So far this year– almost halfway through– I have a clear favorite fiction book (Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead) and a clear favorite nonfiction book (Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein). And, in my opinion, they are really in conversation with one another; though I’m not sure anyone has made this connection before.
In her Introduction Orenstein writes, “When so much has changed for girls in the public realm, why hasn’t more—much more—changed in the private one? Can there be true equality in the classroom and the boardroom if there isn’t in the bedroom?” With Hillary Clinton securing the nomination for president (#hillyes) it’s fascinating to consider this given what we know of her history… And if we know this it’s inevitable that young women and girls will as well. So, how do we address these issues?
As I learned when I was writing this review piece about puberty for Brain, Child, books are a great way for parents to discuss sex and sexuality with their kids. Both can read the same book and then discuss, which helps because it is not about *your child* precisely. Furthermore, I learned that it’s always useful to be doing something where you don’t have to make eye contact while chatting (think driving or walking) when tackling these issues.
Putting all this together I recommend that parents read Orenstein’s book (my full review in The Providence Journal available here); if you are short on time concentrate on Chapter 1. One sentence that you should be sure stays with you as you navigate this terrain in your life is: “That’s the challenge to both parents and girls themselves: whether you’re discussing dress codes, social media, or the influence of pop culture, there is rarely a clear-cut truth.” (24)
Stead’s book shows how this plays out in real life for some boys and girls, especially when it comes to the “sext.” The book tackles friendships, romance, technology, family dynamics, and more, without being sensational. One of things I liked most was its verisimilitude– it felt like this is probably what happens annually for thousands of American teens. When I read how one of the character’s explanation that she liked that she felt good about her body, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Orenstein’s book, but also her caution that looking good isn’t a feeling.
I love the bridge between fiction and nonfiction here and hope some find this connection between two amazing recent books useful!