Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Am an Emotional Creature by Eve Ensler


I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World by Eve Ensler is a collection of prose and poetry with a common theme–the experience of female adolescence throughout the world.  After watching The Vagina Monologues, I was very eager to read anything I could find by Ensler at my library and reading the description of this book had me eagerly requesting a copy.

Let me first point out that my library has chosen to shelve this among the adult books.  I find this a curious decision and wonder if it isn’t a subtle form of censorship.  When I was an adolescent, I would scour the adult shelves for books I wanted to read but I would also skim through the young adult books.  I didn’t always want to read about adults and I knew that if I wanted to read anything about a character my own or close to my own age I’d need to turn to the young adult section.

But I know a lot of young adult readers who won’t do this.  Some have parents who do not grant them permission to read adult books and restrict their library passes.  Others simply don’t think they will find any books–whether novels or nonfiction or poetry–that will speak to their younger experience.

With this in mind, how many young adults will never come across this book because my library has labeled it “adult” rather than “young adult”?  The publication page has four topics listed, three of which begin with “Girls” (they are:  –Psychology, –Social condition –21st century, –Social life and customs–21st century).  The blurb on the inside front jacket begins with this sentence:

In this daring, provocative, and insightful book bestselling author and internationally acclaimed playwright Eve Ensler writes fictional monologues and stories inspired by girls around the globe.

It concludes on the back of the jacket flap:

I Am an Emotional Creature is a call, a reckoning, an education, and act of empowerment for girls, and an illumination for parents and for us all.

Notice the emphasis I’ve added on “girls” because this book is not written for adults, primarily, although I believe many adults would benefit from reading the various pieces.  I am still surprised by how many people are oblivious to what is happening in the world and, frankly, in our own nation.  It is easy to dismiss things as “past” but it is impossible to believe that the past is not here and now when all one has to do is look around.

But I digress.  I am trying to write a book review and I’m questioning my library’s shelving process and I am proclaiming that people are oblivious to the struggles women and young girls face each and every day.  Ensler includes some facts (which she cites at the end of the book) about girls that reinforce the messages of the prose and poetry included.  Not content to write about body image or child labor in a fictional voice, Ensler contextualizes these voices by rooting them in fact.

It’s harder to dismiss a fact you want to believe is no longer happening.  Not in our world.

This book offers some peeks into what is going on although I am not sure that I can say I loved all of it.  I think some of the poetry, especially, work better as performance pieces.  Reading them  from the page, they lacked a certain flow I expect from my poetry.  Occasionally a rhythm would be created within the free verse or an internal or even end rhyme would manifest but most of it read like attempts at poetry, never soaring to full poetics.  The prose, on the other hand, often had traces of the truly poetic.  And I have little doubt that, had a seen these pieces performed on stage by Ensler or a cast of actors, I would have been overwhelmed by what I heard.

Or maybe I already know too much to be shocked.

What I love about the book, aside from the honest look at what it means to be a girl in a world where women still are not equal, is how Ensler makes the personal universal.  Any girl opening the pages of this book will find herself somewhere represented and every woman will remember the younger self she left behind.  Things haven’t gotten better or easier except now there are more women encouraging younger women to speak out and up.

And yes, I occasionally teared up a bit.  I just wish I had ached more while reading.  Or become more angry.  And I really, really wish I understood why my library would take a book written for young adults and shelve it with the adult books.

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