Imperfect - A Story Of Body Image: Teaching Guide | Ages 11 - 14

Imperfect - A Story Of Body Image: Teaching Guide | Ages 11 - 14


Title Trailer

About the Book

“I shouldn’t be writing these words at all . . . I shouldn’t even be here. But by the grace of Allah (God) I am here. And alive to tell my story . . .” Being perfect all the time was exhausting for young Dounya. The stress of being the cutest, smartest, prettiest, girl in the room was overwhelming. As early as six years old, Dounya turned to food to fill the emptiness she felt. She grew in size, eventually hitting over 200 pounds at just fifteen years old. As is the case for someone with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Dounya’s obsession with food did an about-face, and she began a brutal exercise and diet regimen to lose weight, eventually hitting a low of just 73 pounds. Near death, she finally found the help she needed to accept her imperfections and cherish life.

About the Author

Born to Middle Eastern parents in Las Vegas, Nevada, Dounya is now a 24-year-old woman, a devout Muslim, and a college student, majoring in clinical psychology. Dounya’s experience battling Body Dysmorphic Disorder—a dangerous obsession with real or imagined flaws in one’s body—has inspired her to help other young people who suffer from this illness. Dounya enjoys cooking, writing, and hanging with her friends and family.


Vocabulary Activity

Words to know: epidural, seizure, vigil, nourishment, branding iron, hoist, abyss, euphoria, eating disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, obsession, disease

Complete the charts below for each vocabulary word.

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Before You Read

1. Why has this text been written?
2. What is the topic of this text?
3. What is your first reaction to this text?
4. What prior knowledge do you have on the topic?

During Reading

5. Make connections to the text such as text-to-text, text-to-self, text-to-world.
6. How does the tone of the story change throughout the text? What is the overall tone?
7. How do the illustrations support the tone? Cite specific examples.
8. Analyze Dounya’s point of view. How does it change throughout the text? Cite specific examples
9. How can you relate to Dounya? Use specific examples from your life, and how they apply to Dounya’s story.
10. At what point in the story would you give Dounya encouragement? What would you tell her?

After Reading

11. How have your thoughts about this novel changed after reading it?
12. What specific moment in the novel helped change Dounya’s perspective about her life? What significant moment in your life changed how you see things?
13. After reading this novel, if you could speak to Dounya what would you ask her?
14. How does the use of figurative language throughout the novel help you better understand Dounya’s emotions?
15. If you could create a graphic novel about your life, what would it be called? What would it be about? How would it help others? Why do you think Dounya titled her book, Imperfect?  

Discussion Topics

1. Define “imperfect.” Why do you think this title was chosen for this book?
2. What is a graphic novel? Why do you think this story is written in this format?
3. What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
4. Define self-image. How might one’s self-image affect how they make decisions in life?
5. How do the illustrations help the reader understand the depth of this issue?
6. When Dounya begins to gain weight, people began making fun of her. How did she react to this bullying behavior.
7. Discuss the river-rafting trip. How was this moment a turning point in the story?
8. Discuss the summer before 11th grade. What did Dounya do that summer? How was she greeted on the first day of 11th grade?
9. Describe the moment Dounya felt she hit rock bottom. Describe the events leading up to the moment where Dounya made the decision to live?
10. Discuss the tree metaphor. How did this help Dounya realize she was perfect in her imperfection?

Writing Prompts

1. Research Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Who is affected by this disorder? What causes it? What treatment options are available?
2. Many people struggle to fit in. Describe a time you felt like you couldn’t fit in. Was it in elementary school, middle school, high school, or somewhere else? How did you feel about yourself? Why didn’t you fit in with this particular group of people? How did you react to this situation? How did you overcome this obstacle in your life, or are you still struggling with it?
3. Often times we read a novel and it sparks an emotion within us that is unrelated to the topic. What emotions did you feel while reading Imperfect? Did you feel fear, sadness, happiness, hope, etc.? Describe the connections you made to Dounya on an emotional level.
4. Describe the significance of the title. Give your life a title and explain how that one word describes something significant in your life.
5. Choose a page in the novel Imperfect. Put yourself in Dounya’s shoes. Analyze the illustration and write a story based on that alone. How do you feel, what is happening, what lead to that moment, what will you do next?

Extension Activities

1. Write your 24-year-old self a letter. Reflect on the feeling, emotions and struggles you feel, or felt, at some point in school. Refer to Dounya’s story, and think of how much she went through, but how strong she was to overcome this struggle. Give yourself advice and encouragement for how to overcome your struggle.
2. Have you ever struggled with how you feel about yourself? Compare and contrast your experiences and feelings with Dounya’s. How are they similar? How are they different? What are some things you did to overcome your struggles?
3. Do some research. What support groups, online groups, and/or websites would be resources to help someone who is in a situation where they are struggling with body image or Body Dysmorphic Disorder? Create a brochure that contains the information you found.
4. In the novel, refer to the “Take 5!” section. Aviva Braun, L.C.S.W., is in private practice in Manhattan. She works with adolescent and adult women who suffer from eating and body image problems. She wrote five tips for identifying and avoiding eating disorders. Create a list of tips for identifying warning signs for parents about something that relates to you. It could be eating disorders, or other issues that teens deal with. Create this list and include suggestions for how to help.
5. Create your own graphic novel. What would it be called? Why is that significant? How do you intend for your novel to help others? Refer to Imperfect. Look how the color and illustrations guide the reader’s emotions and create a mood and tone with very little dialogue. Be creative on how you convey your message. 


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