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American Girls

May 16, 2016

Few books I have ever read have disturbed, troubled and informed me more than AMERICAN GIRLS by Nancy Jo Sales (Alfred A, Knopf Publishing, 2016). In this collection of conversational research with over 200 young women from across the country Nancy Jo Sales, an award winning journalist with Vanity Fair, asked probing questions to allow students to  identify their social media use and the “why” behind what the images and content means to them and their opportunity to prosper in school, family and relationships. Every page is disturbing because every answer is disturbing. The amount of sexual content from the youngest students through the college aged women was staggering. The interviews which were raw, course and honest were interspersed with reports of qualitative research and studies that shed light on the individual responses.The basic desire for “intimacy” revealed in these interviews is not a new idea for those of us who have spent our adult lives working with adolescence but the use of the internet to fabricate and facilitate futile exchanges of social  and sexual currency literally took my breath away on several occasions while reading. On page 369 of the 375 page book a student sums up a theme played out through the entire narrative, “I don’t want to say that hookup culture is wrong, but-yea, its just not working” (p.369). Apparently however there is not in the lives and thoughts of many in our younger generations a compelling alternative model of relationships. The book ends with a conclusion (p. 371-375) where the author confesses after many of the face to face  actual interviews, “I had to just sit and reflect. I was sad sometimes. I think what made me feel worse was the sense I got from many girls that the felt disrespected” (P.371) Some of the basic tasks of adolescence like identity formation, personal/cognitive development and individualization have not changed much but the digital world presented as the new normal context for such tasks was not one I recognized. This book scared me, it made me go home and give me late adolescent daughter a big hug. It made me want to redouble my efforts to share the good news of Christ and His desire and plan for healthy, positive, thriving relationships in the context of respect producing community and let people know about the deep dark digital world so many of our students are immersed within so we can mentor/coach them through the fields of landmines that is 2016 for students.

[Warning: This book contains very raw language, sexual content, disturbing word pictures and many other honest representations of what our students/children are going through]

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