Enough: Notes from a Woman Who Has Finally Found It by Shauna M. Ahern
2 3/4 out of 5 stars
I’ve been following and reading Shauna for quite a while. Many years ago, I was having some digestive issues and thought I may need to go gluten-free. In my typical fashion, I began reading all about a gluten-free lifestyle and stumbled across Shauna’s blog.
I found a lot of info on the blog that I enjoyed reading. She mixed in not only recipes for gluten-free meals but stories of her life as well. She met a man, married him and they wrote a few cookbooks together. She had a daughter, adopted a son, and had a few health scares. I was still reading.
However, she doesn’t write much about the gluten-free lifestyle anymore on her blog. She’s moved over to Substack and just writes 3 newsletters a week for paid subscribers and 1 free newsletter a week for free subscribers (such as myself). I don’t know much about Substack but it’s a way to make money for your writing from what I gather. I’m ok with that and I like her writing well enough to MAYBE potentially pay for it.
I’m not sure what you would call her writing anymore. It’s part cultural criticism, part cooking, part memoir, and a little of other notations on life thrown in as well.
As much as I’m a fan of blogs and personal essays on the web I’m typically not a fan of essays and short stories when I pick up a book. I like a lot of detail so thick, epic books are more my style. Her newest book, Enough, is a collection of essays so it’s not much more than a compilation of blog posts.
I found it sometimes a bit discombobulated. A particular storyline would start in one essay and finish in another. Or it would mention the tail end of a story in 1 essay and then later in another essay tell the beginning of the story. Since I like her blog posts I thought I would enjoy this more than I did. Maybe it was just because of the essay part and not one long memoir. There were many times I wanted more detail; like why she never seemed to slam her father for his mistreatment of her but always slammed her mother.
This part of her story resonated so much with me:
I spent far too long in my life trying to make myself small. I spent years thinking my body should be thinner, my laugh should be quieter, my comments briefer, my everything smaller and streamlined and more like the rest of society.
Raise your hand if this feels in any way familiar to you. I know I’m not the only one. Well, I know it now. It took until my 40s, and more deeply in my 50s, to realize that my brain has been locked into a system, created by the media and misogyny and misinformation. It has been part of being a woman in this culture — to make myself small.
We must make ourselves small. And now I know that when you focus most of your attention on making your stomach smaller — insert the body part that bothered you the most here instead — on making sure you don’t offend, on trying to be good instead of here? You waste so much fucking time.
But more than anything I agree for the most part the same thing that Rachel writes about this book on her book review blog, Rachel Reads Books. Sometimes I just can’t say it any better than someone else that has already said it.
For women everywhere, a collection of fierce and often funny personal essays on finding enough, from writer Shauna M. Ahern, of Gluten-Free Girl fame.
Like so many American women, Shauna M. Ahern spent decades feeling not good enough about her body, about money, and about her worth in this culture. For a decade, with the help of her husband, she ran a successful food blog, wrote award-winning cookbooks, and raised two children. In the midst of this, at age 48, she suffered a mini-stroke. Tests revealed she would recover fully, but when her doctor impressed upon her that emotional stress can cause physical damage, she dove deep inside herself to understand and let go of a lifetime of damaging patterns of thought.
With candor and humor, Ahern traces the arc of her life in essays, starting with the feeling of “not good enough” which was sown in a traumatic childhood and dogged her well into adulthood. She writes about finding her rage, which led her to find her enduring motto: enough pretending. And she chronicles how these phases have opened the door to living more joyfully today with mostly enough: friends, family, and her community.
Readers will be moved by Ahern’s brave stories. They will also find themselves in these essays, since we all have to find our own definition of enough.
BIO FROM AMAZON:
Shauna James Ahern is the author of the cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl Everyday, which won a James Beard award for excellence. Her previous books include Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, named one of the best cookbooks of 2010 by The New York Times, and the food memoir, Gluten-Free Girl.
She is also the author, photographer, and head baker at Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, her much-loved food website (www.glutenfreegirl.com), which she creates with her chef husband, Daniel Ahern.
Her work has been published or recognized by The New York Times, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Epicurious, Babble, The Guardian, Gilt Taste, CNN’s Eatocracy, the Food Network, and The Washington Post.
Shauna and Daniel, with their two children, live on Vashon Island in Washington State, where they are probably cooking something as you read this.1