My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes by Dawn Lerman


Book Blurb from

From the author of the New York Times Well Blog series, My Fat Dad

Every story and every memory from my childhood is attached to food

Dawn Lerman spent her childhood constantly hungry. She craved good food as her father, 450 pounds at his heaviest, pursued endless fad diets, from Atkins to Pritikin to all sorts of freeze-dried, saccharin-laced concoctions, and insisted the family do the same—even though no one else was overweight. Dawn’s mother, on the other hand, could barely be bothered to eat a can of tuna over the sink. She was too busy ferrying her other daughter to acting auditions and scolding Dawn for cleaning the house (“Whom are you trying to impress?”).

It was chaotic and lonely, but Dawn had someone she could turn to: her grandmother Beauty. Those days spent with Beauty, learning to cook, breathing in the scents of fresh dill or sharing the comfort of a warm pot of chicken soup, made it all bearable. Even after Dawn’s father took a prestigious ad job in New York City and moved the family away, Beauty would send a card from Chicago every week—with a recipe, a shopping list, and a twenty-dollar bill. She continued to cultivate Dawn’s love of wholesome food, and ultimately taught her how to make her own way in the world—one recipe at a time.

In My Fat Dad, Dawn reflects on her colorful family and culinary-centric upbringing, and how food shaped her connection to her family, her Jewish heritage, and herself. Humorous and compassionate, this memoir is an ode to the incomparable satisfaction that comes with feeding the ones you love.

My Review:

This wonderfully written memoir is an honest perspective of the author’s life while living with a father trying to lose weight.  Dawn was raised by absentee parents in the ‘70’s. While living in Chicago, she spent a large part of her early childhood with her grandmother, Beauty. Her grandmother made her feel special by giving her the attention she needed while passing on family recipes. At the same time, her mother was not interested in cooking or building a meaningful relationship.

The emotional fabric of the book is the interaction between family members.  It is well executed with excellent character development. It is the story of Dawn’s childhood into adulthood with her family. I enjoyed the descriptions from the 1970’s that related to food, clothing, hairstyles and toys. When I read that as a child she wanted a Baby Alive doll, I could completely relate.  This made me feel very connected to her life. The insecurities and worries she describes when she was a teenager are woven beautifully into her writing. This did not turn into an angry book or rant when sadness or worry was conveyed.

This book reminded me how different parenting is today than it was in the 1970’s. As a baby boomer it was easy to relate to the people and settings.  I thank the author for allowing us into her past life and sharing her story along with some excellent recipes.