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Jun 12

Growing up Girl: 5 Coming-of-Age Stories of Resilient Women by Genesis Gaule

Posted on June 12, 2020 at 11:28 AM by Genesis Gaule

5 book covers: the language of flowers, educated, the horizontal world, Persepolis, the secret life

The Language of Flowers
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh (2011)
Format(s) Available: Book, ebook (coming soon)
Genre: Fiction
Topics: adoption, foster care, emancipation, homelessness, single motherhood, attachment disorder, broken childhood, mothers & daughters, romance, found family

“If it was true that moss did not have roots, and maternal love could grow spontaneously, as if from nothing, perhaps I had been wrong to believe myself unfit to raise my daughter. Perhaps the unattached, the unwanted, the unloved, could grow to give love as lushly as anyone else.” 

Throughout her childhood, Victoria bounced from foster home to foster home—becoming more self-protective, distant, and bitter with each failed placement. Struggling with self-destructive behavior and her fear of abandonment, Victoria believes she’s too damaged to love and be loved in return. That is until she is placed with Elizabeth who feeds her fascination of flowers, their meanings, and her longing for a real family. After Victoria’s plan for permanency goes wrong, her hopes are dashed and she finds herself alone again, eventually aging out of the system at age 18. Can a serendipitous reunion reroot that hope? 

Through her first-hand experience of the foster care system and her love of Victorian floral symbology, Diffenbaugh creates a wonderful and heartbreaking portrait of a young girl learning about connection, forgiveness, and the meaning of family.

Educated: a memoir
Author: Tara Westover (2018) 
Format(s) Available: Book, ebook
Genre: Memoir / Autobiographical
Topics: US rural Idaho 1990s/2000s, family dynamics, fathers & daughters, mothers & daughters, fundamentalist Mormonism, survivalist lifestyle, child abuse, domestic abuse, grief and loss, education system, self-invention

“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.” 

Stories—and the perspective from which they are told—impact the way we see the world and ourselves. Tara’s story starts in the mountains of Idaho being raised by survivalist parents who distrust the US Government, Western medicine, and the public education system. At 17, she steps foot in her first school classroom. Her world expands physically and psychologically through her quest for knowledge, but will it be at the cost of her childhood family?

Throughout her memoir, Westover struggles with the dichotomy of her upbringing and her true self as well as the complex relationships between her and her family. It’s a harrowing, yet hopeful, examination of perseverance and the power of education. 

The Horizontal World : Growing up wild in the middle of nowhere
Author: Debra Marquart (2006)
Format(s) Available: Book
Genre: Memoir / Autobiographical
US rural North Dakota 1980s, farm life, family history, fathers & daughters, reconciliation, wanderlust, self-discovery

“We children of North Dakota are programmed for light. We populate the cities of the country, living as expatriate small-town midwesterners. [...] When grown, we scattered in a kind of diaspora, a phenomenon known as ‘out migration.’ But we always feel the pull of home. [...] And no matter how far that uncompromising land we drift, a long sinewy taproot summons us, always home.” 

Why is it so hard to go home again? From a very early age, Debra Marquart--the youngest and wildest of five children--knew she wanted out of the confines of her life on the family farm in North Dakota. Yet, returning home after years away for her father’s funeral, Marquart finds herself discovering a newfound respect for her father and her connection to the land she was so desperate to escape. Chronicling her rebellious adolescent life on the farm and subsequent exodus, Marquart’s wry understated memoir will resonate with anyone who has spread their wings but still calls the Midwest “home.”

Persepolis: The Story of Childhood
Author: Marjane Satrapi (2000)
Format(s) Available: Graphic Novel
Genre: Memoir / Autobiographical
Topics: Iran 1980s, family dynamics, cultural revolution, rebellion, childhood trauma (war-torn context), effects of war, political ideologies, vi
olence, death, torture

I really didn't know what to think about the veil. Deep down I was very religious but as a family

Marjane Satrapi is 10 years old when the 1979 Islamic Revolution breaks her world apart. Depicting her life in Tehran from ages 6 to 14, Satrapi offers a poignant look into the disturbing cruelty of war and how her family’s love holds her world together through it all. Persepolis tackles heavy topics--such as trauma, death, and political violence--through a child’s perspective. We see through her eyes as she wrestles with, and rebels against, religious extremism and its impact on her day-to-day life.

Told in powerful, simplistic black-and-white panels, Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in 1980s Iran: the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life and the enormous toll repressive regimes exact on the individual spirit. Not for the faint of heart, it is intensely personal and deeply moving. If you enjoyed Art Spiegelman's Maus, you’ll be captivated by Persepolis.

The Secret Life of Bees : a novel
Author: Sue Monk Kidd (2002)
Format(s) Available: Bookebook (coming soon)

Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction
Topics: US South Carolina 1960s, racism, anti-black violence, Civil Rights, mothers & daughters, child abuse, found family, loss, budding romance

“Knowing can be a curse on a person's life. I'd traded in a pack of lies for a pack of truth, and I didn't know which one was heavier. Which one took the most strength to carry around? It was a ridiculous question, though, because once you know the truth, you can't ever go back and pick up your suitcase of lies. Heavier or not, the truth is yours now.” 

Fourteen-year-old Lily Owens has spent much of her young life longing for her mother and for answers regarding her death 10 years prior. After her stand-in-mother Rosaleen--a fierce-hearted African American woman--is attacked by the three worst racists in town and thrown into jail, Lily vows to free Rosaleen and escape her abusive father. Together they flee to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds a mysterious connection to her late mother. There, they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters and Lily finds refuge in their mesmerizing world of bees, honey, and the Black Madonna. A book club favorite, The Secret of Bees explores race, love, the female spirit, and the idea of home in turbulent times.


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