From Publishers Weekly
Haunted by memories of the way her high school classmates had treated Anna "Wanna" Thomas, the school's designated "slut," former Seattle Stranger editor White decided to investigate the near-universal American myths of the "fast girl" and the actual women behind those myths. She contacted over 150 mostly white women and girls between ages 13 and 55. Typical of them is 25-year-old Madeline, who was rumored in high school to have crabs, AIDS and herpes; had "whore" written in lipstick on her locker; and was beaten up at a party by other girls. White uses the recollections of these women to piece together what she calls the American slut archetype: a girl whose body matures early, who is said to have sex with teams of boys and who is frequently a victim of childhood sexual abuse. White often and sometimes gratuitously cites Foucault, de Beauvoir, Jung, Elaine Showalter and other scholars as she examines why these labels are ever present in the adolescent social universe, and what they reveal about Americans' conflicted attitudes toward female sexuality. Though her tone is accessible to general readers, White's book is a bit more academic than recent titles on similar subjects, such as Leora Tanenbaum's Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation and Naomi Wolf's Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood. The stories of White's interviewees paint a textured, harrowing picture of high school life, and readers will wish she had devoted more space to these powerful testimonies and less to the broader cultural analysis. Agent, Bill Clegg.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
These are both excellent sociological studies about girls, women, and sexuality. In The Secret Lives of Girls, Lamb (psychology, St. Michael's Coll.) explores the idea (the myth?) of the "good girl." Many girls and young women, she attests, lead double lives, acting sweet and well behaved in public but sexual and aggressive and guilt-ridden in private. Using more than 125 interviews with girls and women of all races in 25 states, Lamb compellingly argues that girls are neither inherently "good" nor the passive victims whom some psychologists (e.g., Mary Pipher) have made them out to be. Teens and women often conceal their sexual desire and hunger for power via diaries and other secret means. Yet as little girls, they played healthy sexual games like catch-and-kiss and naked Barbies (though that finding pertains only to white America; Lamb found that African American girls rarely play sexual games with one other). Girls feel powerful (translation: good!) when they engage in mischief, swear, and successfully dominate siblings. Aside from revealing a misconception, this intriguing and significant book includes two chapters for parents, "Raising Sexual Girls" and "Raising Aggressive Girls." Highly recommended for social science and child-rearing collections. White, a freelance writer, reports on the high school slut. Who is she? Why is she so universal? What happens to her ten or 20 years after high school? White finds that girls seen as sluts always disagree with what the crowd claims they did, that the "slut" flourishes in a suburban landscape, and that, like anorexics, sluts are usually white. White's perspective is different from Naomi Wolf's in Promiscuities; Wolf concluded that "we" are all sluts, all "bad" girls, and that it's OK. Not so, says White. A deep chasm exists between "good" girls and girls perceived as sluts; it's "us" vs. "them," with girls as girls' worst enemies. While Wolf intertwined personal narrative with cultural history, White bases her conclusions on over 100 interviews with white, black, Latino, and Asian women with solid results. An excerpt of Fast Girls appeared in the New York Times Magazine; for social science collections. Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, PA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.