Sunday, March 8, 2009

My Little Red Book


My Little Red Book
by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
240 Pages
Non-fiction, Self-Help, Women's Issues

My Little Red Book written by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff is a conglomerate memoir of that sacred experience, which is a woman's first period. This splendid little anthology begins with the story of the editor getting her first period while on water skis in a bright yellow bathing suit, and moves from there to woman after woman, mothers and daughters, grandmas and aunts sharing their horrors, their joys and their stories of shame.

There is an account of a mother telling her daughter how amazing and symbolic this event is in their lives as African American women, she tells of how in the days of their great-grandmothers the beginning of menstruation marked a change from a girl to a woman. That day was feared as it meant that her slave value went up and therefore many times she would be sold away from her family to benefit the slave owner. I just couldn't shake that account, still can't.

Even now so many girls look upon the day of their first period with apprehension, fear, guilt, and shame however I find that this book is pioneer to change that. It is no Judy Blume and I thank God that it isn't as women are tired of learning about belted pads, which are so not happening anymore. The author wants this book to be more than just a collection of women telling their stories, but a breakthrough, a change in the way first periods (and periods in general) are perceived, and everyone's attitudes towards them.

On of my favourite stories in My Little Red Book is an essay by Gloria Steinem called "If Men Could Menstruate" (p. 114) it is over-the-top-funny and I just had to agree (not to her extreme, but still) if men did menstruate it would be a test of manhood, a time of the month filled with pride and glorification. What is wrong with us women!?! Not that periods are great, they really aren't that fun but we should see them as what they are, an amazing ability that we have to monthly remember our common bonds of womanhood, and well, that we have the god-given ability to pro-create!

I really enjoyed this book, it is a great resource to share with your daughter, I can't say that I would let her read every story (if she were my 12 year-old) as there is mature content in a couple of the stories, but it would be great to read through it together. My Little Red Book gets my full recommendation, it is spectacular in that it captures all the angles of a girl becoming a woman.

Personally though reading through this I feel slighted . No, it isn't anything wrong with the book, it is that I cannot remember really anything about my first period. I don't think it was that monumental, I wasn't apprehensive and I wasn't scared that I was dying. I don't remember it at all. I kept thinking throughout the book (and still) that there would be something to trigger my memory in one of the stories, I didn't find it. I can't even remember how old I was. I know I was around 12 or so, maybe almost 13 but that is a guess. My friends have told me of amazing dinners they go out to with their mothers, get their hair and nails done, get all fancied up and have a celebration of womanhood where they learn the importance of what is happening and how to handle it, and how to not be ashamed of who they are as women. That didn't happen for me, I bit my nails so getting them done was out, and I didn't like anyone messing with my hair or wearing fancy dresses, still I would have liked some sort of adapted version of that. If I have daughters, I will figure out what they would enjoy and we will have that celebration!

Because the point of the book is to open women up to talk about their experiences, let's do it. If you are a women, what do you remember about this grand event which was your first period? Would you have wished your mom to make a bigger deal about it? Did she even know when you started?

Here are the other stops on the blog tour:
At Home With Books
She Reads and Reads


Sarah said...

This one has been high n my TBR list for a while!

bermudaonion said...

This does sound like a great book for a mother and daughter to read together.

Ti said...

I'll play. Mine happened after I fell off a wall while wearing roller skates. I was convinced that I scarred myself for life. My mom never told me about the birds and the bees so I was absolutely convinced that I was dying until a friend told me what it was all about.

I need to get this book so that I am prepared when my little one hits the magic age.

Alyce said...

Great review! My experience was uneventful too. I was at home and knew what was going on. We didn't celebrate or anything, it was just like any other day.

Regarding your question to me: I remember getting an email about this blog tour that some sites were going to be posting their reviews and giveaways on different days.

Ali said...

I was lucky: my mom listened to me complaining about my inexplicably sore back and hazarded a guess that I was about to get my first period. Half an hour later, all I had to say was, "You were right!"

I'll be interviewing one of the authors of one story in the anthology next week for my stop on the tour. Can't wait!

Heather said...

Fascinating concept for a book. Mine was pretty uneventful too. I was at home, and I told my mom and I just remember feeling a little amazed that it had actually happened to me (I was 14 or 15). But a friend of mine started our first day of high school and she was wearing white shorts and obviously didn't know that she had started. I didn't know her yet then, just saw her in the hall on the way to class, but man did I feel bad for her!

Elizabeth said...

My mom was out of town for some reason, so I kinda had to figure it out for myself. When she got back home, she realized what was going on, and told me how sorry she was for not being there for me.

Anonymous said...

This looks like a great read!

My mom was working full-time when I got my first period. Having done a very thorough job of giving me "the talk," she wanted me to be prepared, so she bought a little box of pads and wrapped them up in a cute bag and put them on a top shelf in my closet, so I'd have them if she wasn't at home when I started. I was getting ready for school one morning and noticed it when I went to the bathroom. I knew exactly what it was and what to do, and since she'd given me my just-in-case pads several months prior, I knew what to expect because (being curious) I had tried them out a few times just to see.

Since I knew what was going on and had the products I needed, I never felt stressed or scared, and I've always been grateful that my mom really believed that knowledge and preparation are power.

Jeane said...

I was at school when mine first happened. I wasn't expecting it- although I knew what happened- and had to go to the school office to use a phone and call home, so my mom could bring me clean clothes and things. I was so embarrassed!