#WomenReadWomen2019 Books Genre Lifespan of a Reader Nonfiction Reading Themes Sisterhood and Female Bonds Young Adult (YA) Literature

[Saturday Reads] Because I Was A Girl…

A collection of essays about womanhood edited by Melissa De La Cruz.

SaturdayReads

Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.


I meant to share this title for our previous reading theme, but I thought that it also can be a good fit for our sisterhood theme, especially as this book consists of a tribe of women whose voices are gathered together in this collection to convey a resounding message of empowerment to young girls everywhere.


Because I Was A Girl: True Stories For Girls Of All Ages

Edited by Melissa De La Cruz
Published by Henry Holt & Co. (2017). ISBN: 1250154464 (ISBN13: 9781250154460). Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This book gathers together the voices of American women of various ages divided across nine time periods from the 1920s-1930s until the 2010s. The book begins quite powerfully with a moving essay from Dolores Huerta, who spoke about her pathway to activism and community organizing.

I appreciated how most of the women included in this essay are respected and renowned in their fields, but may not necessarily be famous around the world. It was refreshing to read essays from women that I initially did not know about, but became essentially part of my tribe after reading this collection of essays about the impact of what it’s like being a girl.

However, I did feel that the book would have been better packaged had there been an Editor’s Introduction providing some background as to how the women in this collection were selected: did she have a particular criteria, or was it convenience sampling? I can not help but read like a researcher, on occasion. Moreover, it was not clear how the women were grouped together across decades: were they born during that period, or did their work become known during that time?

All of these issues notwithstanding, I resonated with most of the essays written here: they were heartfelt, encouraging, and felt real. I connected somewhat viscerally with a number of experiences, particularly those concerning women of colour who had to struggle against unwitting racial bias and the unspoken and implicit assumptions tied to one’s ethnicity or country of birth. While all the women in this collection, as far as I can tell, are Americans – quite a number are immigrants. The editor, for instance, happens to be Filipino American – and grew up in Manila – but this, surprisingly, did not figure at all in her essay, which I did wonder about.

I especially appreciated Tillie Walden’s graphic essay, very true to form, given her being a comic book artist. While most of the essays spoke to me deeply, the others felt undeveloped – like they did not really know what the essay prompt had been, resulting to an uneven-ness in the general theme of the entire book. The last few contributions, while empowering perhaps to younger readers, did not really feel like they belonged in the entire narrative. Once again, this is where an Afterword or an Introduction would have helped for the Editor to provide some information about what she hoped to achieve through this anthology.

The essays also spoke about the bonds of sisterhood; and the presence of a coven of women who helped these successful women achieve their goals, who mentored them patiently, and stepped up when support was integral to their success. A clear example of this would be the story of Susan Morrison who was elected to the episcopacy in 1988 and served as a bishop.

One of the flashes of memory of those most unusual hours, the image of the five of us around the table in the college snack bar comes to me. A model of sisterhood… a symbol of female community.. of dreams tempered with reality… unselfish goals.. gifts shared… bonds of respect. Truly it is a vision of what I continue to hope the larger faith community can be.

I hope this book finds you too. Some essays have teeth, others provide blessing, while a few provide the discordant notes of rock and roll. Yet, through it all, the bonds of sisterhood and being part of a tribe of girls prevail.


#WomenReadWomen2019: United States of America

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Singapore. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she serves as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads or meeting up with her book club friends, she is smashing that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life.

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