Book Review | Dealing with a Teenager is a nightmare. The moment they a kid lands the teenager tag, they start acting on their own. Sometimes there seems to be no end to their mood swings. But who knows the teenage turmoil and the resulting Teen-aches are more difficult on the Teenager than on the parents!
Two years ago during the summer vacation, my until now calm and lovable daughter declared, “I want to act in films and I have got offers”. It was a rude shock for my entire family because she was just 13 and we never imagined she would put her foot down and insist upon pursuing what she described as her ambition, passion and dream. It set off a chain reaction leading to an entire upheaval in my family. I didn’t know what had happened at that time. How I dealt with the situation requires a book of my own. But right now, my job is to tell about the book I just finished reading, Sudesna Ghosh‘s “What Would I Tell Her @ 13“.
The book deals with your little daughter turning 13 and entering the most beautiful yet most dangerous 7 years of her life. Ms. Ghosh has done a lot of research and presented us with this interesting book. It has 14 chapters and interviews with 17 eminent women who talk about themselves, about teen-aches, about body image, about peers, about parents, about careers and about sex. You can see these women as the role models for your daughter, based on her choice of career. You can see every one of these women talking about issues a girl @13 starts faces and their ways of tackling the situation.
The book is divided into 13 chapters, and since each chapter deals with a specific issue; let I take one chapter at a time and share with you how reaching 13 affected the lives of these women, and how they tackled the advent to a new phase in their lives.
Chapter 1: Hello Independence deals with the new-found ‘Teen’ status of a girl, the expectations and reality of a girl. It is followed by the Shikha Uberoi’s Story, where the eminent Tennis star talks about her decision to enter the WTA tour and the aftermath. This is an extremely worthy piece by a Tennis star I have admired.
Chapter 2: The Power of Confidence talks about how self-esteem and confidence make a difference in what a 13-year-old will turn out to be as she grows up. Anjali Raina’s Story tells us how a 13-year-old who wanted to be writer went on to head the Harvard Business School India Research Center [HBS IRC].
Chapter 3: Discovering Your Voice guides both the parents and the teenaged daughter how to deal with her fears, her ambitions and choice of career. Guide and suggest and do not force your opinions on her is the message. Avantika Akerkar’ Story is about a free-spirited girl who found the Indian education system of rote teaching difficult. How she survived it and went on to be a Consultant in transforming human potential is an interesting journey.
Chapter 4: Newer, Bigger Goals describes the 4 kind of students and the ways they respond to success and failure. Meher Pudumjee’s Story is the most down to earth story and she has grown up to be the Chairperson of Thermax Limited.
Chapter 5: The First Crush obviously deals with first crush and also the first heartbreak and how to deal with them. Helpful for both parents and the teenager. Malini Agarwal’s Story tells the story of the Beauty Blogger , of Ms. Malini.com fame and her life with crushes, bullies and also about ‘Catfishing’ on social media. Another very informative piece. BTW, a catfish is someone who pretends to be someone else. That’s they’re using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.
Chapter 6: Friendship and Cliques: Explains the reality of cliques in school and college, peer pressure and the final worth of friendship. CNN IBN’s Suhasini Haidar’s Story is the most friendly of all the stories. I loved the lines, “Love, heartbreak, relationships are words that sound like they last a lifetime. They don’t. The friendships and memories do.” Suhasini Haider is the daughter of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy , and has surely transformed as a confident, independent adult.
Chapter 7: Staying Safe Offline & Online is a very useful piece on the “dos and donts” for a girl and how parents can monitor her activities without being offensive and Eavesdropping on her. Anjali Sharma’s Story deals extensively on staying safe. No wonder it comes from a reputed lawyer.
Chapter 8: Boys Vs Girls is an account on the gender bias prevalent in the country and the ways to deal with it. Komal Sood’s Story is the experience and words of wisdom on dealing with gender bias by a hyper successful Fashion designer.
Chapter 9: Everybody wants to be Size Zero gives a scary picture of girls suffering from eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa and the Size 0 craze. Rashmi Uday Singh’s Story urges kids to junk the junk food. Ishi Khosla’s Story is an account of an eminent nutritionist about what to eat, when to eat and how to eat.
Chapter 10: Choosing Your Role Models gives a detailed concept of teenagers finding role models from peers to seniors to icons. How kids can pick wrong role models and how to correct the anomaly. A good account. Tanusree Shankar’s Story is a hyper-emotional story of the deeply religious Ms. Shankar and her devotion to her art, her family and husband.
Chapter 11: Making Downtime Positive is about How to use spare time and how to develop personality along with ? We get a few tips here. Preeti Vyas’s Story is the story of a compulsive travel addict and multi-tasking lady who sells kids’ books.
A Special Feature of Fun in the Kitchen with Pooja Dhingra teaches a fun recipe for little girls.
Chapter 12: Discovering Your Inner Compassion exhorts kids to value the life of others. It also asks the elders to appreciate kids for good work done but to reward selectively. Author Rimi B Chatterjee’s Story of Demons and Angels in our mind is perhaps the most difficult to understand for a kid though it could be pretty useful for the parent.
Chapter 13: Terrible Tantrums is obviously about the insecurities and tantrums of teen ache. Some ascribe them to be resulting from teenage turmoil as well, where much is happening in the body and mind of the teen. How to deal with them ? Definitely worth imbibing the points here. Sheena Misra Ghosh’s Story is sane advice of a Clinical Psychologist on how to deal with tantrums. Very informative piece again.
Chapter 14: Surviving Child Sexual Abuse is perhaps the most important part of this very useful book. Pranaadhika Sinha Devburman’ Story is that of a Royal Family kid who suffered multiple instances of child sexual abuse and how she survived. She gives a detailed list of approach to manage a case of sexual abuse.
The 188 pages book ends with “Who’s Who“, which gives a brief introduction to all the women interviewed by Sudesna Ghosh as part of her research.
But this book isn’t without deficiencies. The author has definitely missed out big time when she went on her research work. She has stayed in the Metros or big towns, among the upper middle class, mostly with elite business or military background and those who were fully or partially educated outside India. There isn’t a single middle class or lower middle class icon that has come out of the government schools and from poverty ridden background.
It isn’t as if we don’t have such examples. There are many of them in India. I suspect it was a mistake borne out of the urge to cater to the upwardly mobile groups. But India still is a burgeoning lower middle class nation with over 90% of the girls not having the freedom even to talk to boys of the same age without being haunted by the moral police.
I hope Ms. Ghosh corrects this anomaly with a follow-up on women who have made it big by climbing the ladders from the lower middle class. There also is a little jarring in the form of one of the interviews being all about ‘I, Me and Myself’ by a lady who had precious little to contribute except talking about herself and how she hated to lose. But again, this piece is necessary to understand what makes snobbery.
Leaving out these minor hitches, with no doubts whatsoever; “What Would I tell Her @ 13” is an extraordinary effort and a fabulous reading stuff. Why? as they say : Women irrespective of their status often undergo the same emotional turmoil. That apart, parents irrespective of their status suffer the same concerns and challenges the moment their little girl steps the 13. I found the book , not deficient in the information it aims to offer : That’s how to manage her @ 13 .
I would definitely recommend this to all parents and growing up girls, not only 13 but even older ones. Any one who can understand English, can benefit from it.
My Rating : 4 out of 5 Stars
Editor’s Note : I read the book as well. That’s why I want to add a little to this review. Many a times we encounter or are blessed with a girl who is not the typical girl stereotype of our society. Since the protective instincts of a father come to fore the moment he sees his girl talking to a boy, that’s why most parents in India want to have a girl who walks in the line of her nose. That’s no distractions, just Study. Although the notion is not completely misplaced, but not all individuals are the same. As parents one has to respect that individuality. A situation understandably unnerving even for the most loving parents, as they want their daughter to focus on studies for the next seven or eight years, and leave other distractions to a later age. For me ,the book tells parents how to deal with a girl who is conscious about her looks as well. The book offers the idea that it’s not difficult to raise a teenage girl who wants to be good at everything. Remember, what you see as distractions today, can be real strengths in her life as an adult. All you have to do is guide her properly during her most confusing years — Her Teen.
Details of the Book:
Book Name : What would I tell her @ 13
publisher: Mills & Boon Indian Author Collection, published: 2014-07-29
Author: Sudesna Ghosh
Pages: 188 + 2 pages of links of references.
Publisher : Harlequin India Private Limited