Young Women, Real Lives

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Young Women, Real Lives

The experience of being a young woman is its own, whatever other challenges or interests go along with it.  Whether examining nature, negotiating the context of promiscuity or alcoholism, creating meaningful relationships with other women, or simply existing, these eight titles explore that experience with a sharp eye, some leading the reader to laughter and others to tears. Discover the lives of these women authors and the women about which they write to enrich your understanding or, perhaps, to find common threads between their lives and your own.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Shortly after graduating from Hollins University, Dillard took to her personal journal to put together a series of essays about the natural world of Roanoke, Virginia and Appalachia. These essays tie together for poignant observations, bringing the metaphysical and the physical together. Many of Dillard’s points are tied to her existence as a young woman in Pilgrim as she explores her inner thoughts.

Dirty Little Secrets: Breaking the Silence on Teenage Girls and Promiscuity by Kerry Cohen
Following up on her story of teen promiscuity, Loose Girl, Kerry Cohen takes her personal experience to the world of sociology and research in Dirty Little Secrets. Cohen examines issues of self-esteem and popularity among other factors that contribute to what Cohen describes as unhealthy levels of promiscuity.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Drawing from her own life and struggles with mental illness, Sylvia Plath brings Esther Greenwood to a prestigious internship. Like many dealing with mental illness, despite her success, Esther descends into the horrors of her condition. As Plath explores Esther’s psyche, she pulls out impressions and observations both of living as a mentally ill person and a woman in mid-19th century America, much of which still applies today.

Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities by Alexandra Robbins
On a mission to determine if sorority stereotypes are true, Alexandra Robbins decides to live with her subjects for a year. Throughout, she uncovers the challenges the collegiate women encounter throughout the school year, including drug abuse, eating disorders, racism, violence, interpersonal conflicts and more. With an overarching theme of sisterhood and a conclusion many will find surprising, Pledged is a fascinating look at the world of sororities.

Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas
As a teen, Koren Zailckas discovered alcohol. It soon led her into a dark place as she became more and more dependent on the substance. Destroying her relationships, her confidence, and more, the alcohol on which Zailckas depended became a central part of her life. Now with perspective, Zailckas revisits the years during which alcohol controlled her and reveals the insidiousness of herand thousands of young women’salcoholism.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
A feminist classic, A Room of One’s Own examines the importance of a private space for creative minds as well as the figurative space for women in creative endeavors. Drawing from lectures at two women’s institutions, Woolf also borrows heavily from her own experience as a woman writer in the early 20th century.

Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation by Leora Tanenbaum
In a collection of anecdotes of women who experienced harassment, ostracism and worse due to a label of “slut,” Tanenbaum examines the idea of reclaiming the word while discussing the damage it has done to many young women. Depicting women who fall along a spectrum of sexual activity, Slut! is a fascinating read for anyone interested in slut-shaming and feminism.

Happy Birthday or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee, and Other Family Disasters by Annie Choi
With a focus on her relationship with her mother, Annie Choi’s debut memoir is hilarious and heartfelt at once. As she discusses her vegetarianism (and how that is challenged by her family and Korean food culture), her mother’s cancer diagnosis and Asian stereotypes, Choi walks readers through her daily life and days out of the ordinary. A strong debut, you won’t want to miss Happy Birthday or Whatever.