... ambitious ... a feminist testament to survival ... Yet Febos isn’t relentlessly grim ... The compassion Febos has discovered for her younger self is inspiring ... I could have done without some of the other voices in this book — Lacan’s, Wharton’s, even those of some of her interview subjects — if only because Febos’s own voice is so irreverent and original. The aim of this book, though, is not simply to tell about her own life, but to listen to the pulses of many others’ ... This solidarity puts Girlhood in a feminist canon that includes Febos’s idol, Adrienne Rich, and Maggie Nelson’s theory-minded masterpieces: smart, radical company, and not ordinary at all.
With psychological clarity and emotional precision, Febos revisits the past to rewrite the future ... In the essay’s wandering, searching form, Febos creates a whirlpool of space to explore the ripple effects of sexual harm, away from patriarchy’s surveillance, judgment, and worn-out tropes. She also comes to a better understanding of what healing looks and feels like ... The scars of girlhood may never disappear, but in this collection, Febos offers more than solace. In a way, the book is an invitation to all people who grew up female, to plunge their own depths and not rescue, but rather recognize and mourn, their former selves, and the selves they could have been if not born into a body the world deemed less worthy than other bodies. Within its pages there are windows, air, sky, from which others can retrieve their own memories, rewrite them, let them go.
Every once in a while, a book comes along that feels so definitive, so necessary, that not only do you want to tell everyone to read it now, but you also find yourself wanting to go back in time and tell your younger self that you will one day get to read something that will make your life make sense. Melissa Febos’s fierce nonfiction collection, Girlhood, might just be that book. Febos is one of our most passionate and profound essayists ... Girlhood...offers us exquisite, ferocious language for embracing self-pleasure and self-love. It’s a book that women will wish they had when they were younger, and that they’ll rejoice in having now ... Febos is a balletic memoirist whose capacious gaze can take in so many seemingly disparate things and unfurl them in a graceful, cohesive way ... Intellectual and erotic, engaging and empowering[.]