Instagram. Whisper. Yik Yak. Vine. YouTube. Kik. Ask.fm. Tinder. The dominant force in the lives of girls coming of age in America today is social media. What it is doing to an entire generation of young women is the subject of award-winning Vanity Fair writer Nancy Jo Sales' riveting and explosive American Girls.
With extraordinary intimacy and precision, Sales captures what it feels like to be a girl in America today. From Montclair to Manhattan and Los Angeles, from Florida and Arizona to Texas and Kentucky, Sales crisscrossed the country, speaking to more than 200 girls, ages 13 to 19, and documenting a massive change in the way girls are growing up, a phenomenon that transcends race, geography, and household income. American Girls provides a disturbing portrait of the end of childhood as we know it and of the inexorable and ubiquitous experience of a new kind of adolescence - one dominated by new social and sexual norms, where a girl's first crushes and experiences of longing and romance occur in an accelerated electronic environment; where issues of identity and self-esteem are magnified and transformed by social platforms that provide instantaneous judgment.
What does it mean to be a girl in America in 2016? It means coming of age online in a hypersexualized culture that has normalized extreme behavior, from pornography to the casual exchange of nude photographs; a culture rife with a virulent new strain of sexism and a sometimes self-undermining notion of feminist empowerment; a culture in which teenagers are spending so much time on technology and social media that they are not developing basic communication skills. From beauty gurus to slut shaming to a disconcerting trend of exhibitionism, Nancy Jo Sales provides a shocking window into the troubling world of today's teenage girls.
Provocative and urgent, American Girls is destined to ignite a much-needed conversation about how we can help our daughters and sons negotiate unprecedented new challenges.
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Unimaginative Narrator; Alarmist Writing Style
People who enjoy bad reality TV might like this book.
Sue Klebold's book.
The narrator changed her voice when reading quotes from teenage girls. She used a breathy "Valley Girl" type of accent that makes every statement sound like a question. This made the teenage girls sound stupid and vacuous. I might not have read these girls' words in my head this way if I bought a hard copy of the book. When the narrator quoted teenage boys, she used a deeper, even-toned voice that sounded more serious. This really started bothering me after a couple hours of listening to this book. There was no reason for her to do this unless she had access to the author's audio recordings of the teenagers and knew for a fact that each and every teenager spoke the way she represented them as speaking.
I thought this book merely showed the latest incarnation of how teenagers evaluate each other and themselves. When I was a teenager, it was all about designer logos, handbags, and wearing a certain brand of sunglasses. Now it is about selfies and "likes". I suppose it has helped me to know how to "prime" my kids as they get ready to enter middle school. I can let them know what to expect, what others kids might be doing, and what I expect of them. I can keep an eye out for certain types of behaviors and social practices among their friends.
I didn't find myself (I'm a mother in her mid-40s) in any of these subjects. I listened to the author in an interview and thought the book sounded interesting. I liked the first hour or so, but then it became clear that she was talking to teenagers who watch the Kardashians on TV, have parents who participate in social media just as much as their children, have mothers who own copies of Kim Kardashian's book and allow their teenage daughters to have boy/girl sleepovers, etc. She was not talking to me.
I did not grow up in a permissive household, and I am not raising my children with this "Hey, if all the other kids are doing it, then I guess you can, too" attitude which is so prevalent these days with parents who find it hard to resist their 10-year-old begging for her own phone. I'm sure we will have some difficult, challenging issues with social media once our children are old enough to explore it, but I feel like we are way ahead of the game by simply being parents who do not embrace this selfie/social media culture ourselves. I don't raise my kids with my phone in my hand, I don't watch every school award or performance through my iphone screen (because I do not record every single little thing they do), our TV is always tuned to the PBS station and reality TV is not a "reality" in our home, and we set a good example for our kids as to how grown-ups should act and dress. We keep a close watch on their friendships and steer them away from kids who engage in mean, toxic, abusive behavior and try to cultivate their friendships with children who make them laugh and feel good about themselves. Whenever my daughter is having problems with a friend or group of friends, I always ask, "How do you feel about yourself when you are with them?" I am trying to help her understand that good friends make you feel good about yourself; bad friends make you feel bad about yourself. My sister did the same thing and my 19-year-old niece turned out just great--no nudes exchanged on Snap Chat, no cyber bullying. She always had sweet, respectful friends in high school, and I hope that the same will happen for my kids.
This book is alarmist, and the author really has an ax to grind. The narrator is just terrible. Her reading oozes with judgment. When she got to the part about the kids in the rich suburb of New York, it sounded like she, the narrator, already hated these people for being rich and stupid enough to believe that they could insulate themselves and their kids from the horrors of the world by ensconcing their family in a tony neighborhood. I think the narrator was actually happy that these kids were having problems, too. That's when I stopped listening and decided to return the book. It's possible I would have a completely different take on this book if I had read it instead of listened to it, but I can only review the experience I had, which was with the Audible version.
- Nervy Minerva
A must read if you are a parent!
- Mia Munselle