The New Southern GirlBy Caren J. Town
Much has been written about America's troubled teens, in particular endangered teenage girls. Works like Mary Pipher's Reviving Ophelia and many others have contributed to the general perception that contemporary young women are in a state of crisis. Parents, educators, social scientists and other concerned individuals worry that our nation's girls are losing their ambition, moral direction and self-esteem as they enter adolescence - which can then lead them to promiscuous sex, anorexia, drug abuse, and at the very least, declining math scores. In spite of evidence to the contrary in life and literature, this bleak picture is seldom challenged, but a good place to begin may be with recent literary representations of young women, fictional and autobiographical, which show proud young women who are highly focused and use their brains and good humor to work toward satisfying adult lives. This book addresses the ways in which 12 women writers use their heroines' stories to challenge commonly held and frequently damaging notions of adolescence, femininity and regional identity. The book begins with a chapter on sociological and literary theories of adolescent female development. This chapter also includes theoretically informed discussions of young adult fiction and southern literature. Chapters that follow focus on adolescent heroines in the novels and autobiographies of the contemporary southern women writers Anne Tyler, Bobbie Ann Mason, Josephine Humphreys, Dorothy Allison, Kaye Gibbons, Tina Ansa, Janisse Ray and Jill McCorkle and Young Adult writers Katherine Paterson, Mildred Taylor and Cynthia Voight.