When I was fresh out of college and a first year teacher, I was very interested in applying all my knowledge, both practical and book-learned. The paraprofessional who worked with me in my classroom once joked, “When you have kids of your own, you’re going to read every book about raising kids and then find out that they can’t really tell you anything!!” Well, many years later, her words have come true . . . but just partially. With the Central Rappahannock Regional Library, I have access to hundreds of books on child-rearing—all I have to do is place a hold.
Peggy Orenstein has established an entire career around her ability to describe and analyze the ways young women learn, socialize, and advance into adulthood. She even wrote a highly influential book exposing how gender dynamics operate within the American education system (Schoolgirls). When her own daughter became ensnared in “girlie-girl” culture, however, Orenstein was forced to admit that her extensive academic knowledge did not prepare her to negotiate the paradoxes of growing up female in the 21st century. Cinderella Ate My Daughter chronicles Orenstein’s parenting crisis and her subsequent investigation into how femininity is being scripted by marketing, princess mania, and popular culture.
I am a loving (and interfering) mother of a 20-year-old son so I thought I would read What I Wish I Knew When I was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World and pass it on to him. I admit to sending him emails about Erik Erikson’s Stages of Development and what he should be doing as a young adult: intimacy versus isolation (Son, pick the correct side of the equation!) so I thought this book would give him a head’s up.