Friday, May 19, 2017

Teenage Daughters

For parents who are experiencing, enjoying, and/or preparing for life with teenage daughters:

Two non-fiction books on my To-Read list: Lisa Damour's "Untangled" and Peggy Orenstein's "Girls and Sex".

Five years ago, Orenstein wrote "Cinderella Ate My Daughter", which was perfect for me at that time because my elder daughter was in kindergarten and going through a loooong phase of wearing only pink. And now that my and the author's daughters are growing up, she has written this new book for parents of tweens and teens. All I can say is, I'm so glad there were no camera phones and social media platforms when I was a teenager. The crazy things my friends and I did (or were rumored to have done) faded in oral history, with the only possible recorded evidence being some random diary entry in curly cursive writing buried deep within boxes of old stuff that still haven't been thrown out.

"Untangled" goes through the seven stages that teenage girls go through: (1) parting with childhood, (2) joining a new tribe, (3) harnessing emotions, (4) contending with adult authority, (5) planning for the future, (6) entering the romantic world and (7) caring for herself.

Ultimately, I think it's about girl power, a strong parent-child bond and a family that focuses on what's inside rather than what's on the surface (or whatever is the image we want to present on social media).

Nothing screams girl power more than "Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls", by Elena Ravioli and Francesca Cavallo. A crowdfunding project recommended to me by a girlfriend who is raising her own little rebel girl, and illustrated by more than 60 female illustrators, this book is "the most-funded original book in the history of crowdfunding". These stories are actually one-page biographic tales of extraordinary women pioneers. There are the usual suspects such as Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, Jane Goodall and Marie Curie. There are also less obvious additions like supermodel Alek Wek, rock star Joan Jett, ballerina Misty Copeland and architect Zaha Hadid. With stories of 100 women from around the world, what I appreciate most, in reading together with my daughters, is learning about women who are not household names (at least not in our household), including scientist and president of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, motocross racer Ashley Fiolek and elementary school student Coy Mathis.

"Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever." is a collection of laugh-aloud humor from some of the best children's writers today, including Cece Bell, Lisa Graff, Lenore Look and Raina Telgemeier. Published just in time for summer holidays, there's nothing more empowering and inspiring for young girls than seeing women entertain and delight audiences using the power of language and not their physical appearance.

While the above two books are great for reading aloud with the young ladies in your home, some books are best savored alone in a cozy book nook:

Off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen books featuring strong female protagonists. However, the two that I feel every teen should read are Gail Carson Levine's "Ella Enchanted" and Judy Blume's "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret".

"Ella Enchanted" resonates with me because I'm always conscious of Chinese parents' need to put obedience and good behavior above all else. Why, I often argue with my Hong Kong-raised husband, is a child a bad girl simply because she disagrees with her parents, or got up on the wrong side of the bed, or wants to be expressive by clanging on noisy toys? In this novel, Ella is put under a spell that compels her to be obedient: gift or curse? The above book cover is the 20th anniversary edition that is hot off the presses.

Judy Blume's book introduces pre-teens to the various topics surrounding sex and religion. Originally published in 1970, you can see that the current edition's book cover has been updated for the texting generation. When my daughters are old enough for this, my approach would be for them to read it first, and then we can have conversations about the story and the themes.

It's been six months since I last posted on this blog. All this talk of books and daughters has me dreaming of starting my own mother-daughter book club in a few years' time.

Happy Summer!

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