Here's something you probably don't know about me. I collect vintage
health and facts-of-life books and booklets aimed at preteen girls. My
favorite subspecies of these types of publications? The "you're about to
get your first period" booklet (which was typically given a much more
subtle and/or gushing title): "You're growing up!" "You're becoming a
woman!" One day soon I'll take you on a guided tour of my collection (I
really am loving my new video camera just a little too much, aren't I?),
but for now I want to tell you about two terrific new books aimed at
the preteen or young teen girl, circa 2010.
My Little Red Book, edited by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff (New York: Hachette Book Group, 2009. Hardcover, 225 pages, $16.99), is an anthology of stories about first periods contributed by women of all ages from around the world. Nalebuff, who put the book together during her gap year, before heading off to study at Yale, has managed to do for menstruation with my little red book what Eve Ensler did for vaginas with The Vagina Monologues. By combining powerful stories (a mix of both funny and poignant) both authors manage to illustrate how the personal and the political can't help but intersect whenever women's bodies are involved. This is a smart and savvy book that mothers and daughters will enjoy sharing and discussing. Highly recommended. Visit the book's website for videos and other additional resources.
"What I remember most about my period is not getting it. And not getting it. And not getting it. I just could not get the thing, no matter how many white bikinis I wore, even on boats, without bringing a pad along just in case' no matter now many phantom cramps I willed into my uterus. Nothing."
- Rachel Vail, Not Getting It, 1980.
An essay in My Little Red Book, edited by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
Girl in the Know: Your Inside-and-Out Guide to Growing Up by Anne Katz, RN, PhD. Illustrated by Monika Melnychuk (Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2010. Hardcover, 112 pages, $18.95) is a comprehensive guide to growing up for preteen girls. The book, which features fun-and-funky illustrations, covers everything from what you can expect when you get your first period to sensible advice on caring for your rapidly-changing body (fitness, nutrition, stress management, skin care, sexual health) to managing relationships. The book is packed with information that would never have found its way into a book of this type a generation ago - and that some folks would like to keep far, far away from girls of this generation, too. Masturbation and the possibility of a same-sex crush are discussed. There are even tips on choosing eco-friendly menstrual products, like menstrual cups and cloth pads. I tell you, this author is thorough. Highly recommended. See this teacher resource guide and tip sheet for moms for more info.
Ann Douglas is the co-author (with her daughter Julie Douglas) of Body Talk: The Straight Facts on Fitness, Nutrition, and Feeling Great About Yourself (Toronto: Maple Tree Press, 2006. Paperback, $9.95, 64 pages).