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Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls
Release Date: August, 2005
Publisher: Riverhead Books
At adolescence, says Mary Pipher, "girls become 'female impersonators' who fit their whole selves into small, crowded spaces." Many lose spark, interest, and even IQ points as a "girl-poisoning" society forces a choice between being shunned for staying true to oneself and struggling to stay within a narrow definition of female. Pipher's alarming tales of a generation swamped by pain may be partly informed by her role as a therapist who sees troubled children and teens, but her sketch of a tougher, more menacing world for girls often hits the mark. She offers some prescriptions for changing society and helping girls resist.
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It's all about your perspective
Posted by Anonymous on 2/10/2000
I've read a lot of reviews here by teenage girls who totally panned this book because they couldn't relate to the girls in the case studies or to Mary Pipher's observations about adolescent girls in general. I think it's great that there are so many teenage girls out there who feel so confident about themselves! But I would recommend you coming back to "Ophelia" several years down the road, once you are well out of your teenage years. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say, and you may find that you recognize more of these girls than you initally thought. When I was in high school, I would have described myself as basically happy, with pretty normal friends. Now that I'm 25, I can see how unhappy and insecure I really was. And while you don't recongnize any of these problems in your friends, watch out! I guarantee that there are things you don't know about your friends. Years later I learned how many of my friends had eating disorders, depression, bad self esteem, and these were not girls you would have thought ever had problems like that. One of my friends told me years later how she used to cry uncontrollably every morning because she was so depressed, but she always showed up to school looking happy every day. And she's definitely right on target with her eating disorder observations; almost every female friend of mine has some degree of eating disorder or distorted body image, and I am not exaggerating at all! (Of course, part of that could be the New York City 20something culture where thinness reigns supreme). Obviously I loved this book and have read and reread parts of it over and over.
It was very helpful, readable, eye-opening
Posted by Elizabeth on 8/6/2003
I am a 23 year old woman and read this book when I was in high school. I very much identified with much of what Pipher deals with in the book and feel like it is quite on target for many middle-class white girls/teenagers. Other readers are correct in pointing out that she does not deal enough with the "chemical" element of depression, nor does she deal enough with the struggles of non-white girls or those who struggle with poverty. Certainly the book addresses a somewhat narrow audience. Yes, it could be interpreted as if depression and struggles were primarily environmental. However, even with a predisposition toward depression, many things can aggravate that, and I believe the book deals well with those things.
Girls can deal with a predisposition toward depression in many ways-- by maintaining self-confidence in the face of super-thin models and the media bombardment that tells girls and women not to be happy with their bodies and looks, by developing strength by understanding their own bodies and sexuality, through familial support and empathy.
I very much suggest that parents of girls/young women between the ages of 7-18 read this book. No it doesn't give the answers to everything, but I believe it does illuminate many of the struggles and challenges that girls face as they move into the teenage years. It was very helpful for me to read it as a teenager and for my parents to read it. It helped to articulate a lot of the emptiness, sadness and awkwardness I felt as I grew into young womanhood, but I couldn't exactly explain why.
Posted by Laura on 10/2/2003
As a recent survivor of adolescence, I know firsthand how important Reviving Ophelia really is. This book shares a host of stories about girls undergoing a variety of crises--and while some seem a bit extreme, all the issues dealt with (eating disorders, peer pressure, self-inflicted harm, etc.) are becomingly frighteningly common.
I think this is a great book to be read by parents and daughters alike. When I read it, I felt a little bit less "alone" in a sense, knowing that almost all girls face rough times in adolesence. And while I had it much easier than most girls in the stories, some of the techniques the author tried with her patients were pretty helpful for me.
When my mom read it, it helped her to more fully understand what the middle school situation was like, and helped her deal with some of my troubles. It certainly surprised her that middle school is so different now than it was in her day! We both learned quite a bit in the reading.
I recommend this book without reservation, and I'm glad that there is finally a highly regarded, truthful portrait of the dangers girls must face in growing up.