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Big Girl Small: A Novel Hardcover – May 10, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“The voice of Judy Lohden will ring in my head for weeks to come. A first page so funny and fierce I read it aloud to my teenagers—in public. Judy stuffs Holden Caulfield right back into his dusty museum case and shows us the rawness and the dark humor of today’s coming-of-age experience. Judy Lohden speaks for all young people facing the unspeakable ignorance of others. Yet Rachel DeWoskin handles the story with the sensitivity of a scalpel and a humor that leaves the reader howling. I was delighted and moved.” —Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Big Girl Small is the most engaging novel I’ve read in many years. DeWoskin has aimed the book at all the pleasure centers: it’s sad, funny, quirkily suspenseful, and—most of all—beautiful. I can’t imagine a more satisfying read. A book for anyone, anywhere, who’s ever felt alien or different. That is, a book for everyone.” —Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng and More Than It Hurts You

“I loved reading Big Girl Small as much as I loved watching The Breakfast Club for the first time. Is Rachel DeWoskin our new John Hughes?” —Isabel Gillies, author of Happens Every Day

“This is what Rachel Dewoskin wants to know: how do you go on living in a world that exalts creativity yet stifles difference? DeWoskin describes exactly what high school kids are like: the smart ones, and the sensitive ones, and the okay ones, and the happy ones, and the fake ones, and the twisty artists, and the true talents, and in the middle of it all, her exuberant creation Judy Lohden—a stellar phenomenon growing like a poppy towards the sun. Witty, intuitive, and moving, Big Girl Small examines the crucial moment when we either listen to what the world says and stay small, or dare to sing out at the top of our lungs.” —Nicola Keegan, author of Swimming

“DeWoskin deftly captures the often vicious dynamics of adolescents, which mask their fragility, and creates in Judy an unforgettable character, one who is, by turns, sardonic and heartbreakingly vulnerable.” Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist (starred review)

“DeWoskin’s daring third book takes on sexual politics, physical beauty, pity, and violence, and succeeds in giving readers a nuanced and provocative treatment without descending into pedantics or hysteria . . . It’s a rare author who is willing to subject her protagonist to the extreme ranges of degradation and redemption to which DeWoskin subjects Judy; thankfully, she manages it beautifully.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“DeWoskin creates a compelling voice for Judy and performs neat literary magic, confronting the stereotypes of teen fiction even as she uses them to pull the readers’ heartstrings.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The wisecracking 16-year-old dwarf at the center of DeWoskin’s darkly comic coming-of-age novel narrates a thoroughly modern tale of humiliation and resilience ... DeWoskin gives us an irresistible heroine—one who rises above misfortune with grit and grace.” —Marion Winik, More
“As if adolescence isn’t freaky enough, the charmingly sassy teen dwarf in Rachel DeWoskin’s Big Girl Small becomes the victim of a cruel and compromising prank.” —Vanity Fair
“This wonderfully engaging novel captures the way adolescence renders one’s own identity somehow unknowable, perhaps because ‘we contain various versions of ourselves,’ and high school is the time of maximum pressure to choose just one.” —Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe
“It’s worth the read to spend nine days with Judy as she hides out in the Manor Motel and reflects upon her life and events that propelled her into hiding and finds her way back into life, a little older and much wiser. The layering in of what it feels like to be seen as disabled gives an old story line new depth. Sure to appeal to fans of coming-of-age fiction and readers who enjoyed DeWoskin’s acclaimed memoir, Foreign Babes in Beijing, and her debut novel, Repeat After Me.” —Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC, Library Journal

About the Author

Rachel DeWoskin is the author of Foreign Babes in Beijing, a memoir about her inadvertent notoriety as the star of a Chinese soap opera, and a novel, Repeat After Me. She lives in New York City and Beijing and is at work on her fourth book, Statutory.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (May 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374112576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374112578
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,244,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rachel spent her twenties in China as a consultant, writer, and the unlikely star of a nighttime soap opera called "Foreign Babes in Beijing." Her memoir of those years, Foreign Babes in Beijing, has been published in six countries and is being developed as a television series by HBO. Her novel Repeat After Me, about a young American ESL teacher, a troubled Chinese radical, and their unexpected New York romance, won a Foreward Magazine Book of the Year award. Her third book, the novel Big Girl Small, is forthcoming from FSG in 2011. Rachel has a BA in English from Columbia and an MFA in poetry from Boston University. Rachel divides her time between NYC, Chicago, and Beijing with her husband, playwright Zayd Dohrn, and their two little girls.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Carter's Mom VINE VOICE on March 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Judy Lohden is your average teenager in so many ways: insecure, wishes she could be more popular, embarrassed by her parents, etc. But, she is only three feet tall and has a singing voice that astounds everyone. The story takes place in Judy's junior year of high school; her first year at D'Arcy High, a high caliber performing arts school. The author weaves between past and present effortlessly. All of the characters in the story have depth and their own stories. We follow Judy's arrival at D'Arcy and the subsequent event that may alter her life forever. At times, I wanted the author to reveal the cause of Judy's pain much earlier in the book. However, upon completion of the novel -- it all made perfect sense. I thought the author pegged the teenage angst perfectly. This is one of those stories where I have been thinking of the characters long after I put the book down. Interestingly, the parents are not protrayed as enemies and most of the teens also reveal themselves as complex, multidimensional characters. I don't want to give away the "event" that changes Judy's life, but I can say that this book would give book clubs much to talk about. Not only in discussing the characters, their motivation, and their actions/reactions, but in relation to current events and today's family values. Great writing, great editing, and a story that will haunt you afterward!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Gail Handley on May 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
My biggest problem in writing this review is I want to give Big Girl Small 6 stars. That is how compelling this new novel is. It is a brilliant novel, completely innovative, enchanting, and beautifully crafted. I was already a fan of Rachel DeWoskin after reading Repeat After Me, and I was eager to get my copy of Big Girl Small, so I came to it with big expectations.

The protagonist, Judy Lohden, is small in height, less than four feet tall, but big in talent, ambition, smarts, and wit. The narrative is her autobiography, and it displays all that is big about her. She recounts her journey, her first year at Darcy High, a performing arts high school in Ann Arbor Michigan. Born into a family of average height, we learn of the pride and courage with which she had faced life and led her to apply to Darcy High. That is her big gamble at being mainstream. She takes the stage and performs before an audience, not as a Wizard of Oz munchkin, but as a regular, talented high school girl. Her stage performance is a smash hit.

Judy triumphs over the challenges she expected at Darcy. But there are challenges she does not expect, a performance she does not intend, and Judy descends into a dark night she could never have imagined. Without a touch of mawkish sentimentality, but with the same encompassing tolerance and the same powerful storyteller's touch displayed in Repeat after Me, DeWoskin takes us along on that journey, through Judy's eye's, Judy's wit, Judy's insight, and Judy's 3'9" perspective.

It goes without saying I could not put the book down, and I will read it again.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Jones on May 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We all remember high school days, and the simultaneously exhilarating and excruciating roller coaster of emotions in those years. Looking back, the feelings of those days remain at least as vivid as any in our later years: the love, the fear, the self-doubt, the hope. Those early years shape our lives, yet so much of that time is buried and forgotten in our experiences as fully grown adults. Our senses are dulled with everyday cares, partners, realism and all the yucky perspectives that make up adulthood.
And it is very seldom that a work of fiction can so fully awaken adolescence as does Big Girl Small. Judy Lohden is an everywoman/everygirl teenager, but with fears of loneliness, unreturned love, self-doubt, self-consciousness raised to an art form by DeWoskin's central conceit: Lohden is a dwarf, a girl small in stature but big in every other way that counts.
Big Girl Small is a first-person narrative throughout, the voice of Judy Lohden. This is an extraordinary accomplishment by the writer - the voice rings true, is unique, is vivid and alive. Yet it comes from a person with a context and set of experiences few of us share. What we do share are the emotions. good and bad decisions, ambition and diffidence of Lohden. It is a voice both mature and distant, with a wry and ironic humor and self-mockery throughout, that place the central character's hopes and disastrous choices in context. Yet also a voice with the naivete and hope of youth. Lohden is a great character, a small, female Caulfield at play in a Midwest high school. You will be very glad to have met her.
deWoskin's two earlier books also make great summer reads: Foreign Babes in Beijing is a story of a young American woman living in China before the expatriate and investment invasions.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Eric Selby on May 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Judy Lohden, our narrator, is a sixteen-year-old dwarf who has the most wonderful parents, owners of a down-home-type restaurant in Ann Arbor, a restaurant they had named after their daughter. Judy has two brothers, one older, Chad, and one younger, Sam. She is the only dwarf in the family. And she is highly talented, both as a writer--she establishes herself well as a believable narrator--and a performer in an all-arts high school.
For a while, but not for long, I thought I was going to be entering the life of a "Glee"-type school, that Judy Lohden would be like one of those cast members on the popular sitcom.
Judy has a couple of girl friends--as opposed to girlfriends (she's straight) who play an important role in this novel. One is Goth Sarah. The other Molly.
And then there is drop-dead handsome Kyle, fairly new at the school as is Judy. And for a while we are led to believe that her infatuation with Kyle will lead to nothing.
But then...
Oh my...
I just want to tell all.
But I won't.
Except to say this: if you are like me you will not be able to put this novel down once you get halfway through. But I will bite my tongue. say this: we live in the age of YouTube! And this novel will make us only too aware of the downside of an era in which...
Nope. I'm biting it!
This is one of the most believable books I have read from the point of view of a teenager although I suspect many parents would not want their sixteen-year-olds reading it.
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