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A gripping set of stories about the forces that shape girls and the adults they become. A wise and brilliant guide to transforming the self and our society.
In her powerful new book, critically acclaimed author Melissa Febos examines the narratives women are told about what it means to be female and what it takes to free oneself from them.
When her body began to change at eleven years old, Febos understood immediately that her meaning to other people had changed with it. By her teens, she defined herself based on these perceptions and by the romantic relationships she threw herself into headlong. Over time, Febos increasingly questioned the stories she'd been told about herself and the habits and defenses she'd developed over years of trying to meet others' expectations. The values she and so many other women had learned in girlhood did not prioritize their personal safety, happiness, or freedom, and she set out to reframe those values and beliefs.
Blending investigative reporting, memoir, and scholarship, Febos charts how she and others like her have reimagined relationships and made room for the anger, grief, power, and pleasure women have long been taught to deny.
Written with Febos' characteristic precision, lyricism, and insight, Girlhood is a philosophical treatise, an anthem for women, and a searing study of the transitions into and away from girlhood, toward a chosen self.
Praise for Girlhood:
“Girlhood is an exquisite collection. In lapidary, lucid prose, Melissa Febos dissects the traumas, terrors, and pleasures of the fraught passage from girl to woman. Febos's insight is devastating, the examinations of her world – from the female body, queerness, consent, slut-shaming, and intimacy – are rigorous and compassionate. This is a book for mothers, daughters, and our deepest selves, a true light in the dark.” – Stephanie Danler, author of SWEETBITTER
“In this book, Febos proves herself to be one of the great documenters of the terrible and exquisite depths of girlhood. Here, that terrible and beautiful aeon is dissected, sung over, explored like ancient ruins. These essays are moss and iron-hard and beautiful-and struck through with Febos' signature brilliance and power and grace. An essential, heartbreaking project.” – Carmen Maria Machado
“Melissa Febos is part poet, part theorist, and all writer. In this lyrical, searching, profound, and personal collection, Febos examines childhood, femaleness, and love in its many forms with a sensuous ferocity that is all her own.” – Ariel Levy, author of The Rules Do Not Apply and Female Chauvinist Pigs
“Drawing on personal history, cultural analysis, and investigative reporting, Melissa Febos interrogates the meaning of girlhood, the narratives we've been sold, and the realities of growing up a woman.” – Buzzfeed, most anticipated books of 2021
“Melissa Febos brings lyric and merciless scrutiny to how women are conditioned to accept misogyny as their due. . . By drawing upon cultural materials for her kaleidoscopic investigation, Febos does for girlhood what Maggie Nelson did for pregnancy in The Argonauts.” – The Rumpus
“Melissa Febos just revived me in the most spectacular way. Girlhood blazes through the stories we've been told with a dazzling fury and a brilliant beauty. Whatever we are or were, this is a map to a new becoming. Between the intellect and the body a third term emerges, dissolving binaries and reinventing the space of erotic power and creativity. A fuck-all guide to resilience and reclamation, a breathtaking reimagination of who we might be in spite of what we've been told. Girlhood will bring you back to life.” – Lidia Yuknavitch, author of Verge
Melissa Febos is the author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me, a Lambda Literary Award finalist and Publishing Triangle Award finalist. Her essays have appeared in Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. Febos is the inaugural winner of the Jeanne Córdova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction from Lambda Literary and the recipient of fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, The BAU Institute, The Barbara Deming Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and others. She is an associate professor at The University of Iowa, where she teaches in the Nonfiction Writing Program.
Stephanie Danler is a novelist, memoirist, and screenwriter. She is the author of Stray and the international bestseller Sweetbitter, and is also the creator and executive producer of the Sweetbitter series on Starz. Her work has appeared in the Sewanee Review, Vogue, The New York Times Book Review, and The Paris Review Daily. Her nonfiction received an Honorable Mention in Best American Essays 2018, and her criticism won the 2019 Robert B. Heilman award from the Sewanee Review. She is based in Los Angeles, California.