From Publishers Weekly
This absorbing ethnography acts as one subculture's corrective to Reviving Ophelia, in that it offers a refreshing portrait of adolescent girls who are far from insecure. In this refreshing portrayal of girls who are far from insecure, Levine presents a contrasting path to that of mainstream adolescent girls. While a graduate student in American studies at Harvard, Levine spent a year living as a "participant observer" in the Lubavitcher community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, entering with the following assumption: "The possibility that these girls' lives could be anything other than the Platonic essence of feminine subjugation seemed as unlikely as a suckling pig on a Shabbos table." What she found instead is that Lubavitch culture nurtures most girls' inner and outer voices. Though they are not immune from adolescent concerns about fashion, weight, looks and cliques, the Lubavitch emphasis on each person's godly mission to bring the Messiah deepens their spiritual outlook; the single-sex environment in which they mature helps develop vibrant, expressive personalities. Those who clash with Orthodox strictures, however, experience intense and painful struggles. From interviews with 32 girls ages 13 to 23, Levine found "downright juicy" material and culled seven portraits of girls (disguised in name and background) in their "idiosyncratic splendor." The essays are sometimes repetitive within the context of the entire book, as if Levine wrote each to stand on its own, but her bright, lively narrative compensates. Levine invites readers to share the "pure delight" of knowing these girls, and challenges us to draw on Hasidism as an unexpected source in helping our own girls develop into secure, confident adults.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers presents a comprehensive snapshot of women's experience in Crown Heights . . . Levine's personal response to the Lubavitcher way of life weaves itself into each chapter and is one of the book's most engaging aspects."
-Eric Caplan,CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly
"Stephanie Levine's book is full of surprises."
"In an age that is at times overly concerned with girls' self-destruction, here is a welcome sign of girls' strength and healthy development. Levine teaches an important and seldom taught lesson: we may find resilience where we least expect it. Her unprecedented insight into this hidden culture is an important addition to the growing body of work on girls.”
-Rachel Simmons,author of Odd Girl Out
"In an era seemingly plagued with sex, anorexia and depression among our nation's girls, a page from Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers is a refreshing peek into the possibilities for growth, strength and self."
-The Jewish New Weekly of Northern California
"Lively tales of girls who long for the lives of male scholars, and rebels who visit strip clubs, smoke pot, and dream of high-powered careers."
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