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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

National Book Critics Circle Award Winner, National Bestseller, Lambda Literary Award Finalist Melissa Febos talks about her critically-acclaimed, award-winning book, Girlhood







ABOUT MELISSA 
Melissa Febos is the author of the memoir Whip Smart, the essay collection, Abandon Me, and a craft book, Body Work. She is the inaugural winner of the Jeanne Córdova Nonfiction Award from LAMBDA Literary and the recipient of fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, MacDowell, Bread Loaf, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, The BAU Institute, Vermont Studio Center, The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and others. Her essays have appeared in The Paris Review, The Believer, McSweeney’s Quarterly, Granta, Sewanee Review, Tin House, The Sun, and The New York Times. She is an associate professor at the University of Iowa, where she teaches in the Nonfiction Writing Program.

Praise for Girlhood
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post * Kirkus Reviews * TIME * NPR * Washington Independent Review of Books * The Millions * Electric Literature * Ms Magazine * Entropy Magazine * Largehearted Boy * Passerbuys


“Febos’s own voice is so irreverent and original. The aim of this book, though, is not simply to tell about her own life, but to listen to the pulses of many others’. In her author’s note, Febos writes that she has ‘found company in the stories of other women, and the revelation of all our ordinariness has itself been curative.’ This solidarity puts Girlhood in a feminist canon that includes Febos’s idol, Adrienne Rich, and Maggie Nelson’s theory-minded masterpieces: smart, radical company, and not ordinary at all.” —New York Times Book Review


“Anyone who has ever been a girl or a woman will recognize the patterns Febos uncovers: the unwanted touch, the expectations of our bodies, the way we become complicit in the traps laid out for us along the way by the patriarchal structures that govern so many of our social, professional, and interpersonal spheres . . . By following Febos' distinct paths between the past and present, we might realize there's room to forge our own, and that we've just been handed a flashlight that helps illuminate the way.” —NPR, “Books We Love”


“Febos is an intoxicating writer, but I found myself most grateful for the vivid clarity of her thinking . . . disquisitive and catalytic--it doesn’t demand change so much as expose certain injustices so starkly that you might feel you cannot abide them another minute . . . I never once needed trigonometry and I couldn’t find Catullus in a crossword these days, but Febos’ education is a kind I surely could have used.” —The Atlantic


“Febos combines personal, cultural, investigative, and scholarly passages to ferociously dissect the lessons that shaped her, and the result is a book that fills the educational void she’d noticed . . . A guide for women to redefine themselves.” —Boston Globe


“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, author of Her Body and Other Parties and In the Dreamhouse



“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. . . This is a book for mothers, daughters, and our deepest selves, a true light in the dark.”
—Stephanie Danler, author of Sweetbitter and Stray



“Girlhood is a must-read hybrid text for women looking to define themselves from the inside.”
—Melissa Broder, author of So Sad Today and The Pisces


Melissa Febos critically-acclaimed, Girlhood, examined the narratives women are told about what it means to be female and what it takes to free oneself from them. 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.


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 the expectations of others. 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.

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.