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Girlhood

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A gripping set of stories about the forces that shape girls and the adults they become. A wise and brilliant guide to transforming the self and our society. In her powerful new book, critically acclaimed author Melissa Febos examines the narratives women are told about what it means to be female and what it takes to free oneself from them. When her body began to change at el A gripping set of stories about the forces that shape girls and the adults they become. A wise and brilliant guide to transforming the self and our society. In her powerful new book, critically acclaimed author Melissa Febos examines the narratives women are told about what it means to be female and what it takes to free oneself from them. When her body began to change at eleven years old, Febos understood immediately that her meaning to other people had changed with it. By her teens, she defined herself based on these perceptions and by the romantic relationships she threw herself into headlong. Over time, Febos increasingly questioned the stories she’d been told about herself and the habits and defenses she’d developed over years of trying to meet others’ expectations. The values she and so many other women had learned in girlhood did not prioritize their personal safety, happiness, or freedom, and she set out to reframe those values and beliefs. Blending investigative reporting, memoir, and scholarship, Febos charts how she and others like her have reimagined relationships and made room for the anger, grief, power, and pleasure women have long been taught to deny. Written with Febos’ characteristic precision, lyricism, and insight, Girlhood is a philosophical treatise, an anthem for women, and a searing study of the transitions into and away from girlhood, toward a chosen self.


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A gripping set of stories about the forces that shape girls and the adults they become. A wise and brilliant guide to transforming the self and our society. In her powerful new book, critically acclaimed author Melissa Febos examines the narratives women are told about what it means to be female and what it takes to free oneself from them. When her body began to change at el A gripping set of stories about the forces that shape girls and the adults they become. A wise and brilliant guide to transforming the self and our society. In her powerful new book, critically acclaimed author Melissa Febos examines the narratives women are told about what it means to be female and what it takes to free oneself from them. When her body began to change at eleven years old, Febos understood immediately that her meaning to other people had changed with it. By her teens, she defined herself based on these perceptions and by the romantic relationships she threw herself into headlong. Over time, Febos increasingly questioned the stories she’d been told about herself and the habits and defenses she’d developed over years of trying to meet others’ expectations. The values she and so many other women had learned in girlhood did not prioritize their personal safety, happiness, or freedom, and she set out to reframe those values and beliefs. Blending investigative reporting, memoir, and scholarship, Febos charts how she and others like her have reimagined relationships and made room for the anger, grief, power, and pleasure women have long been taught to deny. Written with Febos’ characteristic precision, lyricism, and insight, Girlhood is a philosophical treatise, an anthem for women, and a searing study of the transitions into and away from girlhood, toward a chosen self.

30 review for Girlhood

  1. 4 out of 5

    Adam Dalva

    Really loved this smart, insightful essay collection. I’ve taught “Intrusions,” which is included, since it came out, and the rest of the book lives up to it, forming a cohesive whole.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Dacus

    The memoir I’ve been waiting for! It’s smart but approachable, pulse raising but soothing, tough but warm. I felt a lot of kinship through the pages, I expect many people will. Caught myself nodding along as I was reading.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eilonwy

    This is a collection of memoir/commentary essays about reaching physical/sexual maturity as a USAmerican female. It is chilling and terrifying. (I kept thinking that if Liz Phair hadn’t already used the title Horror Stories for her memoir, it would be the perfect title for this book.) Melissa’s experiences and reactions are deeply personal, but also universal. And I say that as someone whose life has been very different from hers — and yet so much of it has been similar. Melissa reached puberty This is a collection of memoir/commentary essays about reaching physical/sexual maturity as a USAmerican female. It is chilling and terrifying. (I kept thinking that if Liz Phair hadn’t already used the title Horror Stories for her memoir, it would be the perfect title for this book.) Melissa’s experiences and reactions are deeply personal, but also universal. And I say that as someone whose life has been very different from hers — and yet so much of it has been similar. Melissa reached puberty early, developing an adult shape at eleven. That shape profoundly changed how people viewed and treated her, especially male people. She finds herself approached and fondled by boys her own age, her friends’ older brothers, and adult men. She doesn’t exactly say no to these encounters. But she doesn’t exactly say yes, either. She finds herself trapped in a grey area that the patriarchy/rape culture deliberately keeps vague in order to excuse men’s terrible behavior and hold “women” — including people like Melissa who are not at all adult women, but still fairly young children — responsible for what happens to them. This book explores the ill-defined and impossible burden placed on girls and women: We are supposed to be the person who stops sexual situations. BUT: We are also supposed to value men’s emotions, men’s wants, and men’s comfort far above our own. So we are not taught how to say “no” and mean it; We are not taught to value our own safety and boundaries in a way that allows us to say “no” without often immediately wanting to take it back in order to keep the man we’re with happy; We are not taught how to tolerate men’s disappointment and frustration; and Even if we have learned how to say “no,” the fear of angering the man and risking greater harm can still make women unable to say it safely, which leaves a lot of women having a lot of not-exactly-consensual sexual encounters with men who believe they have a right to women’s and girls’ bodies (and a right to shape girls’ “reputations,” another fraught, can’t-win-for-losing area). This cultural conditioning is difficult to navigate even as a full adult. It is profoundly harmful when you are a child. I was lucky to be a late-developing ugly duckling; I got a lot less interest from boys and men than my prettier and/or shapelier friends did (although I had enough uninvited, creepy encounters to realize that no one perceived as female is safe from men). I watched a number of my high school girlfriends get treated the way Melissa did, and while I was aware that the male attention wasn’t always welcome or flattering, this book has made me reframe my perception of what was happening. If you are a man who has made it this far in this review, I strongly recommend that you read the chapters “Intrusions” and “Thank You for Taking Care of Yourself.” If you’re a friend of mine here on GR or just follow me, you’re probably a decent, feminist guy. Nevertheless, these two essays describe so vividly what it feels like to grow up female and navigate rape culture as a woman that they took my breath away. Then, after you finish, speak up and speak out. Girls and women shouldn’t have to be living our lives this way. But it will require men resisting rape culture messaging and men actively working to change the greater cultural narrative about women’s bodily autonomy to achieve broad results. Melissa writes like a person who has been through lots of therapy, with lots of empathy and compassion for her young self. This book would have been unbearable without that kindness running through it. I also appreciated that she’s gay, and her very different, and yet sometimes not all that different (controlling girlfriend), experiences with men and women broaden the perspective of these essays. I found this book deeply moving. It has also left me incredibly angry. I think this is a strong and worthwhile addition to rape culture awareness, with its blunt examination of the many situations that are not defined as rape, but are nevertheless violations, erasures of a person’s humanity, and that add up to a heavy psychic toll. I apologize that this review sounds so straight and cis-female. The experiences and situations addressed in this book can obviously happen to anyone, and our culture hasn’t granted members of the LGBTQ+ community much sexual dignity or humanity, either. But I read this through the lens of my own life. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Library -overdrive -ebook Melissa Febos examines the culture girls grow up in - dark adolescent years …. with personal stories- (eight essays),… examining girls changing bodies- ….compelling thoughts about beauty, tenderness, strength, prejudice…….. the burdens of beauty emphasis, abuse (subtle and obvious), the forever mixed feelings about sexuality…. how the word ‘slut’ carries a dark cast over women… how women have been made to feel like subservient inferior beast. A valuable book for mother’s and d Library -overdrive -ebook Melissa Febos examines the culture girls grow up in - dark adolescent years …. with personal stories- (eight essays),… examining girls changing bodies- ….compelling thoughts about beauty, tenderness, strength, prejudice…….. the burdens of beauty emphasis, abuse (subtle and obvious), the forever mixed feelings about sexuality…. how the word ‘slut’ carries a dark cast over women… how women have been made to feel like subservient inferior beast. A valuable book for mother’s and daughters — for fathers and siblings - for friends - young and old…. A book that supports - empowers women with their own voices - setting boundaries- and finding their own value in the world. These universal themes - call for discussions…to prod and pick at…. These essays - are an opening for ongoing needed discussions: about girls, women, feminism. It’s another topic - we are not done having in our culture!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jami

    A gorgeously written, perfectly calibrated investigation into the traps, paths, and challenges of being female in this world. It's a stunner of a book. A gorgeously written, perfectly calibrated investigation into the traps, paths, and challenges of being female in this world. It's a stunner of a book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bree Hill

    "I would have liked the movie immeasurably better if, instead of being about a beautiful, smart virgin who acquired an unearned reputation and then cleared her name and bagged the super-nice boyfriend, it was a movie about a girl who actually had extremely hot sex with her queer best friend and then fcked a bunch nerds for Home Depot gift cards and was still presented as a sympathetic protagonist." If you havent read Abandon Me by Melissa Febos, it is one of my all time favorite memoirs. Ever. I "I would have liked the movie immeasurably better if, instead of being about a beautiful, smart virgin who acquired an unearned reputation and then cleared her name and bagged the super-nice boyfriend, it was a movie about a girl who actually had extremely hot sex with her queer best friend and then fcked a bunch nerds for Home Depot gift cards and was still presented as a sympathetic protagonist." If you havent read Abandon Me by Melissa Febos, it is one of my all time favorite memoirs. Ever. I love it so much and I think you should go, immediately and read it. Girlhood was brilliant. It's a stunning, real glimpse into the difficult navigation and trappings of being a girl, evolving as a girl, the situations we find ourselves in and how we carry them with us at times unbeknownst to ourselves. "When I think about healing in the abstract, I imagine a closing-up, or a lifting-up. In my fantasies, healing comes like a plane to pull me out of water. Real healing is the opposite of that. It is an opening. It is dropping down into the lost parts of yourself to reclaim them. It is slow, and there is no shortcut. Sometimes what I mean by healing is changing. A lasting, conscientious change in the self is similar to one in society; it requires consistent tending. It is sometimes painful and often tedious. We must choose it over and over." "You can simply say, 'I'm done,' or, 'This isn't working,' he told us. As he spoke, I felt my eyes prickle with tears. What a simple and gorgeous idea that was. I thought of myself as a Girl and as a Younger Woman-with all those boys and men and even women who I had never wanted to touch me. I thought of all the women whose stories I now carried in me. What if we had all been taught that we could walk away whenever we wanted? What if we had learned that saying no was a Necessary way of taking care of ourselves?" I can't wait for this book to release so I can haul a copy and mark it all up with my favorite orange highlighter, hearts, smiles and WTFs..because there are plenty in this book. Melissa Febos is the cheerleader all girls have needed at some point. Girlhood is brutal but can also be confusing as it is also one of the best times in your life, this book is such a must read!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    GIRLHOOD is the book I waited for my entire life, words with which to articulate the unnamed perils of being female, being girl, the invisible social structures that altered my life and discolored my personality forever. This book is a reclamation, a victory, a triumph. Febos reclaims the girl lost to us all by finding language for the ways we are negated, disowned, distorted, used, and abused as well as the ways we unwittingly contribute to our own repression. I want every human to read this bo GIRLHOOD is the book I waited for my entire life, words with which to articulate the unnamed perils of being female, being girl, the invisible social structures that altered my life and discolored my personality forever. This book is a reclamation, a victory, a triumph. Febos reclaims the girl lost to us all by finding language for the ways we are negated, disowned, distorted, used, and abused as well as the ways we unwittingly contribute to our own repression. I want every human to read this book. What I appreciate in art is truth and Febos has woven the truth of being girl in this culture in which we are embedded into a nest in which we might finally rest.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    I need to hear this on audio. It's excellent, but I'd like to hear the author read it. I'm reshelving this one until the audio becomes available on Hoopla or Overdrive. I need to hear this on audio. It's excellent, but I'd like to hear the author read it. I'm reshelving this one until the audio becomes available on Hoopla or Overdrive.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katie Bruell

    These essays were a bit uneven for me, but when they were good they were very, very good. Contained many truths that I might have thought I knew but definitely needed to hear again.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC of this INCREDIBLE book. I had to give myself a few days to even write this review, as the reading experience was so powerful for me. I've read many many books in the long essay, memoir mixed with non-fiction and philosophy genre, and this is one of the best. I'm going to buy it for at least 5 of my friends as soon as it's available. Wow. This book was so deeply moving, and intellectually energizing. I feel like it needs at least three or four reads for me to gras Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC of this INCREDIBLE book. I had to give myself a few days to even write this review, as the reading experience was so powerful for me. I've read many many books in the long essay, memoir mixed with non-fiction and philosophy genre, and this is one of the best. I'm going to buy it for at least 5 of my friends as soon as it's available. Wow. This book was so deeply moving, and intellectually energizing. I feel like it needs at least three or four reads for me to grasp the full depth of every connection Melissa Febos made throughout the book. This book proves the maxim that what is most personal is most universal. Though our backgrounds are quite different, many of the lines Febos wrote felt as if they came from my journal. This should be a must read for all people who have ever identified as femme or female. Endless gratitude for Melissa Febos for writing this phenomenal and important book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Kasbeer

    Everything Melissa Febos writes breaks me open then sews me back up. This collection is stunning and necessary. It named and examined so many experiences I've had growing up female in a patriarchal society, and helped me reclaim myself in the process. I cannot recommend it enough! Everything Melissa Febos writes breaks me open then sews me back up. This collection is stunning and necessary. It named and examined so many experiences I've had growing up female in a patriarchal society, and helped me reclaim myself in the process. I cannot recommend it enough!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tzipora

    Have you ever loved and connected with a book so much that you kind of had a conversation with it? Because I did with Melissa Febos’ Girlhood. From the forward I was in love with the way she could distill emotions and experiences into these incredible sentences that so perfectly evoke and give voice to things in ways I’ve never seen before but that had me nodding with recognition. So I began by highlighting these sentences and pulling the best ones (and oh, I have so many!) over to the Notes app Have you ever loved and connected with a book so much that you kind of had a conversation with it? Because I did with Melissa Febos’ Girlhood. From the forward I was in love with the way she could distill emotions and experiences into these incredible sentences that so perfectly evoke and give voice to things in ways I’ve never seen before but that had me nodding with recognition. So I began by highlighting these sentences and pulling the best ones (and oh, I have so many!) over to the Notes app on my phone. I often take notes and copy down quotes while I read with the intent of them helping me with my eventual review but this became something more. I started writing about what the quotes meant to me and even talking to them, talking to Melissa, I guess, but more to her work since I don’t even know what she looks like yet she writes with such a rawness that as readers we get to know a rather deep part of her. I haven’t reviewed anything in so long and haven’t exactly been able to read much for quite some time and this isn’t and can’t possibly be the review it deserves to be because I simply have far too much to say and yet feel as if even if I said all of it, none of it would be remotely adequate. This was kind of one of those right books, right time kind of moments for me but maybe amplified due to the nature of the stuff I’m dealing with in my life, the sheer length of time I’ve been rather disconnected from the things I love so much (reading and writing), and the subject matter and depth of the book itself. I can certainly say if you feel drawn to this one- read it! But buckle up because it’s quite a ride, often bumpy, but a journey so worth taking. Girlhood, is as rather obvious given the title, an essay collection about female adolescence. In many ways I would much more specifically say it’s about queer female adolescence and found it perhaps worth noting I remain blown away each time a queer writer- especially a queer woman writer (I mean have you ever been to a queer bookstore and compared the size of the lesbian section to the gay male section? Yeeeah...)- gets their unabashedly queer book published by a big mainstream publisher. This is still new and notable and yet sometimes the queerness is kind of hidden away. And broadly speaking I think this a book that every woman will relate to in many ways but many times I wondered if straight women would get it like I got it, relate on the level that made this book not just a great read but a great and special experience. But I can’t know and can’t possibly remove the queerness from my own girlhood and adolescence and I am certain the same is true for Febos but then let’s call it what it is- a story of queer girlhood and that is especially who I recommend it to, other queer women. Because I don’t think my experience and the way I connected with this one will be particularly unique. And that’s kind of the magic of it. In her forward (or Author’s Note, I’ve realized it’s technically titled), Febos discusses how dark her adolescence was and how it seemed darker than the norm, yet by writing this book and reckoning with both her own story and that of many other women she spoke with while writing it, she found a sort of healing and realized that pain and darkness was rather normal, that so many of us have similar stories. I think reading this and going into it with that in mind helped me to re-examine my own dark and difficult teen years and to be so much more forgiving of myself and perhaps better understand the things I went through. In a sense, as Febos exorcised her own demons, I exorcised a few of my own. And the thing about our teen years and that darkness is that even when we survive and make it through to the other side, as Febos herself writes extensively about and as I’m sure most of us have seen- those experiences play such a role in who we become and linger on in so many ways we often aren’t even aware of. This book may read heavy for some. It’s a very feminist text but in a very honest and raw, post Bad Feminist, sort of way where in one essay she and her friends joke about having a “patriarchy attack” yet the same piece much more seriously reflects upon the ways in which even the most feminist “do the work” types amongst us still regress and fall victim to toxic ways of thinking and behaving. There’s some really nuanced and important discussion there. Nuance is really one of this books finer points. So even though these essays delve into topics like sexual assault, addiction, the complications of consent (as in that we aren’t taught it, that so many of us give a form of empty consent because saying yes is often safer or easier than saying no), about self hate, changing bodies (especially if you’re one of the unlucky ones to be the first in your class to develop), and even just the idea of trauma in general and what constitutes trauma- Febos covers these topics in such well thought out, deeply delved, nuanced ways. Many of these are topics I would generally stay away from yet Febos covers them in a way that was so relatable but never triggering, and that for me, at least, helped facilitate some degree of healing. I think that is a very special gift. Melissa Febos is a writer with much to say and a unique skill for distilling hard earned wisdom into these beautiful gems. And while her topics themselves may not be unique, what she has to say certainly is. Even beyond my personal connection with and conversations with the text, I think that’s especially notable. I don’t think most authors could pull off covering these topics, and so many of them in one book, and have so much to offer that differs from all that I’ve read before. This book is a gift and one to take your time with. Febos pours out little drops of her soul into the page and if as a reader you bring even a little of your own vulnerability to it- you’re in for a special kind of journey.

  13. 5 out of 5

    cat

    4.25 rounded down I did not enjoy Melissa Febos' first book, Whip Smart. I picked this one up reluctantly, but with hope, and WHOA am I glad that I did. This is a fantastic book of essays/stories about growing up with a female body in a patriarchal culture. One of the stories that the author tells is about going to a cuddle party, where boundaries are encouraged, consent is required (and taught in the group circle at the beginning), and there are specific prohibitions on sexual touch. At the part 4.25 rounded down I did not enjoy Melissa Febos' first book, Whip Smart. I picked this one up reluctantly, but with hope, and WHOA am I glad that I did. This is a fantastic book of essays/stories about growing up with a female body in a patriarchal culture. One of the stories that the author tells is about going to a cuddle party, where boundaries are encouraged, consent is required (and taught in the group circle at the beginning), and there are specific prohibitions on sexual touch. At the party, even with all of these guidelines in place, the author struggles to say no when she is not interested in physical touch. Later when talking with a friend about the fact that she knew she didn't want to be touched and found herself not able to say no even with supportive structures, the friend exclaims, "You had a patriarchy attack!..." and that phrase resonated SO MUCH for me. Like a panic attack, but brought about by the patriarchal expectations about how women are expected to move through the world - prioritizing the gaze and the needs of men, careful not to anger them especially while needing to reject them, because at best we are responsible for that emotional labor as women and at worst, it will provoke violence that will be deemed 'understandable'. The stories that Febos tells are from the perspective of someone unlearning patriarchal ways of knowing herself and applying a self-referential lens to all that she has been told - by boys, and men, and teachers, and other women - about her body and how she is to act, especially as someone labeled as a slut from early on. As the author herself says, "But the stories those men tell about women, queers, or anyone who is not white? Power is required to inflict punishment and to revise the public record. You need a weapon to defend your own name. If you don’t have one, they can say anything they want about you. I don’t think my teacher meant that reputations are usually true in the Lacanian sense of a self that is built by social collaboration. He meant that if they say you’re a slut, you’re probably a slut. Which implies that a slut is a kind of woman, rather than a word used to control women’s bodies." The Columbia Journal's book review and I agree that the essay called "“Thank You for Taking Care of Yourself” is perhaps the climax of the book, its most complex and radical comment about the power dynamics of sex. In the sprawling 76-page essay, Febos moves from topics like cuddle parties and “skin hunger” to queer relationship dynamics, the Panopticon effect of the male gaze, and affirmative consent. In the essay’s wandering, searching form, Febos creates a whirlpool of space to explore the ripple effects of sexual harm, away from patriarchy’s surveillance, judgment, and worn-out tropes. She also comes to a better understanding of what healing looks and feels like." As the author says. "When I think about healing in the abstract, I imagine a closing-up, or a lifting-up. In my fantasies, healing comes like a plane to pull me out of water. Real healing is the opposite of that. It is an opening. It is dropping down into the lost parts of yourself to reclaim them. It is slow, and there is no shortcut. Sometimes what I mean by healing is changing. A lasting, conscientious change in the self is similar to one in society; it requires consistent tending. It is sometimes painful and often tedious. We must choose it over and over."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Wow, this was difficult to read - because it was so honest and heartbreaking and REAL. The way Febos fearlessly faces the social conditioning and resulting internal loathing and external danger that many American girls live with (many without acknowledging or even KNOWING) is powerful, and I had to keep putting the book down to take a break because it was so overwhelming and DARK. My favorite essay was the last one, where she visits France as an adult on a path of recovery and reclaiming of herse Wow, this was difficult to read - because it was so honest and heartbreaking and REAL. The way Febos fearlessly faces the social conditioning and resulting internal loathing and external danger that many American girls live with (many without acknowledging or even KNOWING) is powerful, and I had to keep putting the book down to take a break because it was so overwhelming and DARK. My favorite essay was the last one, where she visits France as an adult on a path of recovery and reclaiming of herself, and compares it to her first visit to France as a very young adult caught in the throes of addiction, anguish and loneliness. Both of the tales intertwined in that essay were so vivid and powerful for different reasons, and it was a great way to end the book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Magnificent.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Paolantonio

    Even if Melissa Febos hadn't been my first craft professor, I would follow her writing. This time it's into GIRLHOOD. More straightforward than her previous memoir, which is heady in its sentence structure, craft, and lattice plots and themes. GIRLHOOD shows Febos in unfamiliar waters: yes intense in content, but uncomplicated in form. She's done messing around. What she's discussing and dissecting--growing up in a female body, being unable to control it (more importantly: being unable to contro Even if Melissa Febos hadn't been my first craft professor, I would follow her writing. This time it's into GIRLHOOD. More straightforward than her previous memoir, which is heady in its sentence structure, craft, and lattice plots and themes. GIRLHOOD shows Febos in unfamiliar waters: yes intense in content, but uncomplicated in form. She's done messing around. What she's discussing and dissecting--growing up in a female body, being unable to control it (more importantly: being unable to control how it is perceived and commented on, or spit on, or touched, or violated), how to own or not own it, consent, touch, and the mother daughter relationship--is truly everywhere. Time and again she states that every woman she knows has had an experience like this one (assault, rape, unwanted behavior, being stalked, having to move from being stalked in your own home, using to escape, giving in to sex to avoid rape, letting it happen so something worse doesn't). Everything Febos does on the page is intentional. This deliberate work is on purpose: to attract a larger mass of readers and to educate, or maybe some just need the suggestion, with stories: this is what happened to me, and it's probably happened to you too. What I love most about this book is the friends', friends of friends, and strangers' testimonials. Febos interviewed women about their bodies, and any kind of breach that came to it (or from within it). Febos' writing has always been heavy in research, topics and metaphors spanning from Audre Lorde to characters of the Greek classics; the origin of the Peeping Tom; she's big on Etymology; and, I found the most surprising here, a dissection of the 2010 high school comedy 'Easy A' starring Emma Stone. Even though the research and its tie ins are bountiful, I was grateful to find quotes from women as I realized these are the same stories women I know have told to me. We all *have* had this experience. GIRLHOOD is a sort of catalog. Their strength come in the genre's most polarizing (or complained about) norm: the confessional. These moments come with the most basic plane of the word's definition: "I've never spoken of this before to anyone." I do not remember a forth wall break in her previous writing with such clarity. I love this change, the one-two punch of both. We (the reader and the writer) can have it both ways: the personal, confessional essay, and the academic. Normally I don't review memoirs or essays because they are personal moments and accounts of life, but I've been breaking this rule of mine more often. I've realized writers in this genre made a decision to put this work out in the world explicitly for discussion, or even better: a reader's personal interrogation into the self. There are many prescriptive moments in this book where it felt like she was speaking directly at me, which achieves the goal of personal essayists everywhere: making the personal universal. Women never escape the trauma of their bodies, no matter what form it arrives in, no matter how early into life it shows up. I try to listen to myself more and more. I turn 33 next month and the older I get, the more I realize that I have to listen closely. Be nice to yourself. Do exactly what you want to do, and remember that "No." is a complete sentence.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Megan Quinn

    3.5. This is a series of essays on different topics, some of which are likely to piss you off. From the slut-shaming and victimizing, to the stalking and gaslighting, Febos writes it as a memoir, but incorporates accounts from several women in certain essays. Most of it is stuff any woman will identify with to some degree. The cuddle parties concept weirded me out. I get the need for it, especially now. However, the idea of strangers asking to hold or touch me doesn’t make me feel at all comfort 3.5. This is a series of essays on different topics, some of which are likely to piss you off. From the slut-shaming and victimizing, to the stalking and gaslighting, Febos writes it as a memoir, but incorporates accounts from several women in certain essays. Most of it is stuff any woman will identify with to some degree. The cuddle parties concept weirded me out. I get the need for it, especially now. However, the idea of strangers asking to hold or touch me doesn’t make me feel at all comfortable. I’d be a big proponent of her “say no” practice during said events. The book itself is a little too prosaic for my taste, but that’s a style thing. Otherwise wholly readable. Some quotes I liked: “We are socialized from birth not to reject the hands of strangers, except in the rare case that they emerge from a suspicious van holding a lollipop. It is perfect training for a lifetime of consenting to touch one doesn’t want.” “I often looked eagerly forward to what I imagined as the sexual invisibility of middle age.”

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lilly Dancyger

    Each new essay I read in this collection became my favorite essay of all time, only to be one-upped by the next one, over and over again. Febos tells truths about what it's like to be a girl that are usually hinted at at most, and more often ignored, but she shines a bright light on them and examines their innards. The use of language and the weaving together of personal, cultural, and scientific elements is masterful, and the ideas and experiences that are revealed along the way are so deeply h Each new essay I read in this collection became my favorite essay of all time, only to be one-upped by the next one, over and over again. Febos tells truths about what it's like to be a girl that are usually hinted at at most, and more often ignored, but she shines a bright light on them and examines their innards. The use of language and the weaving together of personal, cultural, and scientific elements is masterful, and the ideas and experiences that are revealed along the way are so deeply human and true they blew me away. Anyone interested in a feminist understanding of the world and/or the art of essay writing absolutely must read this book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer White

    I found myself reading Febos's book of essays impatiently, wanting to get to the parts in which she shares more of her harrowing story. While her research around women, assault, consent and their bodies is interesting, and I appreciate the way she weaves it into her essays, I was more interested in her personal development. Her last essay, "Les Calanques," was totally beautiful and riveting for its structure: she is in the same country at two very different points in her life, treating her body I found myself reading Febos's book of essays impatiently, wanting to get to the parts in which she shares more of her harrowing story. While her research around women, assault, consent and their bodies is interesting, and I appreciate the way she weaves it into her essays, I was more interested in her personal development. Her last essay, "Les Calanques," was totally beautiful and riveting for its structure: she is in the same country at two very different points in her life, treating her body in two very different ways. She also has some lines that were just lovely: "Even the most self-actualized women I know have embedded voices in them still faithful to the power structures they have long intellectually condemned. Unbidden they pipe up: Don't eat that!" (217) And another: "...both men and women prioritize the comfort and well-being of men over women's safety, comfort, and even the truth of their bodily experience. It is the habit I have been trying to undo in myself, and it has been my life's work" (258). Last: "...my best days include all six [modules]: morning journaling, a meeting, exercise, mediation, writing and meaningful contact with friends..." (277). She goes on to say that without these routines, she would be a dramatically different person, a sentiment to which I relate.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brynn

    "We are all unreliable narrators of our own motives. And feeling something neither proves nor disproves its existence. Conscious feelings are no accurate map to the psychic imprint of our experiences; they are the messy catalog of emotions once and twice and thrice removed, often the symptoms of what we won't let ourselves feel." (10) "I emerged from whole afternoons of reading, my life a foggy half-dream through which I drifted as my self bled back into me like steeping tea." (13) "Whatever river "We are all unreliable narrators of our own motives. And feeling something neither proves nor disproves its existence. Conscious feelings are no accurate map to the psychic imprint of our experiences; they are the messy catalog of emotions once and twice and thrice removed, often the symptoms of what we won't let ourselves feel." (10) "I emerged from whole afternoons of reading, my life a foggy half-dream through which I drifted as my self bled back into me like steeping tea." (13) "Whatever river you drink from, forgetting does not erase your past. It only hides what wrecks you carry into the next life." (29) "It is a cliché that adolescents care too much what their peers think, more sobering to think of the power we give to others at that age. Not Like me, but Conjure me." (52) "Though I have known for a long time that while freedom requires knowing, knowing does not guarantee freedom. The ability to see that the door is open does not render us able to step through it—perhaps that is the most torturous part, and those who can see most clearly the most tortured people." (86) "I have since learned that recognizing the invisible parts of oneself in another person can feel like a radiant kind of love. It can make those parts stronger inside you." (89) "Walt Whitman claimed our distinction from animals to be that 'they do not sweat and whine about their condition,' and 'not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things.'" (102) "This is what happens when you give your body away, or when it gets taken from you. Its physical form becomes impossible to see because your own eyes are no longer the expert. Your body is no longer a body but a perceived distance from what a body should be, a condition of never being correct, because being is incorrect. Virtue lies only in the interminable act of erasing yourself." (107) "Nevertheless, I met her error with an uneasy mixture of relief, price, and anguish—an experience that would become familiar in the years that followed, and likely is to any truly secretive person. It was proof that my fastidious efforts to conceal both my real self, whatever that was, and my profound insecurity were working. I was alone again in the truth of myself, but this time under my own direction." (113) "Intimacy, I've found, has little to do with romance. Maybe it is the opposite of romance, which is based on a story written by someone else. It is a closeness to another person that requires closeness with oneself. It is not watching lightning strike from the window but being struck by it." (128) "Foreign beauty is no comfort to the homesick. At its core, maybe every despair is marked by a longing to a find a home in oneself." (285) "Even the fiercest love can't treat what you conceal from it." (285) "We are like cicadas, I want to tell her. When we rise from the ground, we shed our old bodies, but we don't forget them. We call the thing we need until it answers. Sometimes, the one who finds us is a surprise. If we are lucky, we don't die. We get to live for a while inside that new life." (308)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carissa

    I really enjoyed these essays and still need some time to process some of it, as much of it resonates with me and probably most women. So much of what we learn in girlhood does not prepare for the real world nor allow us to freely explore ourselves and our relation to the world. "A woman must cultivate a double self: the public self and the real self... your life depends on its management." The writer explores various points in her life in her attempts to redefine herself, feminism and womanhood I really enjoyed these essays and still need some time to process some of it, as much of it resonates with me and probably most women. So much of what we learn in girlhood does not prepare for the real world nor allow us to freely explore ourselves and our relation to the world. "A woman must cultivate a double self: the public self and the real self... your life depends on its management." The writer explores various points in her life in her attempts to redefine herself, feminism and womanhood, and how she will carry herself in the world. These are powerful essays, and definitely recommend to all women. I can't wait to check out her other books and essays.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Phillip

    the essays are generally strong here, but perhaps a little uneven. the last one felt strained somehow, there seemed to be an attempt at summing everything up, or leading us to the place the writer was at when she finished the book that felt a bit forced. otherwise, this is a powerful personal narrative that mainly reveals one woman's struggle against a variety of patriarchal forces, both personal and structural, that do great damage to the feminine (or trans) psyche. the essays reveal how and whe the essays are generally strong here, but perhaps a little uneven. the last one felt strained somehow, there seemed to be an attempt at summing everything up, or leading us to the place the writer was at when she finished the book that felt a bit forced. otherwise, this is a powerful personal narrative that mainly reveals one woman's struggle against a variety of patriarchal forces, both personal and structural, that do great damage to the feminine (or trans) psyche. the essays reveal how and when the wounds were issued, and how febos worked to transcend the damage. due to widespread conditions that women face everywhere all the time, this personal document is sure to speak to the experience of many. while i do not feel it appropriate to claim #me too, having been beaten and bullied a lot in my youth, i can easily say i feel your pain. i think the book could be cathartic for many of my female and trans friends and i would recommend all of my men friends to read this book. we really need to do more to address the objectification and sublimation of the feminine in our society. the stories told in these essays are the result of the sense of privilege and entitlement that men feel they have when it comes to being pleasured by women. but in most cases, pleasure has nothing to do with it. there are cruelties that seem little more than amusement for many men who clearly feel a sense of powerlessness, so striking out at victims seems to be the answer. and, well, it isn't. these behaviors just perpetuate the problem on all sides. also, kudos to ms febos for her courage and strength. this could not have been an easy book to write.

  23. 4 out of 5

    The Atlantic

    "Since I wrote about 'Girlhood' in March I haven’t stopped thinking about it, or about Melissa Febos’s surgical dissection of rape culture—its poisonous logic, its self-perpetuation, how it’s subsumed into mass consciousness before we even hit adolescence. Febos’s writing is as hypnotic as her arguments are clarifying." —Sophie Gilbert https://www.theatlantic.com/summer-re... "Since I wrote about 'Girlhood' in March I haven’t stopped thinking about it, or about Melissa Febos’s surgical dissection of rape culture—its poisonous logic, its self-perpetuation, how it’s subsumed into mass consciousness before we even hit adolescence. Febos’s writing is as hypnotic as her arguments are clarifying." —Sophie Gilbert https://www.theatlantic.com/summer-re...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shelley Gibbs

    This is tough and tender, uncomfortable and familiar, thoughtful and kind. It tackles all of the harms and shame and emotional labour common in growing up in a patriarchal society, including all of the ways that we can be complicit in our own exploitation (and the exploitation of others.) An interesting mix of memoir, essay, interview, sociological research, Greek mythology.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura Sackton

    I'm going to be processing this one for a long time. At some point I will write an actual review. Really extraordinary book. I'm going to be processing this one for a long time. At some point I will write an actual review. Really extraordinary book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Wow I now feel really committed to Melissa Febos. I'm excited to read her previously published books. Some dark content here, certainly not for any womxn who are looking to feel great about their past and their experiences with men. I had a lot of unexpected and uncomfortable flashbacks. This was ever so slightly repetitive and clunky to me, but overall I really like her writing and her mind and her background is really interesting and her relationship with her partner is so wholesome and charming Wow I now feel really committed to Melissa Febos. I'm excited to read her previously published books. Some dark content here, certainly not for any womxn who are looking to feel great about their past and their experiences with men. I had a lot of unexpected and uncomfortable flashbacks. This was ever so slightly repetitive and clunky to me, but overall I really like her writing and her mind and her background is really interesting and her relationship with her partner is so wholesome and charming! Yay being queer so you can escape the patriarchy (a little).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Breanna

    Extremely personal and wonderfully written set of essays. Febos' observations are memorable and intelligent. Extremely personal and wonderfully written set of essays. Febos' observations are memorable and intelligent.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Took me a bit to get into it but it was worth the effort. “Thank You for Taking Care of Yourself” was the best essay in the book. Highly recommend that one, even if you don’t read the others.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I really enjoyed this collection of essays on girlhood. Definitely related to a lot of things in here. I found the author seamlessly changed timelines and interspersed multiple stories in the same essay. I found that kind of fascinating. Usually the reader has to reorient themselves when that happens, but I seemed to follow it so easily. Really beautifully written.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Julia Jenne

    The best book I've read in a very long time The best book I've read in a very long time

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