If you have browsed the ‘New Books’ shelves of your local branch recently, you might have noticed that ‘girlhood’ is a prevalent theme across both adult and young adult literature right now. A number of authors are exploring female adolescence through literary narratives that challenge many of the traditional societal norms associated with girlhood. By engaging with this type of literature, readers are now being exposed to diverse and complex young female protagonists who tackle a wide range of issues including: body image, gender identity, sexuality, family issues, mental health, female empowerment and emotional or physical abuse.
I recently had the pleasure of reading Emma Cline’s debut novel The Girls, which follows the story of Evie, a fourteen year old girl living in California during the late 1960s who gets involved with a fictional version of the Charles Manson cult. Though the historical references to this notorious cult are fascinating, Cline’s narrative voice is what really drew me to this book. Evie, who is now a middle-aged woman, reflects on how the social and cultural climate of the time, as well as her familial relationships and self-esteem impacted her decision to latch onto this ethically questionable cult. Evie’s exploration of drugs, sexuality, and female empowerment are refreshingly honest and offer insight into some of the more complex realities of girlhood, both in a contemporary and historical context.
In addition to Cline’s novel, the following titles are recommended for anyone interested in reading fictional girlhood narratives by contemporary authors:
13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
Check out these titles and more at the Caledon Public Library! Support diverse female voices in literature.