Emily Linden is either the bravest woman or the dumbest. It is brave to think you could transcribe your middle school diary & be celebrated. She is dumb to think it wouldn't matter. Emily may also be a far better person than I ever will be. But first let's get to her book, Unslut: A Diary and A Memoir.
Unslut is the diary & memoir of "Emily Linden.""Emily Linden" is a pen name as the real Emily did not want to put her name on the project, for obvious reasons, and then also changed the names of her friends from that moment of time. In the sixth grade Emily went to a friend's house to hang with her boyfriend and another guy friend. One thing lead to another & kissing occurred. Then a little more. While no intercourse happened, there was sexual contact - third base. Yes because this is a middle school diary a lot of the sexual contact is referred to by its baseball equivalents. After letting her boyfriend go to third base he of course tells others, not to mention the other guy friend in the room and thus begins her multi year journey through slut shaming.
What makes this book is powerful is not just the fact she transcribed her middle school diary so you can watch her deal with the slut shaming, but also the fact that "Future Emily" is annotating the diary. It takes the whole "what you would say to your 13-year-old self" though exercise to the next level. Future Emily is remarking not only on the lingo of middle school from the turn of the century, but also talking her middle school self down when she starts to slut shame herself. Take for example when Emily is walking with friends and a guy she is not dating grabs her breast. She writes furiously how sorry she is that she cheated. Future Emily is having none of it.
Moments like that will strike a chord with every girl who was every slut shamed and still carries around scars. This means that if you still do, I warn you that you may flashback to those moments in the hallway when that guy who always put his hand on your butt and you could never find a way to stop it. Or you reflect back on why you could never find the right words to say, "No," because as Emily puts it, sometimes there is social power in just letting things happen.
Emily is not the only "slut" in this diary. A few of her friends have slut moments and her reaction to those moments will kill you. They kill you because you are invested in her pain and then she lashes out at the other girls. They kill you because you might have done the same when you were her age and you regret the hell out of it. As Future Emily does.
I am torn as to whether or not giving this book to a teenage girl or boy would help them be kinder to themselves and each other. I wonder if Future Emily's annotation is too "parental" for a current teen to understand as anything other than mature reflection. I have no idea, but I am giving this to my 12-year-old daughter who is a year older than Emily was when she labeled a slut. The book is explicit in its depiction of teenage sexuality. She uses phrases to describe sexual activity that made this mother cringe. Then I had to recall what kind of language I used then. The flipping back and forth between mom-mode and survivor-mode was exhausting.
Eventually I finished reading this book as I ate dinner by myself in a restaurant. I assumed it was busy and dark enough that I was invisible. Alas, my despair at the book ending and all the feelings that were dredged up was clearly visible on my face. After taking a selfie with the book to mark the occasion the couple next to me asked me what I was reading. "A powerful account of one girl's journey as she was slut-shamed in middle school." And that is exactly what this book is. Powerful.
I guess I am still unsure if Emily is a genius or dumb to not know how much we needed this book.
Please purchase your own copy of Unslut from Powells or Indiebound and support Viva la Feminista.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy from a publicist.
GIVEAWAYI have one copy of "Unslut" to giveaway!
- To enter, simply comment with your email address. Seriously, without an email, I can't get a hold of you.
- Extra entries awarded if you share this review on Twitter (tag me @veronicaeye) or Facebook (tag me @vivalafeminista).
- Once all entries are in, I will number the entries, toss into Random.org and that magical machine will select a winner.
- This giveaway is limited to shipping addresses in the USA and Canada.