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...Read More
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.
Melissa Febos is the author of the memoir Whip Smart and two essay collections: Abandon Me and Girlhood. The inaugural winner of the Jeanne Córdova Nonfiction Award from LAMBDA Literary and the recipient of fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, The BAU Institute, Vermont Studio Center, The Barbara Deming Foundation, and others; her essays have appeared in The Paris Review, The Believer, McSweeney's Quarterly, Granta, Sewanee Review, Tin House, The Sun, and The New York Times. She is an associate professor at the University of Iowa, where she teaches in the Nonfiction Writing Program.
"Febos's own voice is so irreverent and original. The aim of this book, though, is not simply to tell about her own life, but to listen to the pulses of many others'. In her author's note, Febos writes that she has 'found company in the stories of other women, and the revelation of all our ordinariness has itself been curative.' This solidarity puts Girlhood in a feminist canon that includes Febos's idol, Adrienne Rich, and Maggie Nelson's theory-minded masterpieces: smart, radical company, and not ordinary at all." - The New York Times Book Review
"Anyone who has ever been a girl or a woman will recognize the patterns Febos uncovers: the unwanted touch, the expectations of our bodies, the way we become complicit in the traps laid out for us along the way by the patriarchal structures that govern so many of our social, professional, and interpersonal spheres... By following Febos's distinct paths between the past and present, we might realize there's room to forge our own, and that we've just been handed a flashlight that helps illuminate the way." - NPR
"The harrowing nature of transformation is Girlhood's core subject, and in seven chapters Febos explores the interconnected aspects of patriarchy and the marks that they've left on her . . . The book's centerpiece is a magisterial, seventy-six-page essay on what Febos terms 'empty consent'--not merely agreeing to unwanted sex, but the ways in which women are programmed to collaborate in their own diminishment . . . Febos has some idea of how to break this cycle . . . She is also, perhaps, correcting the story of the girl-dreamer, whose elegy, it turns out, may have been premature--she lives to mother the woman." - The New Yorker
"Febos is an intoxicating writer, but I found myself most grateful for the vivid clarity of her thinking... disquisitive and catalytic--it doesn't demand change so much as expose certain injustices so starkly that you might feel you cannot abide them another minute...I never once needed trigonometry and I couldn't find Catullus in a crossword these days, but Febos's education is a kind I surely could have used." - The Atlantic
"In an effort to reimagine those transitional years between girlhood and womanhood, Febos combs through her own past in a series of essays that blends investigative reporting and memoir. ... In each of Girlhood's essays -- which are accompanied by gorgeous illustrations by artist/author Forsyth Harmon -- Febos works to interrogate her own behaviors as she navigates relationships, love, sex, and addiction and, bolstered by research and interviews, comes out the other side with a clearer understanding of what it might take to make girlhood a less-destructive experience." - Shondaland
"Raw and unflinching, this dark coming-of-age story impresses at every turn." - Publishers Weekly
"Profound and gloriously provocative, this book. . . transforms the wounds and scars of lived female experience into an occasion for self-understanding that is both honest and lyrical. Consistently illuminating, unabashedly ferocious writing." - Kirkus Reviews
"Melissa Febos's writing is always luminous, fearless, and blazing with intelligence." - Lit Hub, Most Anticipated Books of 2021
"In Girlhood Febos not only offers herself a new playbook, scrutinizing the assumptions she has placed upon herself, she also examines how our culture prizes the narratives of boys over girls, often erasing the girl altogether in favor of a more understandable story. By looking at the social and cultural context in which we become women, this multileveled narrative affirms that our shared attitudes and beliefs about girls and the women we expect them to become are more important than whatever benefits we gain by denying and distorting them. Girlhood offers the plausibility that on the other side of personal and collective awareness lies the choice to play a different game." - Chicago Review of Books
"Febos's newest collection of essays addresses misogyny from the inside out. . . With her signature rhythmic style and stream of consciousness propelling the narrative, the author's critique of becoming is as tender as it is relentless. Febos's writing possesses the same heartbreaking elegance and haunting lyricism as that of feminist authors Roxane Gay, Caitlin Moran, and Carmen Maria Machado." - Library Journal
"Combining intimate memoir with eye-opening cultural investigation, Melissa Febos lucidly articulates the infuriating and redemptive ways women's lives are shaped. These seven illuminating essays unpack the experiences of living as a female under the destructive influence of patriarchal norms and warped ideals of femininity." - Shelf Awareness
"In this book of liberating inquiry and divine depth, Febos again and again connects the constellations of herself and the world she and all women must learn to live in." - Booklist