Ophelia Speaks: Adolescent Girls Write About Their Search for Self edited by Sara Shandler. 1999. Inspired by Reviving Ophelia (which I read a few years back), this book tackles issues in young girls’ lives in their own words. It’s strength is it’s main liability. The vignettes are moving and vivid. Real stories from real girls. But often the telling is choppy, redundant, pedantic.
For insight into these girls it is brilliant, but for artful reading, with a number of exceptions, it falls short.
Still. To know so many girls struggle with eating disorders, with rape and incest (Shandler commented at one point that for every submission about rape, she had five about abuse perpetrated by someone within the family), with so much pain ... it’s a wonder any of us survive to adulthood. And it’s no surprise so many of us are so unsure of ourselves even now that we’re “grown up”. I wanted to wrap my arms around these girls, to somehow help them through this most difficult time, to shelter them from horrors they had yet to experience or shake them and urge them off their self-destructive courses. On many, many occasions I broke down and cried, both for them and for myself, having been taken back to my own adolescence and those traumas, some unfinished, that their stories mirrored.
Even with some rough passages, the voice of each girl comes through, wrenchingly so. And despite the occasional redundancy of Shandler’s introductions to each chapter, she did well in selecting the best of the best and leading the reader through these oft-uncharted waters.