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Ophelia Speaks: Adolescent Girls Write About Their Search for Self Paperback – May 5, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Ophelia Speaks by Sara Shandler is a clever response to Mary Pipher's bestselling Reviving Ophelia. Shandler reveals telling portraits of teenage girls in this book, a compilation of essays, poems, and true-grit commentary from a cross section of teenage girls (or Ophelias), throughout the country. The book succeeds because it gives voice to their deepest concerns and their too-often frenzied lives. Because she's a college student, Shandler considers herself a peer of these adolescent girls, able to tap into their collective consciousness.

Shandler is as determined as she is a sharp reporter in chronicling the lives of these young women. To research the book, she sent out a mass mailing of 7,000 letters to high school and junior high school principals, counselors, and teachers explaining her book project and urging them to encourage teenage girls to contribute.

The topics covered run the gamut, but they include parental expectations, racial relations, and faith, among others. Sadly, eating disorders are an all-too-popular topic. The good news is that Shandler's contributors offer up some real insight for their peers. In one essay titled "Food Is Not My Enemy," Elizabeth Fales "calls us to a new feminism. In the old feminism, our mothers fought for the right to choose abortion. In our generation, we must fight for the right to eat."

The book also gives practical insight for parents who may find it hard to relate to their teenage daughters. In a nutshell, it appears that adolescent girls want unconditional love from parents who can be confidants without being overly critical. --Peg Melnick

From Publishers Weekly

Inspired by Mary Pipher's 1994 bestseller Reviving Ophelia, which shed new light on the problems of contemporary female adolescence, Shandler, currently an undergraduate at Wesleyan University, set out to give voice to the real Ophelias, America's teenaged girlsAherself included. Just 16 years old when she started this project, Shandler enlisted the help of hundreds of educators, counselors, pastors and administrators to find other girls who wanted to write about the issues most important to them. Ranging from problems with body image and self-mutilation to difficult relationships with parents and other family members, to intense academic pressures, the book is organized by subject and includes entries from dozens of girls across the country. We see girls in distant communities facing similar struggles as they attempt to navigate the pressured and competitive world of adolescence. Judging from the hundreds of contributions Shandler received, the issues these girls raise are weighty ones that our whole society needs be concerned about. Many of the girls write in an intensely personal style, but their concerns should not be written off as diary angst. Shandler has done an admirable job of shaping the disparate pieces into a disturbing mosaic that reveals the seriousness of teenage problems.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (May 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060952970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060952976
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Jed Davis on December 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Ophelia Speaks is a literary response to Mary Pipher's bestselling and sometimes controversial work Reviving Ophelia which was published in 1994. In this book psychologist Pipher, who works closely with adolescent girls, documented what she thought were the key issues and struggles for teenage females growing up in America. She did this through cases studies and careful analysis. Author Sara Shandler, a high school student at the time, took it upon herself to recruit girls from all over the United States to write about all aspects of being young and female. She was not opposed to Mary Pipher's work. In fact, it spoke to her positively in many ways. She just thought it would be a good idea for girls to speak for themselves. The result is Ophelia Speaks, a collection of essays on a variety of topics that girls chose to write, friends, diseases, sexuality, death, depression, religion and others. The book is excellent in two regards. First, the stories often take you deep into the heart and mind of adolescent girls. You are struck by how insightful and analytical theses girls are, then thrown back by how fragile and complex their feelings are. The stories, picked by Sara Shandler, are well-written and sincere although a few of them were written in the abstract and therefore lacked the clarity to fully understand the issue at hand. The second part of the book I found to be outstanding were the introductions to each topic. These were written by Sara Shandler herself. They gave perspective on the topic in question and introduced each contribution by giving the reader a taste of what was in store. She also adds a little of her own experience so you get to know her a bit. My life revolves around coaching teenage girls in basketball. I also coach young girls in basketball.Read more ›
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By L. Arm on September 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
I picked this book off a list for a college class on Women's studies. I dreaded the fact that I had to finish an 300 page book in less than a week for an assignment. But once I began reading this book, I couldn't stop. I could identify with each and every chapter..if not from my own experience, then from experiences of my peers and friends. I read reviews from people that said it was awful because it shows only the dark side to teenage life. Well, that is the point of this help teenage girls deal with the dark side, and to help them realize they are not alone in their problems. If this book had stories about girls with perfect teenage lives, it just would not have been the same. I would recommend that every parent buy this for their teenage girl...and that every teenage girl buys this for their parents. It is a book that will provide a better understanding between parents and children, because parents will realize that girls today have just as many problems as they probably had when they were our age, and that their children are not alone.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
When I read some of these reviews they really upset me, especially when I saw most of them were by adults. When adults give such a horrible reviews to such a wonderful book, it only backs up the saying from Will Smith's song: Parents Just DON'T Understand! Any teenager who has expierenced the pressures of high school whether it be tempted to have sex or do drugs, or just the pressures of trying to have a social life and still keep up your grades.
I got this book for my 14th birthday and left it in the bag for a few days, but then on a boring summer day when I had nothing else to do I picked up the book and started reading. I couldn't put it down! I fell in love with this book. It was such a relief to know there are girls out there going through the same things I am, things that other people might not even know about. Things only teenage girls will understand.
After reading the book and gave it to my friends to read. My best friend called me after reading it, in tears, because the book was so real to her. There are parts in there that are hard to read, especialy if you haven't expierenced it, but you should read it anyway, to try to understand fellow girls.
Ophelia Speaks is such a wonderful book, a great gift for any teenage girl. When I see the 1 star reviews of the book, I feel hurt because you're saying that they thoughts and feelings of these girls aren't real, but they're very real to me and all my friends. And probably to every teenage girl across the country. So even if you're a parent, try to understand and buy this book for the teenage girl you love. They will thank you.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Jenn on May 31, 2002
Format: Paperback
Sara Shandler was in high school when she read Dr. Pipher's book, Reviving Ophelia. She found the book a link between her self and her sisters, other teen girls. It was a message to let her know that she wasn't alone. Sara felt, however, that Dr. Pipher's book was still too clinical, too adult and removed from the actual struggles of modern life for young women. At a young age, she decided to write, or at least edit, another book, allowing girls to speak for themselves.

What Ms. Shandler created was a collection of essays, submitted by middle school, high school and college age girls all over the country, from all areas, races, and social strata. The essays range over such subjects as physical appearance, eating disorders, parents, rape and molestation, sexuality, friends, feminism, school, and religion.
Though the voices Ms. Shandler presents here are candid and outspoken, Ophelia Speaks, nonetheless, manages to present a more hopeful outlook on the lives and futures of young females in America today. The problems are real, but the hearts and minds are strong, not fragile or weak. The hardships are mostly spoken of matter-of-factly, from the pens of the girls who have all ready adapted to difficult circumstances. Rather than promoting change in society, Sara Shandler sends her book out as a letter to all adolescent girls, simply to let them know they are not alone. The only thing that this book asks for in return is that the reader listen without judgement, to the young females in America who simply want to be heard and understood.
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