At the beginning of this week, Hachette released a new edition of My Little Red Book edited by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, which I reviewed last year. To mark the occasion, I’m reprinting my review with revisions to reflect the new edition. (Come back on Monday for a 10-book giveaway + my period story!)
When I started reading My Little Red Book, a collection of women’s stories about their first periods edited by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, I initially felt mildly disappointed because many of the stories seemed too short and, well, too ordinary somehow, not “literary” enough. And yet by the time I finished the book I felt moved to tears (and inspired to write about and reflect on my own experiences of menstruation). Covering some 90 years of women’s history (from 1916 to 2008) and including 99 essays and poems by women from all walks of life, the power of this anthology is not so much in the individual stories—although many of them are powerful in their own right—but rather in their collective impact. From funny to heart-rending, embarrassing to empowering, each of these stories illuminates what is, after all, a “momentous occasion” (as Nalebuff put it) in every woman’s life.
Highlights of this book for me were: “Hot Dog on a String, 1993” by Ellen Devine, who writes about witnessing something sacred as a child; “Ink Blots and Milk Spots, 1987,” an imaginative retelling of first blood by Krista Madsen; “The Simple Vase: Part I, 1997” and “The Simple Vase: Part II, 1997,” two versions of the same event written by mother and daughter Laura and Rebecca Wexler; “Blood Month, 1979” by Sandra Guy, who writes poignantly about growing up without her sister; and “Twelve-Step Program, 1946” by Marcia Nalebuff (the editor’s grandmother), a touching piece about a grandmother saying exactly the right thing.
Other reviewers have suggested this anthology is particularly good for preteens and mothers of preteens; while I wouldn’t disagree, I would add that My Little Red Book is likely to be of interest to all women.
What’s new in the new edition: There are seven new stories (so 99 instead of the original 92), including stories by Judy Blume, who also reflects on how her experience influenced her writing of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and Diablo Cody (as well as a contribution by a man, which I found a bit odd). Rachel also updates her introduction with a P.S. that mentions some of the things that have happened since the publication of the first edition (for example, “menstruation activism is now a real term”). In addition, the book is now illustrated with Rachel’s tiny (but very cute) drawings. The one thing I miss are the little pink panties, which used to be on the cover!
Hachette has generously agreed to sponsor a giveaway of 10 copies of this book on my blog! Come back on Monday for all the details.