Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Review: My Little Red Book

I think My Little Red Book by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff was the first LibraryThing Early Reviewers book I've gotten that I was really excited to get. Others have been nice to get, no doubt, but I love that this book even exists. As soon as I pulled it out of the envelope, I sat down and started reading, randomly jumping from essay to essay. I read a few aloud to my 8-year-old daughter, who already had an idea what menstruation is, although in a vague way. Her initial response to the essays was "Gross!" but she soon added "Will you read me some more of those?"

I love that we've come from a time when a girl's first period came as a complete shock without any previous mention of it to the poor girl, to a time when books like this are published. But I know the dialogue still isn't open for some. So many of the stories reflected the heartbreaking impression that "I am the only one this is happening to." Even girls who have been educated can have that feeling. As the editor says in the video below, "That's when no one talks about it, and that's when it matters most." I think this book could be a lifesaver for some girls.

The stories range from 1916 to 2008, from Nazi Germany to text messages. The updated version of Gloria Steinem's essay "If Men Could Menstruate" made me laugh out loud. "Men would brag about how long and how much," she writes. (The original essay is included at the book's site here.) I think it's great that several YA authors, Meg Cabot included, submitted their stories. The one thing missing is an essay by Judy Blume. As her books were an important part of so many of the stories, I would have loved to read Blume's own story. 

I was struck by the contrast in "The Simple Vase, Part I" by Laura Wexler and "The Simple Vase, Part II" by her daughter, Rebecca. The differing memories and emotions about a single First Period were fascinating, and something I will try to keep in mind when the time comes for my own daughter's First. I also had to make a note when reading "Let Down" by Tatum Travers, to not react the way her mother did.

In her essay "Going to X-tremes," Michelle Jaffe says "I discovered that how you react to Your First Period lets you see the beginnings of personality traits that are magnified as an adult." 

Like Jaffe, I don't remember my first period. By the time I got it, I had probably researched it to death and it was a "nonevent," like hers. I'd have to look to see if I even wrote about it in my diary (if I was keeping a diary at that time). I do remember that years before it came, I had discovered "The Box" in my mother's closet. It must have been the same sort of box mentioned in "My Support System was a Box" by Bonnie Garmisa, although her experience was not like mine. I do remember "The Talk" my mom gave me later. She told me horror stories of older women in the family having the "I'm dying" reaction because they'd never been told this would happen to them. I understood I was lucky to live in a time when I got "The Talk." I think my daughter is even luckier. She gets an ongoing dialogue, and this book. 

Kauder Nalebuff explains a little about the book in this video from the book's site:

No comments: