A scholar, fashionista, and bride-to-be spends a year without mirrors to get a better view of herself, her life, and what’s really important.
When Kjerstin Gruys became engaged to the love of her life, she was thrilled—until it came time to shop for a wedding dress. Having overcome an eating disorder years before, Gruys found herself struggling to maintain a positive self-image as her pending nuptials imposed a new set of impossible beauty standards. She decided to embark on a bold plan for boosting her self-esteem while refocusing her attention on the beautiful world around her. A memoir of discovery, Mirror Mirror Off the Wall charts Gruys’ awakening as she vows to give up mirrors and other reflective surfaces, relying instead on her friends and her fiancé to help her gauge both her appearance and her outlook on life. The result? A renewed focus on what truly matters, regardless of smeared makeup, crooked eyebrows, or messy hair.
In the honest, witty, self-aware voice that has made her blog so popular, Gruys explores what it means to be a feminist in a society where femininity is subject to destructive ideals of beauty and sex appeal. Having worked in the fashion industry before becoming a sociologist, Gruys draws on her frontline expertise to explore the gender inequities created by society’s obsession with a flawless female body image. Putting a human face on an important issue with humorous and poignant scenes from Gruys’ life, Mirror Mirror off the Wall sparks important conversations about body image and reclaiming the power to redefine beauty.
“Honest, heartfelt and quirky” – The Boston Globe
“Brave and inspiring… Gruys admits to her all-too-human insecurities and describes her sometimes-difficult effort to live life without defining herself through beauty. Her story encourages others to do the same. This book should be required reading for those women who struggle with body-image issues—and even those who don’t.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A funny, provocative memoir.” – People magazine (3.5/4 stars)
“Kjerstin Gruys writes with honesty, insight, and humor about her struggle to maintain sanity and self-confidence in a world where women are besieged with messages about the importance of beauty and image. Kjerstin’s story will speak to anyone who is seeking to make peace with what she sees in the mirror and discover her own inner beauty.”
—Peggy Orenstein, New York Times bestselling author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter
“Kjerstin turns her thoughtful gaze to the complex nature of feminism and beauty in this gripping memoir. I couldn’t put this book down—as I flipped through page after page, I found myself nodding along with Kjerstin’s astute observations. It’s high time we stop picking ourselves apart and start focusing on what really matters: something deep inside, beyond what any mirror can reflect.”
—Caitlin Boyle, author of Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-It Note at a Time
“Kjerstin nimbly deconstructs the internal struggle between the desire to accept ourselves and the desire to be accepted by others. Her story is an important reminder that what we see in the mirror is not just our reflection but a reflection of the society in which we live.”
—Golda Poretsky, author of Stop Dieting Now: 25 Reasons To Stop, 25 Ways To Heal
“Gruys is an engaging, empathetic, and insightful storyteller, and her story needs to be heard. In a world full of conflicting messages about women’s beauty and worth, it can be difficult to trust our own feelings about our bodies. Her year-long experiment illustrates how unchecked self-scrutiny can aggravate existing body-image issues, and how mirrors often play multiple roles in a woman’s interior life. The media machine instructs women to control and monitor appearance at all costs, but Gruys shows us that there is freedom in letting go.”
—Sally McGraw, author of Already Pretty: Learning to Love Your Body By Learning to Dress it Well
“Mirror Mirror off the Wall is not just about Kjerstin Gruy’s 365 day mirror-less odyssey. It’s also about the psychological cataclysm that results when So-Cal bride meets feminist sociologist inside the mind and heart of the same person. Gruys grapples with the ubiquitous wedding ‘shoulds’ and puts her own body image advocacy to the ultimate test. She emerges with powerful lessons about trust, friendship, love, and being at peace with your own body.”
—Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., FAED, Director, University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders
“Mirror, Mirror off the Wall is an engaging and entertaining read. Kjerstin Gruys strikes the perfect balance between much-needed social criticism and honest self-reflection. Gruys reminds us that in an image-obsessed society, something as small as looking in a mirror—or not—can be a political act.”
—Natalie Boero, Ph.D., author of Killer Fat: Media, Medicine, and Morals in the American Obesity Epidemic
“Would you have the courage to give up looking in the mirror for a year—including your wedding day? Kjerstin Gruys did, and in doing so, learned to question her assumptions about appearance, trust, feminism, and the wedding-industrial complex, all of which she shares in this thought-provoking and honest account of her year without mirrors.”
—Lynn Peril, author of Pink Think: Becoming a Woman in Many Uneasy Lessons
“The body issues, the issues about having body issues, the balancing act of genuine self-care: Kjerstin Gruys, quite simply, gets it. Glimpses of her interior life were articulated so honestly and with such precision that at times I felt like I was in her head—or, more accurately, that she was in mine, and that of every woman who has ever looked in the mirror and seen not how we look, but how we feel. Without offering an easy solution to the anything-but-easy body image concerns that plague so many women, this book functions as a model of possibilities of what might happen if we looked more critically at our body narratives.” —Autumn Whitefield-Madrano, founder and editor of The Beheld
“In Mirror, Mirror off the Wall, Kjerstin Gruys lets us in on a fascinating social experiment. Combining smart, insightful research on body image and the politics of appearance with deep honesty about her own personal struggles, Gruys is a great guide through the sometimes funny, sometimes treacherous waters of women and appearance. By describing her year of looking away from mirrors she helps us turn our attention toward deeper, more meaningful, and more enduring sources of beauty.”
—Lynne Gerber, author of Seeking the Straight and Narrow: Weight Loss and Sexual Reorientation in Evangelical America
“Through Gruys’ thought-provoking storytelling, the cerebral reader and the lover of self-help books will find satisfaction in this unique memoir. For many years, I have personally witnessed women and girls being torn apart by our culture’s desire for them to fit someone else’s idea of ‘perfect.’ Kjerstin wrested herself from this peril and has lived to tell about her journey to the center of herself. Kjerstin lived in the gray areas of uncertainty as she uncovered important truths — not just for herself, but for women living in mainstream society. Every woman — of every age and background — can learn something profoundly meaningful about herself from Kjerstin’s desire to separate herself from appearance obsession.”
—Jennifer Berger, executive director of About-Face
“Kjerstin Gruys holds a critical mirror up to weight prejudice, revealing how it distorts our lives and our society. Her year-long experiment and powerful insights point the way for people of all sizes to reject such distortions in favor of already-available fabulousness.”
—Marilyn Wann, author of Fat!so?: Because You Don’t Have to Apologize for Your Size
“Kjerstin Gruys has written a frank, intimate and entertaining account of how she tried to overcome her body image insecurities by not looking at herself in a mirror for a year. Interspersing this personal account with insights from sociology and psychology research, Gruys shows how her own struggles are taking place within a broader social context, thereby holding up a mirror to contemporary American society. Highly recommended for anyone who has felt herself peering a bit too intently in the mirror.”
—Abigail C. Saguy, author of What’s Wrong with Fat?