The New Southern Girl

Female Adolescence in the Works of 12 Women Authors


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About the Book

Much has been written about America’s troubled teens, particularly 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 Voigt.
Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Caren J. Town is a professor of English at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia.

Bibliographic Details

Caren J. Town
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 207
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2004
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1893-0
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8203-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi
Introduction      1

1. Narratives of Development/Developing Narratives      7
2. Becoming Maybe So: Breakdowns, Setbacks and Triumphs in Lee Smith’s Novels      21
3. Three Meal a Day Aftermaths: Anne Tyler’s Determined Adolescents      41
4. One Layer Deeper: On the Road and In Country with Sam Hughes      57
5. People Have No Respect for Girls: Lucille Odom’s Ride Through Adolescence      71
6. The Hope of the Remade Life: Allison’s and Gibbons’ Rewritten Girlhoods      83
7. Claim What Is Yours: Tina McElroy Ansa’s Spiritual Journey      103
8. Odd How Things Are and Then They Aren’t: Janisse Ray’s Identity of Loss      115
9. A Whole World of Possibilities: Jill McCorkle’s Troubled and Tenacious Girls      129
10. Keep on Asking Questions: Tough Girls in Young Adult Fiction      145

Notes      171
Bibliography      181
Index      195

Book Reviews & Awards

“pragmatic and positive, showing girls who are proud, stubborn, and focused, who suffer from being female, but who also use their brains and good humor to work toward satisfying adult lives”—Atlanta.