Reviews

I was stunned by Elena Vanishing and have been thinking and talking about it ever since I finished it. Without glamorizing it, Elena deals frankly and honestly with an extreme disease, and leaves me with a sense of hope and strength.” —Lily Myers, slam poet and author of

Shrinking Women

Discussion Questions

What are three words that you would use to describe Elena, and why?

Elena calls the voice inside her head her “conscience.” How would you describe the tone of this voice? Where do you think this voice gets its power from?

Why is “the number” so important to Elena? What does this number represent?

A number of doctors and therapists don’t think Elena has anorexia. Why not? Why is it difficult to diagnose Elena with anorexia?

How would you describe Elena’s relationship with her mom? her dad? her sister? How does each attempt to help Elena?

What would you identify as the turning point in Elena’s struggle with anorexia?

What most surprised you about Elena’s experience? What part of her story did you find most touching or moving? Were there any moments in which you felt frustrated?

What did you learn about anorexia—and eating disorders in general—from Elena Vanishing?

Is there too much pressure on girls to have “perfect bodies”? How much pressure do boys face? What evidence can you identify in our culture?

What is an assumption you previously made about anorexia or other eating disorders that you now realize

is untrue?

What attitudes and approaches seemed to be most helpful to Elena in her recovery? What approaches were unhelpful, or perhaps even harmful, to Elena?

Given what you have learned about Elena’s experience, what challenges might you anticipate in helping someone who you think may have an eating disorder?

Do you think there is a stigma against people with eating disorders? If so, why do you think this stigma exists?

Elena Vanishing begins with a vivid memory in the hospital. How does this choice of opening in contrast affect your overall reading of her memoir?

Elena’s journals played an essential part in the crafting of this memoir. Discuss one of the journal excerpts that appear in Elena Vanishing, and what it contributes to the narrative.

What do you see as being the turning point—if there was one—in Elena’s journey, and in the recovery of her relationship with her mother?

Anorexia is an ongoing issue in our society. What was your most important takeaway about this disorder from reading about Elena’s experience?