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Our Red Book
Intimate Histories of Periods, Growing & Changing
Table of Contents
About The Book
A collection of essays, oral histories, and artworks about periods across all stages of life, gathered by the editor of the New York Times bestselling anthology My Little Red Book.
After hearing a harrowing coming-of-age story from her great aunt, Rachel Kauder Nalebuff started gathering stories about menstruation in her family that had never been told. What began as an oral history project quickly snowballed: Rachel heard from family and friends, and then from strangers—writers, experts, community leaders, activists, young people, and other visionaries—about the most intimate physical transformations in their lives.
Our Red Book takes us through stories of first periods, last periods, missing periods, and everything about bleeding that people wish they had been told. Weaving together powerful voices—from teenagers, midwives, Indigenous scholars, Olympic athletes, incarcerated writers, disoriented fathers, elected leaders who fought to make period products free, friends transitioning genders, grandmothers, and lovers—the book invites us on a collective journey of growth and change, with Rachel’s own voice as a guide.
The result is a people’s history of menstruation, told through an array of perspectives and identities that span the globe. Gathered over twenty years, the collection takes stock of our shifting relationships to family, cultural inheritance, gender, aging, and liberation.
Reading Group Guide
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What stories do you think you will remember most vividly? Why do you think these stand out?
After reading, do you think about menstruation differently? And if so, in what ways?
Did you notice any patterns across stories that intrigued you? Any tensions or dissonances?
Was there a story you related to? Was there any story that pushed you or expanded your understanding?
Did you learn anything practical from these personal accounts? What did you learn in a more poetic sense?
How did you read the book? Did you go in order? Did you put it down between stories? What prompted you to read the book the way that you did? (There is no right way!)
I’ve noticed, in gathering stories, that hearing one person’s personal testimony often opens the door for someone else to share their story. After reading, is there a memory related to menstruation that emerged for you? Have you ever written about this memory or shared it before?
Is there anyone in your life who you’d like to interview or ask about their memories?
What stories still feel under-discussed or unspeakable? And what would it take for this to change?
Writing & reflection prompt
This is a prompt that Rachel used in gathering stories and while visiting classrooms. You are welcome to adapt it for your classroom or the group you are a part of.
Today, we’re going to reflect as a group about periods and our memories related to menstruation. Everyone has a story, whether or not you think you do. This can be a totally private and personal reflection, but we’ll also end with the option to share our accounts. It can be surprising what happens when we share our words out loud. But let’s not worry about that yet!
Here is our question: Do you have a first period story or related story about coming-of-age you could share, in the spirit of a hand reaching out to young readers?
It could be a story about your first period. Or learning about periods. For example, learning about your mother or parent’s period, a sibling’s period, a girlfriend’s period. It could be about a missing period, or an irregular period, or any moment that a period marked a transition in your life. Pick one story that, when you remember it, sparks a feeling in you.
In a moment, we will write down our memories. But first, let’s go back to this moment and reflect by taking some notes:
What do you remember about this period (no pun intended) in your life?
What did you care about?
Where does this story take place? In what kinds of rooms or setting?
Who else was there?
What dialogue or language do you remember being said?
Was there anything you said, or didn’t say?
What objects stand out in this memory?
What do you remember feeling and feeling in your body?
Let’s begin now by writing about what you remember. (If you feel stuck, it can be helpful to start with the sentence “I remember.”)
[After 10 or so minutes]
What surprises you about this story now? How do you feel, reflecting on it?
What does this story tell you about who you were then and who you are now?
Is there anything you wish you could have known or heard as a younger person?
Or that you would like to tell your younger self?
Let’s take another few minutes to write about those questions.
[Give another few minutes before concluding.]
Thank you all. How was the writing experience?
[Ask a few volunteers to share what they’ve written out loud – or an excerpt of what they’ve written]
Thank you for going to this intimate, vulnerable place with us all today.
Why We Love It
“What I love most about this book is the range and breadth of voices Rachel brings in to discuss menstruation and first periods. She didn’t just seek contributions from women or teenaged girls. Rachel makes the point that everyone—male, female, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, old, young—is affected by issues related to menstruation, whether directly or indirectly. What emerges is a holistic, inclusive conversation about growing up and aging rather than a narrow discussion about puberty.”
—Carina G., Senior Editor, on A Small Flood
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (November 1, 2022)
- Length: 384 pages
- ISBN13: 9781982168650
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Raves and Reviews
Selected by the San Francisco Chronicle as a best book of 2022
“Powerful…. Bold and candid, these missives go a long way in breaking through what one contributor calls ‘the taboo of bleeding.’”—Publishers Weekly, *starred review*
“A gold mine of (fascinating!) information on everything from first periods to missed periods to lack of product access to periods for transgender and nonbinary folks. In a year when women’s rights were diminished (yet again), Rachel Kauder Nalebuff’s book should be at the top of your reading pile.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Eye-opening, provocative, and emotionally resonant....The factors that shroud menstruation in secrecy, and give rise to shame and embarrassment, are deconstructed, making Our Red Book instructive as a primer for young people. What’s more, trans narratives and narratives from non-western writers enhance and expand readers’ understanding of the ways periods are treated and experienced. This diversity is part of what makes Our Red Book so important.”—The Progressive
"A vibrant collection of stories evoking joy, dread, loss, and celebration that will resonate with many."—Library Journal
PRAISE FOR MY LITTLE RED BOOK
"Silence about the healthiest of things can make them seem shameful. My Little Red Book turns shame into celebration."--Gloria Steinem
"Seldom can a book stretch to accommodate both its author's and its publisher's fondest hopes: that it be original yet universal, artistic yet practical, and likely to sell briskly for centuries to come... It is hard to imagine any woman, from the most straitlaced and body-denying to the most uninhibited and body-embracing, who will not read right through it with pure enjoyment, small flashes of recognition and the urge to buy it for every female preteen in sight... "--The New York Times
"Some girls dread their periods, some girls crave them, some girls think they're not normal until they get their periods, and some fear they're abnormal when they do get them. MY LITTLE RED BOOK takes a little of that mystery away, replacing it with humor and information - not just about tampons, but also about how girls in Kenya, New Zealand, Brooklyn, and Oklahoma reacted to their first visit from Aunt Flo. The book would make a good addition to a first-period kit."--Jezebel.com
"Western readers will find the global perspectives eye-opening... The authors' candor and accessibility and the extensive appended resource sections make this an obvious choice for teens... A rich, welcome collection for readers of various ages and, perhaps surprisingly, more than one gender."--Booklist
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