3 min read
Naomi Katz has been teaching and working with girls for fifteen years as an educator, consultant, and the founder of the Beautiful Project, a non-profit that empowers young women to “love themselves and speak their truths.” During that time, she’s been listening closely to what young women have to say, a fact that is obvious in her book, Beautiful: Being an Empowered Young Woman.
Ms Katz knows that teenagers can smell someone telling them what to do a mile away (and they run in the opposite direction). Her voice is familiar and knowledgeable, without an ounce of “preach.” She’s grounded, gentle, and non-judgmental; she’s the friend we seek out when we’re grappling with a problem.
I wish I’d read a book like this when I was that age. I would have known that I wasn’t alone.
Chapters focus on topics as wide-ranging as media consumption, race, and dealing with stress. Ms Katz collages together different types of writing: her own empathetic perspective and personal stories, text boxes providing definitions of terms and background information, and short assignments. Throughout the book, she emphasizes that what matters most is authenticity. She encourages girls to question society’s expectations, instead taking the time to examine their own inner feelings and needs.
The most powerful aspect of the book is the writing from girls themselves. Ms Katz includes letters, essays, and poems written by girls ranging from 13 – 17 years old. In their own honest, articulate words, these young women tell us exactly what they are going through. I wish I’d read a book like this when I was that age. I would have known that I wasn’t alone.
Beautiful is written with middle and high school girls in mind, and it speaks directly to them. But this is also a great book for any parents of adolescent girls to read. If you’re anything like me, there are parts of growing up that you’ve forgotten. Ms Katz, with her keen observations and insights into young girls’ lives, gives us a poignant reminder of how much pressure and stress young women deal with on a daily basis. If we parents can understand that, we might have more compassion for our girls, and maybe ask questions before we lose our tempers.
For those lucky enough to have open communication with an adolescent daughter, I recommend reading this book together. This is an opportunity to talk about loaded topics like sex and abuse. Pass this book between you, read it aloud, underline the parts that move you, discuss it in the car or at her favorite burger joint. Whatever makes your daughter feel safe enough to open up.
If your daughter won’t discuss the details of her life with you, giving her this book (or leaving it where she can find it) could do her a world of good. Adolescence is a time when so many kids feel misunderstood, weird, or worried they’ll get in trouble if they’re honest. They don’t feel comfortable going to their parents with questions, yet we know that they will get their information (or misinformation) somewhere. Ms Katz offers the kind of loving, thoughtful advice that many of us want our kids to hear.
Ms Katz’s Beautiful tells young girls that they are valuable, capable, and, yes, beautiful, just as they are. It also gives us adults a road map for supporting our daughters: respect their minds, respect their feelings, be gentle and compassionate, listen to their voices.