This week I’m participating in Book Journey‘s “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” Meme. Last week I did the one over at Teach Mentor Texts, which I plan to do a lot. However, since I just finished a non-children’s book that I’m longing to blog about, I figured the Book Journey Meme would be more appropriate.
Several months ago a like-minded mom tagged me in a post on Facebook with a link to Peggy Orenstein‘s book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. I pre-ordered it on Amazon and then let it sit on my bookshelf for way too many months. I finally
had made the time to read it last week and I’m thankful I did because it’s armed me with the information I need to guide my daughter through the things she’s going to encounter as she matures. When I say “things” I mean things like princess mania, making sure she plays with girls and boys so she develops healthy friendships with members of both sexes, everything surrounding the color pink (e.g., toys, clothes), body image, the way girls are portrayed in the media, consumerism, navigating cyberspace and social networks, etc. That list, which is not inclusive of everything Orenstein discusses, can make one’s head spin! However, I have come to believe that the only way I can help my daughter make smart choices as she navigates through all of these things is by understanding what’s coming down the pike.
Right now Isabelle is a “toddler.” I put toddler in quotes since I learned that toddler is not a term that deals with the psychological development of children. “[A]ccording to Daniel Cook, a historian of childhood consumerism, it was popularized as a marketing gimmick by clothing manufacturers in the 1930’s. … It was only after ‘toddler’ became common shoppers’ parlance that it evolved into a broadly accepted developmental stage” (36). So really, I still have a baby on my hands! A baby my husband and I must guide through this ever-changing, complex world where she will encounter provocative messages and images. Some people might say, “Don’t worry about cyberbulling and the effect of the way Miley Cyrus dresses now. She’s just a baby!” And you know what, they’re partially right. I don’t really have to worry about it now. However, princess mania is going to start between the ages of two and three, which is just ’round the corner, so I’m thinking about how to deal with it before the madness begins.
Throughout the book, Orenstein shares excerpts of conversations with her daughter, Daisy. I noticed Orenstein often asked Daisy open-ended questions and got her thinking more deeply about the messages and reasons behind the way someone acted, why someone said something, or what something could mean. Their conversations reflect thoughtful discussions and are similar to the work we teach students to do under the umbrella of critical literacy. (Here’s a link to a PDF I used with my fifth graders, who are finishing 11th grade this month, to help them ask questions of texts. It was compiled using a articles by Barbara Comber and a book by Stephanie R. Jones, that dealt with critical literacy.) What I took from the constant conversations Orenstein and her daughter had is that you have to do more than just keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your child. Part of my job in raising a literate human being will be to constantly push her to think critically about things she encounters in her daily life. As Orenstein says in the final chapter, “Girl Power — No Really,” of the book that “involves staying close but not crowding them, standing firm in one’s values while remaining flexible” (192).
Cinderella Ate My Daughter should be mandatory reading for every mother of a girl. To me, it’s like a manual for raising a strong, healthy, confident girl in the 21st century. It’s a book I’ve discussed with my husband and would like him to read. (Right now he’s reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, as well as Derek Jeter’s new book. Next up I want him to read Blessing of a Skinned Knee. After he finishes that, I’m certainly having him put Cinderella Ate My Daughter on his Kindle!) This book is one my mother and mother-in-law want to read after hearing me talk about it so they, too, can help Isabelle on her journey towards being a self-reliant and happy woman. Cinderella Are My Daughter is the kind of book I foresee myself returning to again and again as I guide Isabelle through the various stages of her life.