Communication & Public Relations
This story is part of our news archives, prior to July 2010.
Mary Karr / alex Lemon / Elizabeth Foy Larson
By Elizabeth Foy Larsen
Erica Rivera ’01 was not a typical Macalester student. Commuting between campus and the home she shared with her then-husband, Rivera finished her double major in Spanish and psychology in less than three years. After graduation, Rivera was struggling to manage the demands of her failing marriage and raise two young children when a life-threatening eating disorder almost derailed all her hopes and ambitions. Her memoir, Insatiable: A Young Mother’s Struggle with Anorexia is a tender and stirring account of her successful battle to overcome an all-too-common disease.
Q: You finished Macalester in just over
two years. Did your time there have
any impact on your writing?
A: I wasn’t doing creative writing at that time because I was married and all the writing I did was school related. But Macalester was really important to me because it was such a challenging academic experience that I focused on my studying and didn’t have eating issues.
Q: What was the hardest part about writing this book?
A: It was all hard, honestly. Coming to terms with my truth about my own life was hard. Also, the editing process was difficult in its own way, in that it was challenging to see something I wrote get transformed. The book as it is now wasn’t what I originally wrote.
Q: What surprised you about the editing process?
A: In the beginning the book wasn’t even about anorexia. But someone pointed out to me that “anorexia is all over this.” That was a hard part to confront. Through the editing process I realized that it wasn’t just my baby but also a marketing tool; we had to figure out “why are people going to want to buy it.”
Q: You were brave about discussing how your eating disorder
made you do things—especially as a mother—that didn’t show
the best judgment. What was it like to write those scenes?
A: I was conflicted about putting those scenes in the book. But I know that what I admire in other books is honesty and the author’s willingness to put it out there no matter how raw it is.
Q: The book is also about your life as a young mother. Do you
feel that in some ways your daughters saved you? Did being a
mother make your experience with anorexia different?
A: They definitely saved me. There were points where I was suicidal but I knew that they fully depended on me. Also, my inability to hide the anorexia became my reality check. When I saw that my daughters were picking up on my obsessive food issues, it was a big motivator to change.
Elizabeth Foy Larsen is a Minneapolis writer and book reviewer.