Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices
I was so excited when I came across the opportunity to review Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices by Masuma Ahuja.
I have always been really involved in community service that supports children, and as someone who remembers her teen years as a roller coaster of emotions, I wish I had found a book like Girlhood when I was young.
In our teen years we're looking for acceptance, and belonging. Peer pressure is rampant and I can't even imagine how awful those years would have been if social media was as big a deal as it is now. When I was in high school, it was just Facebook (I somehow missed MySpace and Tumblr due to parental controls). But now there's Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and probably ones I don't even know about. Girlhood started as a series originally for The Lilly. That series has expanded to not only follow up with the original contributors but include more girls from around the world, ranging in ages from 13 to 19. Some of the girls face the same issues in different corners of the world. Some of the girls face specific hardships, including ones many of us can't imagine. This book covers so many things, and all from the perspective of teenage girls, arguably some of the most overlooked voices in the world. Creating a space for them is necessary, and the care with which Ahuja does this is beautiful.
Each girl has provided diary entries, some of which have been translated from their native languages. There are a few photos to paint a picture of their everyday lives. These entries range from sweet and wholesome, to serious, and on many occasions concerning. Not that the girls are troublemakers, but what they face is a testament to the ways in which we have failed the children in this world. This sounds really heavy, but what a lot of the entries also have, is hope. These girls are ambitious. They have dreams and aspirations. They have hearts full of kindness and love for their family and friends, nature, animals, stories, music, art, and their larger communities. I really enjoyed learning about each girl, and with each entry in the collection, my heart sent out a little hug to each one, and other girls like her. One thing I wish the book had done more of was add more context to each girl's situation. Prior to the diary entries is some information from Ahuja to give background on where the girls live, what that country might be like, or statistics around the particular issue that each girl faces. By the end of the book, these sections felt a little bit repetitive. Sometimes these sections summarized what was coming in the diary entries. In a lot of introductions, I wished there was more context around the source of these problems or around the resources that these girls have for support. For example, many of the girls were put in touch with Ahuja through various organizations that support young girls in those countries. It would have been cool to learn a bit more about them in the introductions as someone looking to support young girls, through volunteer work or monetary donations!
Whether you're like me and interested in supporting young girls and better understanding what young girls today are facing, or if there's a young girl in your life you would like to reach out to, or help her feel seen, this book is a great way to bridge that gap. With each story, and each diary entry, we open ourselves up to ways that we could make the world a little friendlier for young girls everywhere.
And without further ado! My recommended book pairings: 1. Chess Set & The Queen's Gambit - So many of the girls in this series have hobbies, and through the nurturing of their families and friends, those hobbies are blossoming! Like Merisena, 13, from Haiti, who loves chess and participates in tournaments. With the recent popularity of The Queen's Gambit on Netflix, there might even be a young girl in your life that's itching to learn! Pick up a chess set, while you still can, or make some popcorn and curl up on the couch to watch the movie together. Whatever that hobby is for the young girl in your life, take a moment to encourage it! You can grab the chess set pictured above, here. 2. A custom journal - Many of the girls featured are writers in the making! Some aspire to be authors, others journalists. If you or the young woman in your life is an aspiring writer, or even if it's just to get into the habit of journaling and reflecting, a custom journal can be perfect to get the creativity flowing! If you happen to grab one from Jenni Bick, you might even find yourself adding some empowering page flags featuring woman trailblazers or strong girls. Let's just say, my shopping cart added up fast! 3. Make a donation! - Throughout this book there are so many wonderful organizations that are doing the work to support young girls. Organizations like the WAAW Foundation, supporting girls in Nigeria, the Milaan Foundation, helping girls in India get an education, or Girl Up, a UN effort to support girls around the world, and so many more. If there's a story in this book that resonates with you, and you are able to, pay it forward. A donation to one of these organizations can do wonders to help them continue with the amazing work they're doing.
You can grab a copy of Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices by Masuma Ahuja on Amazon, Bookshop.org, or your local independent bookstore!
As always, happy reading!