9780553393057A message from Dr. Lisa Damour, author of Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood (Ballantine Books, February 2016).

I’m often stunned by what people say to me when they learn that I’m a psychologist who specializes in working with teenage girls:

“You work with teen girls? There should be a medal for that!” or they shake their heads and say, “Teenage girls … I’m so glad I only have sons.”

When talking about adolescent girls, adults are quick to fall back on stereotypes. Too often, we describe girls as being mean or marginalized, wild or mild, stressed or buoyant. But anyone who spends time with teenagers, anyone who really knows and cares about them, can  tell you that most teenage girls could fit all of these descriptions, and more, on any single day. It’s time to address how dynamic and intricate girls really are.

It’s time to shed light on their inner lives and do so in a way that honors girls and the intelligence of the adults who care about them.  As the mother of two girls and a psychologist who consults to schools and treats girls in my private practice, I wrote Untangled to replace our two-dimensional stereotypes with a sophisticated framework for understanding adolescent development. (more…)

978-0-8129-7861-2Being a Teen, author Jane Fonda’s comprehensive guide to adolescent issues, was recently assigned to students taking the “Our Whole Lives” class at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Susquehanna Valley (Northumberland, PA).  Fonda’s new book, which covers topics from the body and sex to friendship, family and more, was universally praised by Unitarian Universalist’s students and teachers: “Being a Teen is a wonderful guide to yourself and to others, a pocket encyclopedia, a guide to the roller coaster of puberty. Jane Fonda answers questions that would be difficult to ask….”

Students were engaged by the book, including Henry, age 15, who wrote: “I was apprehensive at first because I thought it would be generic stuff that I already knew or have heard. After the first chapter I read, however, I found that I was learning a lot, and I ended up reading the whole book.” Another student, Emma, age 14, wrote: “The teenage years are a confusing time. Being a Teen is a clear guide with really good information.” (more…)

Students at Evans High School in Evans, Georgia celebrate their first Henrietta Lacks Day

On October 4, 2011, the Evans High School Multicultural Club and Evans High School Biology teachers invited the entire staff and student body of Evans High School to celebrate the life of Henrietta Lacks.  Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital on this day in 1951.  Henrietta Lacks may have died on this day, but her cells, called HeLa cells, are still living in laboratories all over the world.  “Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture.  They were essential to developing the polio vaccine.  They went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity.  Many scientific landmarks since then have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization” (Zielinski, 2010).  This is an incredible story told by Rebecca Skloot in her award-winning book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  This book makes a wonderful springboard for discussions concerning civil rights and medical ethics as well as the science behind these miraculous cells.  Another interesting subject covered in the book involves the Lacks family.  The family receives no monetary compensation from laboratories and drug companies using HeLa cells and they cannot afford healthcare. (more…)

Last year I retired from a profession that was probably the most challenging, the most frustrating, and in many ways the most rewarding profession that I’ve ever held. When I rolled my wheelchair out of my high school English classroom for the last time, I had to take a moment to recognize and honor all that I had gained from the experience. My reasons for choosing not to return to the classroom are complex and varied, but one thing is without doubt: to watch a student read, process, and discuss a work of literature is a thing of beauty.

I recall so well my freshman class’s heartfelt reactions to the suffering of young Elie Wiesel as we became immersed in the story of Night. Class discussions revolved around the cruelty of humankind and the necessity of hope, and their journals reflected just how engrossed they were in the journey. They experienced a similar reaction when the students (who were, like the school, about 92% Caucasian) dove into the life of Richard Wright and his shocking experience of growing up in the Jim Crow South in Black Boy.  During our conversations we explored topics such as the use of the “N word,” poverty, racism, religion, and, of course, the cruelty of humanity. (more…)

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom RiggsThe inspiration for a story can come from almost anywhere. I learned this first-hand a few years ago when I was inspired by some evocative old snapshots I found at a flea market. I wanted to know more about the people in them, but the photos were anonymous—long-disconnected from whomever had taken and discarded them—so instead I created their stories myself. The result was my first novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar ChildrenIt’s enjoyed some remarkable success, especially for a book from a debut novelist—there’s even a movie in the works! None of which would be happening if I hadn’t let a handful of musty pictures tell me a story. Stories are everywhere; it’s just a matter of tuning our ears to listen for them.

Given the way Miss Peregrine is told, with the photos I found woven through the narrative, it’s proven to be a fascinating conversation-starter for students and teachers of creative writing. Students can easily find photos of their own to use as writing prompts, either on the Internet or, better yet, in the attics and closets of parents and grandparents. (I discovered that it’s nearly impossible to write about old photographs without becoming interested in their history. There’s something fascinating about the immediacy of a photograph, no matter how old it is; though a picture might have been taken a hundred years ago, it is always, in some sense, now.) (more…)

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

I knew that my novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was making its way onto high school reading lists when curious emails began popping up in my inbox. They tended to go something like this:

“Um, you know, your book, Motel on the Corner of Sweet and Sour—dude, it’s like m favorite novel of all time!! And I’m kinda wondering if you could, like, answer these twelve questions for me? (In my mind, I always hear this question coming from a nasally, voice-cracking, pre-pubescent 14-year-old boy wearing a Hot Topic hoodie with his ear buds in, listening to “Bring Me the Horizon”).

And just like that, I was suddenly someone’s homework. Right up there with Of Mice and Men, the Pythagorean Theorem, and building dioramas out of old shoe-boxes and craftpaper.

To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure how my novel would be received.

So then I asked myself why so many students embrace books like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird—because they’re amazing novels? Sure. But moreover, these are books with young protagonists. They offer voices that are readily absorbed by the intrepid imaginations of young adults. (more…)

Read the important book that’s topping many school lists. Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years.

In the following video clip, author Rebecca Skloot sits down to discuss the inspiration, impact, and process that went into The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

The paperback edition of the book releases on March 8, 2011.