"I just can't believe I've packed on thirteen pounds. Thirteen
pounds! How did that happen? How can I make it stop? Why can't I
make it stop? What if it never ever stops? What if I'm twenty-five
and still tortured by talking scales and well meaning bakers who keep
trying to feed the fat girl? What if at my ten-year class reunion I
am still the Artichoke?"
The plight of a teen struggling with weight problems and self
esteem issues can be dreadfully formulaic. Suzanne Supplee's
Artichoke's Heart is a notable exception. The authentic regional
voice of the author and the unusual setting in which much of the
action takes place makes this slightly older (2008) book something
Rosemary is deeply disappointed by her Christmas presents a
treadmill from her mother and diet books and conference tickets from
her Aunt Mary. She'd like her excess weight to disappear in one grand
holiday miracle. She wears sweatpants because she's outgrown
everything else. But constant observation from family and her
mother's beauty shop clients drives her into the arms of her under the
bed secret lovers "Mr. Hershey, Mr. Reeses, and Mr. M & M."
School is anything but a joy. At one point she self induces
food poisoning to get out of a couple of days. She has been stuck with
a distasted nickname since sixth grade. A much yearned for down
jacket came in avacado green instead of the sold out berry pink.
"I could tell by their dumb, blank faces that most of the kids
at Misty's lunch table didn't even know what an artichoke was, but the
damage was done, and artichoke is a very catchy word for twelve-year-
olds. From that fateful day forward, I became the Artichoke, Arti,
Chokey, Fat Artichoke..."
The bright spot in Rosemary's day is being able to sit near
handsome (very plus size) athlete Kyle who is kind and polite and
never makes fun of anyone--even fat girls. He's actually smiled at
her. But could he ever fall for someone who's such a mess?
You'll have to read the book and see.
Supplee was inspired to write Artichoke's Heart by childhood
memories. "When I was a little kid my mom used to take me with her to
the beauty shop. I loved the smell of shampoo, the whirring of hair
dryers, and the chattering ladies, young and old..." Her affection for
that setting and its regulars creates a memorable place for a distinct
On a personal note, we had a really fine Christmas karaoke at UMaine.
I love the instrumental part of Santa Baby but hate, abhor, loathe,
and detest its glorification of materialistic excess. So I changed
the words. My version was Grad School People: about why they should
admit me. My words fit the notes perfectly. People loved it. Later I
sang In My Life (Beatles) and dedicated it to my husband. A lot of
people (even some stage shy ones) belted out songs which made the
evening totally excellent.
A great big shout out goes out to all who participated in this festive
Sent from my iPod