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The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Harper’s Magazine features English professor Jennifer Gilmore’s short story

Professor+Jennifer+Gilmores+short+story+is+about+a+woman+struggling+with+an+eating+disorder.+%28Photo+by+Michael+Lovett+for+jennifergilmore.net%29
Professor Jennifer Gilmore’s short story is about a woman struggling with an eating disorder. (Photo by Michael Lovett for jennifergilmore.net)

In between writing her five books, English professor Jennifer Gilmore spent time working on a short story. This story, “Recovery,” was finally published in the April 2023 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

“I usually write stories to sort of get into a novel, and then I send them out,” Gilmore said. “And they’re never really stories, they’re more like ways for me to get into a novel. [‘Recovery’] was just something I was always working on and interested in how I could get an entire kind of life into a really small amount of space.”

Despite her career as an assistant professor and published author, Gilmore does not consider herself a prolific short story writer. However, she sent “Recovery” to an editor at Harper’s Magazine to find that her short story was well-received. 

“I just sent it to an editor there who I don’t know personally and they took a while, and I followed up,” Gilmore said. “And then I said, ‘Are you going to take it? Or should I move on?’ And then [the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Magazine] read it … He was like, ‘I love this, we’re going to take it,’” Gilmore said.

“Recovery” follows a woman named Julia as she deals with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia. The story follows her time in a ward and those she encounters as she wrestles with her inner thoughts.

“A lot of the things that I read about eating disorders, in general, are kind of sanctimonious, or they’re from a place of recovery,” Gilmore said. “Those kinds of stories are necessary because they’re about some recovery, and there, people can look for them and perhaps get home … But that’s not what this story is doing.”

Gilmore, who primarily identifies as a novelist, admitted that writing short stories is difficult, especially when they deal with serious topics.

“If I’ve learned anything, it’s when you’re writing short stories, you have to sort of stay in a moment,” Gilmore said. “That’s what people want to read. That’s not necessarily what I like to write. And that’s what makes me more of a novelist.”

Gilmore hopes her story inspires writers to write beyond their comfort zones and tackle topics that they don’t necessarily feel comfortable writing about.

“The subject [of ‘Recovery’] is eating disorders. It’s also about shame. And those are things that make me really uncomfortable to write about. And so I feel like that stickiness, for me as a writer, is a really good place to write. And that’s where you need to work,” Gilmore said.

“Recovery” is available online and in the April 2023 edition of Harper’s Magazine.

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Kristen Vincent, Assistant Culture Editor

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