Book Review: Reviving Ophelia

Reviving Ophelia

Pipher, Mary

Grosset, New York, 1994

The book is a set of composite case studies and commentary from a psychiatrist who has had lots of experience dealing with adolescent girls and their families.  Although perhaps a bit dated, the basic point of the book is that our society goes out of it’s way to make adolescence difficult for girls, but does so at a level where it is difficult for parents and other concerned adults to offer advice based on their own experiences as the culture has changed drastically in that generation.  On the other hand, the generations considered in this book are essentially mine and my parents, and there is some level of tapering off which has occurred between 1960 and 1990 as opposed to 1990 and 2010.  That said, the point is still valid that things are indeed different, and a critical aspect of being helpfully involved is to approach from a vantage of “What is happening?” rather than “I know from my own experience what is happening.”

Beyond that basic point, the book has quite a bit of information in it about ways society seems to be intent on crushing adolescent girls into molds that do not fit them, and suggestions on how that can be constructively dealt with.

I read this book on a recommendation from a good friend when I was wondering about how I could continue to maintain a strong relationship with my nieces as they move from children to young adults, and all in all I found it to be a very good suggestion.  It left me better prepared to continue having a strong relationship with my nieces, but I have also gained a bit of insight into some of the issues that were part of society during my own adolescence (granted, I was through that phase by the time this book came out, but I figure there had to have been several years of data before the book was published) , and in the back of my mind I can vaguely recall being aware of them , but not aware of their potential impact.

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