I’ll start this off with some content warnings. This book includes several suicide attempts (one successful), a main (POV) character who becomes an alcoholic and a drug addict and who is probably depressed, and several mentions of rape and child molestation. Most of these things aren’t described in much detail, but they’re there.
Almost all of this book is written as though it was the notebook of a man named Oba Yozo (I’m pretty sure that’s the original name order, with family name first, although I could be wrong). Yozo writes about his life from his early childhood days to what I’m assuming is near the end of his life. The book ends and begins with a chapter written from the perspective of someone who did not personally know Yozo but read his notebooks and met someone who did know him.
When Yozo was a very young child, he became convinced that he did not qualify as human. The thought that someone else might realize he wasn’t human so terrified him that he began to behave like a clown. If others were laughing at his antics and jokes, then they weren’t looking at him too closely. Unfortunately for him, he occasionally met individuals who seemed able to see beneath his clownish mask. Beginning in his college years, he was also taken aback by how attractive women seemed to find him.
Yozo seemed incapable of empathizing with others and could only view their words and actions in terms of how they directly related to him. This was especially driven home by the last few pages of the book, written from the perspective of a man who didn’t know Yozo. For the first time since the book began, a POV character was writing about people who weren’t Yozo as though they had thoughts and feelings of their own, and about the wider world and what was going on in it. It was like a breath of fresh air and really emphasized how isolated Yozo had been, even though he spoke to and interacted with more people in his portion of the book than the man at the end.
The beginning of the book worked best for me. Yozo was essentially trapped by his fears, worried about how others perceived him and what they might have been able to see in him. Because he couldn’t understand the thoughts and behaviors of those around him, he doubted the correctness of his own opinions and feelings - after all, if everyone else was human and he was not, who was he to contradict what others said or did? This was especially tragic when it led to him not telling anyone that one of the servants (or several) had molested him. Or at least I think that’s what happened - the author/translator was very vague, saying that he had been “corrupted” and that “to perpetrate such a thing on a small child is the ugliest, vilest, cruelest crime a human being can commit” (35).
Things started to fall apart during Yozo’s college years. Yozo’s father wanted him to become a civil servant, while Yozo wanted to study art. This devolved into Yozo skipping classes, drinking, hiring prostitutes, hanging out with Marxists, and occasionally working on his art. My patience with Yozo pretty much ran out, and it didn’t help that the book developed a very clear misogynistic thread. An example of one of this section's more off-putting quotes: at one point, Yozo said “I never could think of prostitutes as human or even as women” (63). Women, in particular, seemed drawn to his self-destructive orbit, and the result was misery for everyone involved.
Yozo continued his habit of believing others’ assessment of him. Sometimes this had a positive effect on Yozo, such as his brief period of contentment with his wife, a girl (really a girl - she was only 17 when he married her) who genuinely believed that he was a good person and that he would never lie to her. However, since Yozo seemed to gravitate towards people who looked down on him, his habit of accepting and believing whatever people said about him usually drew him further into his downward spiral. I’d say it was depressing, except Yozo was generally so detached from everything that the word seems too strong to be appropriate.
There’s a manga adaptation of this that I might read, just to get a different interpretation of the story. That said, I suspect the manga won’t work for me much more than this did. No Longer Human was well-written, but not my sort of book at all.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
Publisher: Park Row
Publication Date: 5/30/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars +++
**Top Books of 2017**
She has two choices when she gets the urge to drink. The devil is calling her in the back of the cabinet (booze), or she can do what she does to make the urge pass. Go for a run. However, when it is dark, remote, and a killer on the loose, the two choices are not so great. She chooses the darkness and lurking danger outside, over the bottle.
By: Judy Collins
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Publication Date: 2/28/207
My Rating: 5 Stars +
Biographies & Memoirs
Iconic singer, (folk legend) songwriter, and author, Judy Collins delivers her most timely and critical memoir yet CRAVINGS: How I Conquered Food — courageously told, a personal harrowing struggle with painful addictions and her battle food: bingeing, bulimia, weight loss, and gain.
One of hope, recovery, renewal, and inspiration.
CRAVINGS is the author's heartfelt honest story of finally "filling the black hole" in her soul that comes from untreated food addiction. Sixty years of experience, struggling to find a solution. Compulsive eating. How she "slayed her demons" and conquered food addiction.
Insightful and informative, the musical star shares her personal story with others, to help them find a way to break free. Folk singer Judy Collins' tumultuous relationship with food began when she was a child, and led her into a downward spiral of bingeing, purging, and alcoholism that followed her for much of her life.
"In music, Judy found spiritual solace. In her addictions, she lived in a spiritual desert and had to find water and sustenance, the spark of inspiration and some solution that would end the drama of diets, pills, plans, doctors, extreme answers and mutilating consequences. . . "
Her proven plan has been a success offering joy and continued health. She is sharing her discovery with others. To help others out there seeking answers to their own food disorders. A new life, "free" of cravings.
It wasn't until she met her now-husband, Louis Nelson, in the 1970s that she decided to get sober and recover from bulimia. Collins, now 77, hopes her upcoming book, will help others resolve their own addictions
Her solution is a balanced food plan "free of the foods" that cause the addictions: Sugar, grains, flour, wheat, corn, and many foods which she is allergic to (containing alcohol). The foods which cause bulimic, anorexic, or overweight disorders; causing feelings of fear and self-loathing; diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, among many others. (It works. Trying removing all these items for your diet, and you will remove the cravings.)
Collins highlights her life from childhood through her music career and her battle with alcoholism. Her personal and business relationships. Her family and the many people she has met along the way and influences in her life. Diet Gurus and others in her fight. Her ups and downs. She has spoken out previously and references here, regarding her alcoholism and the suicide of her only child, and the survivor of her own attempt to end her life at age fourteen.
With CRAVINGS the author wants to encourage others who suffer from the same problems—there is a way "through the dark" night of the soul of compulsive overeating.
The folk star has been sober for thirty-eight years from alcohol; however, has had to learn to eat in a different but healthy way. Someone who was controlled and obsessed by food. From fasting, compulsive exercise, restricting food, bone loss, purging, bulimia and an array of dieting.
As we learn from Judy’s personal story and account, this horrible addiction begins at childhood. With our children and grandchildren today — being subjected to large amounts of sugar, processed foods, chemical, additives, and preservatives— (as well as adults) trouble lies ahead which will carry into teens and adulthood in many ways, if not identified and corrected. We all have to take control. She like many of us, have become an advocate for healthy foods, speaking out against the big food companies which make money with added corn, fat, sugar, salt, and additives.
Judy steps out to share her tragedies, even from an early age of three, nothing made her happier than to devour sugar in any form. Sugar fueled her race through life, as does many others today. It was the beginning of her dance with the devil.
From depression, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, sadness, nightmares, anxiety attacks, and blackouts. She spent most of her life deep into her addictions, trickling over into other areas of her life. She explains how alcohol addiction is sometimes twinned with sugar addiction.
“My mind is clear, my heart is light, my health is perfect, she writes. . . I surrendered to it and never looked back." Collins has been sober now for 39 years and recovered from bulimia for more than 33 years.
"We are all in the same lifeboat, but the rescue ship is in the harbor, and we can all come aboard," she writes, hoping that readers will be inspired by her story to resolve their own addictions.
In summary: Teaching people about addiction and opening up a forum is part of Collins’ goal with Cravings.
After reading her latest book, have even more respect for her incredible journey. She is a timeless legend. Compelling and absorbing, readers will be moved by her inspiring journey and hopefully educated about food addictions— and make the necessary changes needed. Highly recommend!
A special thank you to Doubleday and NetGalley for an early reading copy in exchange for an honest review.
Photo Credit @ Brad Trent
On a side "food/health" note:
As many of you know, I am a food advocate. Having severe food allergies, and after keeping years of food journals, about ten years ago, went to a totally vegan diet. I found additives, preservatives, and chemicals to be causing my health problems, plus all the items Judy has listed in the book. I do not drink alcohol or eat sugar, or processed foods. I do not take any medications, nor do I eat grains, sugar, flour, corn, etc. The slightest addictive or chemical, I can experience Anaphylaxis or heart issues. Plus without the junk, you maintain your health, weight, and your size 4.
The exact foods Judy outlines are some of the main factors which cause these problems. When you eliminate these things from your diet, these health problems go away. Yes, it takes planning, no you cannot dine out and a little more difficult when traveling; however, it is worth it in the end. Our society today is lazy and will not take the time and effort to stay away from these foods and take a bolder stand. If they did, our food industry may be different, today.
I totally agree with the addiction. I see my son and his family. Always dieting, exercising, and health issues at a young age and grandchildren. They crave the sugar. One thing leads to another. When I visit, I tell them they must throw out everything in their pantry and refrigerator. I cringe. I refuse to eat any of these items and until they take their health seriously, they keep doing the same things and expecting different results, as many others.
On a side note "about the name": Fun to see my name on a book cover.
We all love "The Judy Collins!" (After all, I have her name). I was born Judy Dianne Collins (my parents love her, as well). The name Judy was very popular in the 50s. If you grew up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, you have to be a fan of Grammy-winning folk-music legend Judy Collins, known for her iconic renditions of "Amazing Grace", "Send in the Clowns" and “From "Both Sides, Now."
After my divorce, I legally took back my maiden name, Judy Collins in the early 80s, and have been referenced to the “Queen of Folk” throughout my career with the same name. Especially when in the media, advertising, and publishing business in Atlanta— always a reference to “The Judy Collins,” and her songs.
Proud to bear her name! However, when it was time to find a domain for my website and blog, and social media, of course, that spot was taken by the "queen" herself, so I had to avert to Judith D Collins.
Have listened to her music for years, enjoyed her concerts, her record albums, and her books — still a huge fan of her music. An inspiration to many. Exciting, to see she still is "full throttle" ahead at age 77 with Judy Collins and Ari Hest: Silver Skies Blue Album. Nice! Do not see retirement in her future.
I haven't read a large amount of middle grade fiction but I must say that I've really enjoyed John David Anderson's writing thus far. Sidekicked was a lot of fun and right after finishing it I added two more of Anderson's books to my TRL. The story revolves around Andrew "Drew" Macon Bean (admittedly a fantastic name) who is not your typical sidekick. His powers aren't the usual 'faster than light speed' or 'stronger than steel'. Nope. (I'm not going to reveal his powers because they are truly unusual and it'll be more fun for you to read it and found out for yourselves.) However, he is a typical nerdy kid just trying to make it through middle school unscathed. There's the usual pre-teen drama about who likes who and fitting in but on top of that is uncertainty about the safety of themselves, their families, and the town. Like Miss Bixby's Last Day, Anderson doesn't shy away from tough subjects. The drawbacks to having superpowers such as having to lie to one's parents, worrying about the mental health of one's mentor (the Super assigned to each Sidekick), and navigating adolescence are dealt with in a very loving, realistic way. Drew is a likable character and I think boys as well as girls will identify with him and become invested in his story. If you have kids in your life who are obsessed with superheroes but are not overly enthusiastic about reading maybe you could suggest that you read this one together. I have a feeling it will be a hit. :-) 9/10