So, this book was headed for re-sale when I decided that it might be a worthy addition to my library. Was it? Not really…
Real American Girls is a collection of letters and diary entries written by ‘real’ girls about their lives. Their experiences range from attending church to disemboweling captured mice, spending time laughing with cousins and best friends to engaging in savage ‘boys against girls’ fights.
The entries themselves were barely interesting even to myself (and I imagine that I have a more disciplined mind than most twelve year olds) while their presentation was disjointed rather than a flowing whole. If this were my only complaint against the book I might still recommend it or at least ‘okay’ it, but there were many elements which were less than edifying.
The girls wrote often of crushes, love interests, and the like.
One girl recorded her sensations upon experiencing her first kiss and another writes of a method she used to determine which of four boys she would like to marry.
Two girls dissect a mouse and “squeeze his insides out”. One of them then writes, “Oh Science! Why will thou not protect thy votaries?” [pg. 10]
One young girl and her friend become very upset and vow never to marry after reading the “awful commands” given to wives in the Scriptures.
Two girls burst out laughing in the midst of singing a hymn at chapel. They do not repent and are not sorry
One girl goes skating against her parents’ wishes. While skating she is injured and later attempts to conceal the entire incident from her parents.
One girl becomes angry with her brother and calls him a fool. This is what happens:
My father came hurrying with his Bible and read me the passage where it said, “Whosoever calleth his brother a fool is in danger of hell-fire.” This sobered me at once but did not satisfy me. Without delay I ran off to the shed and returned with a hammer. “And what will happen to me,” I questioned, “if only kill him with a hammer?” [pg. 49]
A girl records a fight she has with her best friend in which they
“wail at each other, pulling hair and circling around each other as our siblings rooted us on, offering tips for tight punches, hard kicks and good slaps.” [pg. 14]
A girl and her friends “used to have wars against the boys. I can remember how crazy we were. We used to have wars with them with xamca [wild gourds], throwing them at each other’s heads. We could have cut someone or put out each others’ eyes.” [pg. 60]
“Sunday, August 10, 1854
Reverend Mr. Daggett’s text this morning [at the church service] was “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Grandmother said she thought the sermon did not do us much good for she had to tell us several times this afternoon to be good Sundays if we want to go to heaven, for there it is one eternal Sabbath. Anna said she didn’t want to be an angel just yet and I don’t think there is the least danger of it, as far as I can judge.” [pg. 45]
One girl rebels against an exaggerated form of patriarchy by embracing feminism.
Conclusions. The historical aspect of the diary entries are not worth the drawbacks which accompany them. I would not recommend its purchase.
Review © 2013 Laura Verret