Over my lifetime I have read thousands of books, including many, many young adult and middle grade fiction. Plenty of coming-of-age novels and books addressing teen issues, but it’s not often that I’ve come across books portraying menarche or menstruation. Why is this?
Well I have a few theories myself, but I don’t really know the answer. It could be inconvenient to the plot of course, why write in bodily functions if not specifically required, it’s not as if we follow characters to the toilet all the time, though it may be mentioned in passing. That is understandable really, but where is it in teenage angst books? Maybe these books don’t get out there due to fear of censure, or actual censorship. Maybe they don’t get written at all. Embarrassment, misunderstanding, perceived lack of requirement?
As puberty creeps closer in our house, I have began searching for books addressing the various issues and upsets of adolescence. It has quickly become apparent that there are countless books about the awkwardness of being a teen, pimples, first loves, school work, even teen pregnancy, yet very little that addresses periods. Don’t get me wrong, there are a tonne of factual books to help kids entering puberty and beyond, and some of them are quite good, but I am looking for fiction that incorporates menstruation as a normal function of a girl’s body. I want fiction that shows my kids that it’s okay to have periods, all girls get them, and all girls deal with them, and every girl’s is different, and that’s okay. That even our heroes get them, and they can still save the world from time to time!
I was watching “Catching Fire” (the second movie based on The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins) on TV last week when I had the thought that getting a period during the Hunger Games would be really inconvenient. Were tampons available in the Cornucopia? Perhaps the girls from District 12 are so malnourished that menarche is delayed? And what of other heroines in the world of YA fiction? Did Tris have to deal with her period during the Gauntless initiation? Where did Karou find menstrual products when she was resurrecting the Chimaera in the Moroccan desert? Did Hermione keep tampons in her bottomless bag when traveling with Harry and Ron searching for the Horcruxes? Does Ellie have to stay in Hell instead of going out to fight in the war, because her period is particularly heavy this month? These girls were pretty busy fighting for their own lives, as well as the lives of others, so perhaps they were just too busy to menstruate. Even girls like America Singer, safe within the palace walls, fighting more for love than life, never talk about their period, even in passing.
I vaguely remember reading that old Judy Blume book, Are you there God? It’s me Margaret, as a child, but I don’t remember much about it. It’s a good place to start though. I also read Puberty Blues a long time ago, though I don’t remember if there was much about menstruation, it is a good Aussie novel, and I think I will re-read it.
So I put it to you now, do you know of any middle grade or teen fiction that addresses menstruation? Or includes it in some way? Throw those suggestions at me, please!