Saturday, April 7, 2012

Book 18 - Girl Land by Caitlin Flanagan

Caitlin Flanagan is, perhaps, best known for her book To Hell With All That and this is her latest in her series of dithering, except that instead of targeting mothers (both stay at home moms AND moms that have jobs outside the home as well as being a mom), she targets our tween and teenage daughters. I think that more specifically, she's looking at girls that are on the cusp of getting their first periods and maybe a little bit older (because she does look at people like Patty Hearst in addition to teenagers).

The tone of the book (and it's broadly sweeping generalists) were pretty apparent right from the get go when Ms. Flanagan claimed that all of her female friends stated that the tween period was the most intense period of their life (excluding childbirth, first sexual encounters and other, potentially life changing events, such as marriage and first jobs of course - please note the sarcasm). Flanagan then goes on to talk about things like moral mania (essentially a whole chapter on rainbow parties and other related topics), diaries (yes, Anne Frank type diaries, minus the Holocaust aspect of it) and Sexual Initiation (including about 10 pages on Patty Hearst). She also devotes some time to her, seemingly cloistered, adolescent experiences from the 1970's(that, aside from an unwanted grope in a parked car), was pretty tame.

What I found really annoying about this book, is that this lady, Flanagan, wrote this book as a commentary (and I appreciate social commentary, really, I do - I love this stuff. Sometimes I wish that I had done something more like that then what I currently do for work), but her research was abysmal. She honestly read dozens and dozens of copies of 17, The Diary of Anne Frank, a couple of other biographies and not much else. Her research was flimsy at best - nothing to be proud of and certainly nothing to base these general and sweeping analysis of girlhood culture on. If she were going to read anything, she should have read the blogs that the girls that she was claiming to study wrote. She should have asked them for their diaries. Hell, she should have asked me for MY diaries from the ages of 13-19 because I would have candidly turned them over and talked to her about them. Maybe even talked to the girls that she was claiming to know so much about, because I'm sure that first person accounts and interviews would have given her the insight that she needed to write a much more candid, thoughtful and insightful account of what girls go through in this day and age in maturing sexually, emotionally, physically and mentally into adult, American women. But she didn't do that and, as a result, her book is shallow and out of touch, in spite of moments of smartness. In fact, the moments of brilliance almost make it worse because, in showing me those moments, I become aware that she is, in fact, capable of doing things in a much better fashion then she did with this book.

If you are going to read this, borrow it from your library but don't add to your collection.

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