Dounya, a Muslim girl living in Las Vegas, Nevada, shares her very personal story of battling eating disorders when she was a teenager, in order to help other young people suffering from this affliction.
Imperfect: A Story of Body Image is the fourth in a series of graphic novels written by young adults for their peers.
Dounya Awada is a 24-year-old, devout Muslim, happy, healthy, and very much alive. But just a few years before, she nearly starved to death.
Her struggle began when she was six years old.
Little Dounya wanted nothing less than to be perfect, like her mother. She pushed herself hard every day, excelling in schoolwork and at home. She had to be the cutest, prettiest, smartest girl in the room. The slightest hint of imperfection led to meltdowns and uncontrollable tantrums. Her parents loved her fiercely but were unable to understand what was happening to their little girl.
Being perfect all the time was exhausting. In Dounya’s culture, food is nearly synonymous with love. Food is nourishment, nourishment is love, love is life. Dounya began to eat to fill the growing need within her. She grew in size, eventually hitting over 200 pounds at just age 15. Food became her only friend. Her peers mocked her. She felt utterly alone.
As is the case for someone with dysmorphia, Dounya’s obsession with food did a turnabout, and she began rigorous exercising and dieting. But even a substantial weight loss didn’t satisfy her. She looked in the mirror and still saw the fat girl she used to be. She began the ugly cycle of bingeing and purging, eventually hitting a low weight of just 73 pounds.
Dounya’s horrific struggle with eating disorders has led her to advocate for boys and girls facing the same hurdles with which she struggled. She is now studying clinical psychology, and hopes to open an eating and dysmorphia disorder facility in Las Vegas for boys and girls with her disorder. If her story helps just one person to recognize the beauty of their imperfection, then her pain will have been worthwhile.
Zuiker Press is proud to publish stories about important current topics for kids and adolescents, written by their peers, that will help them cope with the challenges they face in today’s troubled world.
Born to Middle-Eastern parents in Las Vegas, Nevada, Dounya is now a 24-year-old woman, a devout Muslim, and a college student, majoring in clinical psychology. Dounya’s experience battling Body Dysmorphic Disorder—a dangerous obsession with real or imagined flaws in one’s body—has inspired her to help other young people who suffer from this illness. Dounya enjoys cooking, writing, and hanging with her friends and family.
Miralti Firmansyah is an Indonesian artist who studied graphic design iin Bandung. Her big break as a comic artist was on Marvel’s Star-Lord & Kitty Pryde. She has also drawn Marvel’s X-Men’92, The Unbelievable Gwenpool, and Thor vs Hulk. She lives in Jakarta, Indonesia.
In this graphic memoir, Awada, a "young Muslim woman who lives in America's heartland," shares her struggle with body dysmorphic disorder., Awada was raised in a Middle Eastern culture in which "there is never a shortage of food nourishment, and love"—in fact, "feeding your children is love." But when Awada was 6, her aunt called her "too big," and "that was the day…they flipped a switch that could never be turned off." As she ages, she finds a "new family [in] food," which becomes her best friend in a world where she wants to be perfect, just like her meticulous mom. In high school, Awada turns to dieting, then starving herself, and then purging. Although she feels "such euphoria" after purging, Awada only grows weaker. The author admits that she could have died, "but, by the grace of Allah (God), I am here… / …alive to tell my story." Illustrations capture her fragile body and growing weakness. Meanwhile, her family struggles to pay for her treatment. With help, she starts to heal and realizes that "imperfection is beautiful." Heartfelt narration works with Firmansyah's art and Kamaputra's bold colors to depict Awada's changes—weight gain and finding comfort in food to weight loss, all while struggling to be perfect. A closing note from a professional provides tips for identifying and avoiding eating disorders. A sensitive, firsthand treatment of the topic made all the richer by its inclusion of the author's religion and culture. (Graphic memoir. 11-15)
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