In your article for Vogue, you wrote about how you put your "obese" daughter Bea on a draconian diet that included public shaming and carefully-controlled-by-mommy meals. She was seven years old, four-foot-four, and 93 pounds.
I won't pile on to the criticism of your diet and its methods. Slate.com pretty much sums up my thoughts in their article, Is concern with childhood obesity about health or beauty? Bea herself also summed up my feelings quite nicely in Vogue when she tried to tell you, "I'm not a different person just because I lost sixteen pounds." You argue with her until tears "run down her beautiful cheek."
It's all been said on the Internets. I have nothing to add.
But what I'd like to weigh in on (so to speak) is that book you're planning to write about your daughter's struggle with her weight, The Heavy.
Please think twice before you write a book about your child while your child is still a child. No seven-year-old (or eight or nine or etc...) can give you permission to make their private life public. They're too young.
A few facts about writing a non-fiction book about a child: All their friends WILL read it. All the parents of their friends WILL read it. All their teachers WILL read it. All their enemies WILL read it. Let's not even get started on the college admission committees and the hiring committees.
When the last "mean mommy," Amy Chua published Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, her children were teens. She let them read and edit it. They discussed it. They revised it. They were old enough and educated enough to understand.
When I wrote Battle Hymn of the Tiger Daughter, my fifteen-year-old wrote half the chapters. The chapters I wrote, she read with a red pencil in her hand and she was not afraid to use it. The rule was, she had veto power over every word.
Can an eight-year-old exercise such power? Can she understand the consequences of what goes out into the world about her?
There's more than age at issue here. How tough is your daughter? How confident is she at dealing with difficult social situations? When friends and relatives (my first readers) expressed concerns about certain parts in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Daughter, I would remind them that this was Hana we were talking about. Her hair is blue (well, at the moment, purple). She wore homemade unicorn hoodies to middle school. She went fearlessly by herself to school dances and other social events. She even confronted bullies who were attacking other children. This was a child who marched to the beat of her own drummer. She didn't give a %#$# what anyone thought of her.
How's Bea at all that?
I hope she's on board. I hope she's thrilled that you'll be telling her story to the world. I hope that you and your husband have discussed thoroughly the moral and ethical issues around this book and decided that the world needs this book despite the pain and shame it may cause your family, especially your young daughter. I even truly hope that we've entered an age of so much public disclosure on Facebook and reality television, that I'm totally off base, and Bea is thrilled at all the attention. Your book will be for her just be a drop in the great big sea of over-exposure that is modern life.
But I doubt it. So, Ms. Weiss, please put your daughter's feelings and issues before your career and your pocketbook. The silent star of the book is your child. Your very, very young child who has a very, very public weight problem.
She's already got a lot on her plate (sorry). I hope you know what you're doing when you pile on even more.
Yours warmly and with compassion,
Causes Diana Holquist Supports