Elevate Difference

Red: Teenage Girls in America Write On What Fires Up Their Lives Today

My teenage years have always seemed to be something that I’ve wanted to forget: awkwardness, feeling clueless about life, not feeling comfortable in my body, navigating love and friendships, hating my family, loving my family, not knowing who my family really was, and knowing that there must be something more to life than what I was doing. Ugh, high school.

Now that I’m past my teens and well on to other decades of my life, I haven’t taken the time to look back and consider all of those big Life Questions I once had. Amy Goldwasser’s anthology, Red: Teenage Girls in America Write On What Fires Up Their Lives Today, helped me to both reconsider my past wonderments and understand what teenage life is like for a whole new generation of young women.

If it were just fresh voices that evolved out of this anthology, Red would be an amazing and worth-your-while read. If Red were just about life as a teenage woman in America, it would still be a great anthology. But the unique articulation of each writer, the diverse experiences represented, the range of topics presented, the brutal honesty and uncertainties revealed in each essay, and the fierce tenacity to understand life that each writer brings to the page makes_Red_ not only phenomenal, but a feminist staple for every reader’s library. The anthology is composed not of adults editing and filtering the words of teenage girls, but the words of the young women themselves—with all of their incomplete thoughts and blunt renderings of life.

The topics covered in Red range from what you would expect from an anthology of teenage girls’ writings (i.e., body image, friendships, and family life) to groundbreaking essays by young women on politics, PTSD, pop culture, and war. This isn’t to say that the essays about body image, friendships, and family are not groundbreaking. In fact, these pieces challenge the reader to think about, reconsider, and understand the complexity of young women’s lives in America just as much as the essays on the larger world do. Whether the writers’ voices come across as determined and strong or hesitant and ambiguous each essay invokes the varied challenges of growing up as a woman in America. 

I believe that the intended audience for Red is you. Whoever you are. You could be a young teenage woman living in America and obviously connect with Red, or you could be from a different generation and gender than the contributors and still find every essay meaningful. While phrases such as, “we exchanged screen names” definitely point to the youth of the authors represented in_Red_, when one of the contributors states, “I want to reach out so that someone somewhere will breath more easily because I have lived,” you begin to understand that these fresh voices speak their words with an awareness of the world around them, and the impact that these words might have on others—something that our society does not believe young women are capable of today. Red proves this notion wrong in brilliant and wonderful ways.

Written by: Chelsey Clammer, February 20th 2009