What I Liked: The diverse range of women’s voices represented in this wonderful collection of stories about first periods.
First Line of First Essay: The chronology: I learn, I cry, I wish, I get, I divulge. (Louise Story, “Oh, Brother, 1993”)
Ms. Bookish’s Very Quick Take: This is the book that I wish someone had given me before I got my first period; it is most certainly one that I will gift the young girls in my life in celebration of the first period. And it’s one that boys and men might find very enlightening.
The Full Review of My Little Red Book
It’s something that happens to half the world’s population, yet it’s often a taboo subject, talked about, if at all, only by women amongst women. It is associated with womanhood, and some have called it The Curse. I am talking, of course, about menstruation, and when I finished reading My Little Red Book, the thought at the top of my mind was that this is truly a book whose time has come.
Editor Rachel Kauder Nalebuff has collected stories of first periods from 92 women – women from all walks of life and a diverse range of cultures – and put them together in this wonderful anthology. It’s such an empowering idea, and I wish that way back when I was about to step into puberty, I’d had this collection of first period stories to read.
One of my favorite stories from this anthology is “Simple as Salt, 1967 and 2008”, in which author Jacquelyn Mitchard compares her own first period experience with her daughter’s experience:
… I told her, “This means your body is getting ready to be a woman, not that you are a woman. When you become a woman is up to you. For now, you can be a happy sixth-grade girl and still love sports and have boys who are friends and wear your ratty jeans and your Toledo Mud Hens tee shirt.”
What a wonderful conversation to have with your daughter! I would have loved to have heard something like that when I was approaching my own first period.
The centerpiece story in this anthology is, of course, Gloria Steinem’s classic “If Men Could Menstruate”.
What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?
The answer is clear – menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event …
The range of stories in this book is very diverse, and the tales come from women of all ages and walks of life. We also hear from women of different cultures, as well, something I enjoyed very much.
This is a book that demystifies the whole first period experience, stripping it of shame and embarrassment, and that in itself is very empowering.
It also made me think of a recent conversation I had with friends of mine. I had mentioned, casually and without much thought (we were playing a sort of “husband appreciation” game), “I love that my husband will buy maxipads if I’m out of them and he’s the one who’s out doing the shopping.” This brought up quite a conversation about men and maxipads and that general level of embarrassment that many men feel about women’s periods. Reading My Little Red Book, it occurs to me that this would probably be a very enlightening book for those men and boys who are able to overcome those weirded out feelings and just sit down and enjoy the glimpses into women’s lives that these stories provide.
Ms. Bookish’s Rating: Wonderful ?
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More about the Author and the Book
Rachel Kauder Nalebuff was initially embarrassed by her first period, but the power of these recollections has rubbed off. She has come to embrace her own story (and has even used it as a conversation starter). Because she talked about periods…let’s just say more than once a month, it was inevitable that she would go down in her high school’s history as “the period girl.” She is absolutely cool with that.
Rachel is on a gap year before heading to Yale. In her free time, she plays guitar, rides/falls off her unicycle, and indulges in late-night pie baking with friends. She is donating all the proceeds of My Little Red Book to women’s health charities so that this book may benefit girls beyond its readers. My Little Red Book is her first published work.
Where to buy:
Title: My Little Red Book
Author: Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
Genre: Nonfiction; Essays