Welcome to MarieClaire.com's Q&A; author series—the spot where we ask the #ReadWithMC author-of-the-month five burning questions about her latest book. In March, we're reading The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls (opens in new tab) by Emmy Award–winning journalist Anissa Gray (opens in new tab). If you're interested in the novel and looking for some friends to talk about it with, find out how to participate in MarieClaire.com's interactive monthly book club here (opens in new tab).
Anissa Gray may be making her novel debut with The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls (opens in new tab), but she's been writing stories for decades. In fact, her career as a journalist has spanned more than 20 years, holding roles at Reuters and CNN, and earning Emmy and duPont-Columbia Awards for her work. "I felt a bit burnt out from journalism," she admits. "Writing a novel is a new way to see yourself and the world, and it's incredibly refreshing."
The Care and Feeding is an intimate account of family bonds told from the perspective of three sisters—Althea, Viola, and Lillian—who must come together when Althea, the eldest, and her husband are unexpectedly arrested. Each woman is portrayed in her own unique way, exploring themes of identity, forgiveness, and the complex role that hunger plays in their lives.
Here, Gray discusses the inspiration behind the book and how she developed her characters from her own personal experiences.
Marie Claire: What inspired you to write The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls?
'The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls'
Anissa Gray: Ironically, this isn't the book I set out to write. When I sat down to write The Care and Feeding the title was the same, but it was a story about someone who worked in an eating disorder clinic. It was largely based on my own experience with eating disorders and the treatment process. The main character was Viola rather than Althea.
I flailed around for about six months not really wanting to let go of that story. I kept writing, but the characters stayed with me. As I looked into Viola's back story with her family, I saw she had these sisters—they had their own stories and struggles. Once I opened the door to those voices they became incredibly resonant, and I became very interested in these characters. Viola is still very much a part of The Care and Feeding, but it's a much broader, richer story with those added voices.
MC: Why should people read this book now?
AG: It resonates with you no matter your age or race (it helps to be a woman, of course). You see a family that comes together in the face of a tragedy. Different characters are confronted with the question of forgiveness. How do you forgive someone who has done you harm? There are a lot of complex questions without a lot of easy answers.
Even though things are not wrapped up in a nice tiny bow, I hope readers will feel like they've read an honest story. I've told stories all of my professional life as a journalist, and now as a novelist. The heart of what I want to put out into the world is a good story. It sounds simple, but achieving it can be difficult.
MC: If you could be any character in the book, who you would be?
AG: I love all of the characters dearly, but I wouldn't want to be any of them. I have known some of the specific struggles Viola has faced in respect to recovery from an eating disorder and the difficulty of that...the insidious nature of the disorder. I was a few years out of treatment while writing it, and in a lot of ways it was cathartic.
MC: Who would play the main characters in a movie? Cast your protagonist and antagonist.
AG: I'm incredibly superstitious so I don't even allow myself to think in these terms, but because you asked...Viola Davis would be a great fit for Althea. For Viola, definitely short-haircut Halle Berry. For Lillian, I would love a bright, young actress like Tessa Thompson. She has the spark Lillian has.
MC: What's currently on your nightstand?
AG: I just finished reading Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. (opens in new tab) Next up is White Houses by Amy Bloom (opens in new tab). I love pretty much anything Amy Bloom does.
For more stories like this, including celebrity news, beauty and fashion advice, savvy political commentary, and fascinating features, sign up for the Marie Claire newsletter.
Rachel Epstein is an editor at Marie Claire, where she writes and edits culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also manages the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game, finding a new coffee shop, or analyzing your cousin's birth chart—in no particular order.
'On Rotation' Is Our July Book Club Pick
Read an excerpt from Shirlene Obuobi's debut novel, here, then dive in with us throughout the month.
By Marie Claire
How Melanie Travis Built Andie Into a Swimwear Giant
Plus, how brands are getting LGBTQ+ marketing all wrong. (Hint: stop rainbow-washing your brand each June.)
By Gabrielle Ulubay
Lizzo Embodies Disco-Ball Chic at the BET Awards
By Iris Goldsztajn
Join #ReadWithMC: Marie Claire's Virtual Monthly Book Club
Never feel guilty about skipping book club again.
By The Editors
Take a Tour of Ali Wentworth's Awe-Inspiring Personal Library
The author and actress shares her favorite reads in 'Shelf Portrait.'
By Neha Prakash
SuChin Pak Is No Longer Settling for Your Definition of Courage
In an excerpt from a new book, the journalist details the racist incidents at MTV News that shaped her early career and how she's only recently been able to dismantle that trauma.
By Neha Prakash
What 'Femininity' Means in 2022
Malala, Amanda Gorman, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and more define the word on their own terms.
By Neha Prakash
The Most Eagerly Anticipated Fiction by Women in 2022
Just in case you needed something to look forward to.
By Jenny Hollander
Malala Yousafzai on Her Reading Journey and Helping Expand Children's Access to Books
The activist shares what's on her bookshelf and why she's passionate about kids reading more than just textbooks.
By Neha Prakash
What Happened to Marina Thompson in 'Bridgerton'?
She has a way bigger role in the Netflix series than in Julia Quinn's books.
By Andrea Park
Edmund Bridgerton's Death: Julia Quinn's Books vs. the Netflix Show
Here's where all that bee imagery comes into play.
By Andrea Park