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A Wealth of Knowledge!


Growing Up Gracefully - 4 out of 5 stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Growing Up Gracefully is a non-fiction novel that was written by Sumita Bose, who wrote this book on sex education for the purpose of educating adolescent girls so that they are armed with the right knowledge to help prevent them from experiencing vulnerable situations, such as gender based violence and sex exploitation.

Sumita does a fantastic job with her use of language. Though this is written for the younger audience, by no means is the language patronising. She is able to explain many concepts clearly and concisely, breaking them down into manageable sections, so that anyone reading the book will avoid feeling overwhelmed and confused.

Sumita also discusses delicate situations in her book. For example, gender roles. This relates to the societal pressures placed upon people of certain genders. Sumita states what these pressures are in clear terms, and makes a point of saying that in the modern world, women can follow whichever career they put their mind to, while also acknowledging that for some women in conservative families, this is not always easy. Though her wording is unbiased, Sumita writes her book with clear sympathy for women going through these plights, and the reader can appreciate this empathy.

This empathy can be felt throughout the book. There is a very well blended balance of psychological factors, societal factors, and historical factors that are discussed and investigated towards the subject of gender and sexuality, and we see Sumita mention several times that being LGBTQA+ is not a mental illness. Sumita’s use of language validates and offers reassurance.

Sumita also includes other ways in which the knowledge she writes about can be maintained in the minds of adolescent girls. There are word anagrams and small sections to colour in, as well as some sweet cartoonish illustrations and activities.

There does seem to be a bit of a negative bias towards people of the male-identifying gender at times, however. For example, there is a section that states ‘Interactions with male members of family’ that states what is acceptable and unacceptable. The advice given is valid, for example ‘It is not okay to change clothes in front of anyone’, however I would have thought that this advice would apply to everyone, regardless of their gender.

Though a lot of the advice written is valid, I was also a bit confused by some of the advice in this paragraph, though I am under the impression that it is general advice that is more applicable if it is meant in a sexual sense. For example, in this paragraph, it states that it is not acceptable to go to the movies with male members of the family, or that you cannot display menstruation products. On the surface, I would have said that it is perfectly acceptable to go to the movies with someone like your father/brother/uncle/male cousin, etc, and that displaying menstrual products like tampons and pads are a good way to normalise them and to treat them as something to not be ashamed by. However, I think the author meant that this sort of behaviour is not acceptable if there are bad intentions involved, like exploitation. While there is a focus on the potential danger males offer, it is also important to note that any gender is capable of being a potential threat to young people.

There does also seem to be a focus on heterosexual relationships at times in the book. While discussions of sexuality, gender, and the LGBTQA+ community are explained, wording such as ‘girls may feel heartbroken when boys do not replicate their feelings’, and other instances where the focus is on girls and their boyfriends, feels like there is more of a focus on the heterosexual side of relationships, whereas using words like ‘partner’ or ‘romantic interest’ would encompass more varieties of relationships.

On a similar thread, I was a little bit confused by one of the sections that states that sex is bad when a person has multiple partners. I am not too sure what this means, as I am aware that consensual polygamous relationships are perfectly safe to have, as well as some of the more consensual sexual forms of having more than one partner. However, while I am not too sure, I think the author meant this in the context of cheating which, of course, is bad.

I would also have to politely disagree with some of the answers in the FAQ that is written in some of the sections. For example, one of the questions is ‘Is puberty a painful stage of life?’, with the answer being, ‘Generally no, however some girls may have a little pain during their monthly period.’ While another question reads, ‘Is it normal to gain weight during puberty?’ The author writes the answer is, ‘Yes, however if you tend to become obese, it means that you are not doing sufficient exercise.’ These answers are not exactly wrong, but they are not exactly right. I know a few people who have suffered greatly from period pain, myself included, to the point of vomiting. I would argue that becoming obese may be due to a lack of exercise, but it may be to a variety of other factors as well that might not necessarily be exercise related. There is also a small bit later on about having a cyst on your breast which states ‘If the lump on your breast doesn’t go away in a few days, consult a doctor.’ I would implore anyone who finds a lump on their breast to go to a doctor immediately, not in a few days. However, the majority of the FAQs are well answered and cover a wide range of questions people may be too self-conscious to ask.

Sumita does a good job of covering a number of topics within adolescence, including medical conditions, psychology, sexuality, gender, pregnancy, internet safety, menstrual products, love and attraction, and the science behind reproductive systems, as well as bringing attention to the injustice suffered by people who are shamed for having to experience a natural part of life. She also brings attention to the darker topics as well, such as assault, abuse, and provides a number of helplines for people to contact should they feel like this is resonates with them.

Though this is written for adolescent girls, I think the target market could expand much further than that. I would recommend this book to the older generation as well, specifically those in the older generation who may not have heard of some of these terms before, and who don’t always understand the modern world, as this book is easy to understand, and who cites its sources for evidence.

Overall, I gave four out of five stars because this book is a fantastic tool for educating young people about puberty and adolescence, and would also serve as a good refresher for other people regardless of their age!

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