There may be few things as unsettling as reading about girlhood: the vulnerability, the lack of control, not understanding of how the world works. Which is what makes An Intricate Weave, a collection of 70 stories, testimonials and poems about girls and girlhood very much worth the read. If you can bear the hints of your own reflection, this is a fascinating anthology.
The girls who are the subjects of anthology, real and fictional, are of all ages and background. There are a few identifiably Jewish authors and stories (including one by LILITH’s own fiction editor Faye Moskowitz), but the stories, regardless of the specifics, are the stories of all girls. They transcend the particulars of plot, personalities and location and capture instead those common moments of fear, excitement, trepidation, questioning, love and happiness. They are about getting your first bra, your first kiss, a best friend, about what it’s like to see parents fight, having crushes on older girls and much more.
Miriam Karmel Feldman’s “What Does Madonna Know” summons up the painful moment when a friend’s grandmother says: “Look at those ‘poulkies,’ would you?” She writes: “I was eight years old and until that moment I had never thought about my thighs—their size, shape, being. But all that changed with Yetta’s gaze. From that moment on I would never think of myself as just a girl. Forevermore, I would be a girl with fat thighs.”
In Elizabeth Graver’s “What Kind of Boy,” a 12-year-old girl grows up when her family moves away from their home for a year There is something so familiar about how she begins her year away: “In my lime green diary with its gold lock, I recorded certain vows at the beginning of that year: 1. STOP Playing with Dolls; 2. Get better Clothes and do better in Math; 3. Come back home and be Friends with the Popular kids. 4. Stop Smoking (ha ha just kidding!!!!).”
While it’s unsettling to live through, it’s empowering to look back on girlhood. Emily Hancock captures this idea in her essay “Growing Up Female” as she focuses on how as grown women we have a lot to learn from our “girl within”: “I found that a woman comes fully into her own by circling back to the girl she was at 8, 9, or 10—a girl who knows who she is and what she’s about before she gets all cluttered up. This forgotten inner girl harbors a distinct and vital sense of self a woman loses in the process of growing up female.”
An Intricate Weave is a phenomenal collection that demonstrates with strong writing the beauty, bravery and pain of being a girl and learning about the world for the first time.