Melissa Febos

Cindy Seip

Melissa Febos is the author of the memoir Whip Smart: The True Story of a Secret Life and two essay collections: Abandon Me: Memoirs and Girlhood. Her essays have appeared in The Paris Review, The Believer, McSweeney’s Quarterly, Granta, The Sewanee Review, Tin House, The Sun, and The New York Times. In Girlhood (Bloomsbury Publishing), she blends investigative reporting, memoir, and scholarship to examine the narratives women are told about what it means to be female and what it takes to free oneself from them. When Febos’ body began to change at age 11, she understood immediately that her meaning to other people had changed with it. By her teens, she’d defined herself based on these perceptions, and by the romantic relationships she threw herself into headlong. As she grew older, she increasingly questioned the stories she’d been told about herself – and the habits and defenses she’d developed over years of trying to meet others’ expectations. Realizing that the values she and so many other women had learned in girlhood did not prioritize their safety, happiness, or freedom, she set out to reframe them. Girlhood is a philosophical treatise, an anthem for women, and a searing study of the transitions into and away from girlhood toward a chosen self. Publishers Weekly described it as “raw and unflinching; this dark coming-of-age story impresses at every turn.”