An array of fabulous fiction and nonfiction to tempt a 16-year-old girl away from social media
Q: Please recommend some books to get my 16-year-old daughter off social media and Love Island and into reading again.
A 47-year-old mother, London
A: Bidisha, writer, broadcaster and film-maker/performer, writes:
OK, first the addictive gateway drugs. No teenage brain is complete without a thorough immersion in Virginia Andrewss jaw-droppingly perverse Flowers in the Attic (abused kids locked in an attic weird stuff happens), Lois Duncans Down a Dark Hall (maladjusted girls sent to a special school weird stuff happens) and, of course, Carrie by Stephen King (bullied girl with a Bible-beating mum cant take it any more weird stuff happens).
That should prep the territory. Next, some fabulous and inspiring women from the real world. Comedian Mindy Kalings witty Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, actor Zawe Ashtons bold memoir Character Breakdown, Mona Eltahawys defiant Headscarves and Hymens, Chinese novelist and film-maker Xiaolu Guos story of emigration Once Upon a Time in the East, the great Maya Angelous I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, North Korean defector Hyeonseo Lees nail-biting story of escape, The Girl With Seven Names, and Michelle Obamas candid personal and political memoir Becoming are essential reads. But nothing tops fashion designer Diane von Furstenbergs autobiography of yachts, diamonds and frockery, The Woman I Wanted to Be.
In fiction, I would springboard off a childhood grounding in fairytales to suggest Angela Carters classic story collection The Bloody Chamber and perhaps the surrealist painter Leonora Carringtons strange and fun The Hearing Trumpet. In cutting-edge contemporary fiction, Im drawn to the youthful friendships in Sharlene Teos Ponti, the romantic heroine in Candice Carty-Williamss bestselling Queenie and the haunted trophy wife in Radhika Jhas My Beautiful Shadow.
If your daughter likes bonnets, she can choose from two sexist and repressive societies: Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice (from the early 19th century) or Margaret Atwoods The Handmaids Tale (about the future) and its forthcoming sequel, The Testaments. Austen and Atwoods worlds, though fictional, are painfully recognisable today.
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