I love Girl in the Know. If you know a girl between the ages of 11 and 13, buy her Girl in the Know. It’s a fabulous book that covers all the questions from bras and periods to exercise and self esteem. Being a girl isn’t easy.* Books like this are important.
I only have one tiny, little quibble with it. On page 47, in the chaper “Turning On and Tuning In,” there is a reading list with the tag line “Curious about other girls’ experiences?” Among the nine books are a few of classics (Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Anne Frank), a couple of award winners (Kira-kira and Princess Academy), one popular chick lit title (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants), one I didn’t recognize at all (Losing Forever), and two with which I’d like to take issue: Parvana’s Journey and Love, Stargirl. Mainly, both are sequels. I guess they basically stand alone, but why not choose the story that came first? I guess neither of these books really stood out to me as particularly noteworthy, but that’s just one reader’s opinion. (As a sidenote, I did really like Stargirl.)
A few years ago, I started working on a zine that I tenatively called “Being a Girl: A Reading List.” I never finished it because choosing just a few books to cover all of femininity is actually kind of an intimidating a task. The book that started the zine concept was Betty Smith’s Joy in the Morning. I read it shortly after I had gotten married, and it seemed appropriate because it is about a young married couple. It wasn’t necessarily my favorite book ever, but it changed my perspective. The girl in the book had to worry about getting kicked out of college for getting married. She had a great husband, but he wasn’t exactly a help-around-the-house partner. I guess I realized how drastically women’s lives had changed in a relatively short amount of time. Have I mentioned that my husband is a wonderful cook and better at housecleaning than I am? I am grateful for this and more.
What would I choose for a nine book “Being a Girl” list for pre-teens? The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle for sure. Maybe Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan. If we’re talking teens, it gets easier to choose. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is number one, and, to be honest, I recommend it even to adult girls. Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian is a provocative look at female sexuality for teens. It would make the list easily. Maybe Hattie Big Sky for a little historical perspective and Weetzie Bat for some magic. I’d put Dicey’s Song on the list, but it’s a sequel. It stands alone, but didn’t I already take issue with that somewhere? I guess this isn’t as easy as I thought.
Bitch Magazine learned that the hard way this week. First they published 100 Books for the Young Adult Feminist Reader. It was a fabulous list. It spread around the Internet quickly. That’s when the controversy began. Chasing Ray has a great run-down of the issue in How Not to Stand Up for (Some) Literature as Explained by Bitch Media.
Maybe one day I’ll finish that zine. Right now I’m feeling a little intimidated.
*Being a guy may not be easy either. I am not commenting on that as I have no personal experience with it.