Don't Cramp My Style: Stories About "That" Time of the Month

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9780689858826: Don't Cramp My Style: Stories About

Whether your cycle is regular or random, you prefer chocolate or chips, you break out or stay zit-free, your period is an indelible fact of life....

Finally, a book that forgets "Aunt Flow" and "the curse" and deals with that time of the month head-on. In twelve stirring fictional narratives, celebrated authors including Han Nolan and David Lubar explore with spirit and strength everything from boyfriends buying tampons, to embarrassing encounters in white, to heart-wrenching pregnancy scares. This is a must-have collection for young women everywhere!

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About the Author:

Lisa Rowe Fraustinois the award-winning editor of the acclaimed anthology Dirty Laundry: Stories About Family Secrets and the celebrated collection Soul Searching: Thirteen Stories About Faith and Belief. She is also the author of the ALA Notable Book The Hickory Chair, illustrated by Benny Andrews. Lisa resides in Ashford, Connecticut, and is a professor of English and children's literature at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Afterword

by Lisa Rowe Fraustino

When Alyssa Eisner asked me if I would be interested in editing this anthology for Simon & Schuster, my first reaction was a jolt of silent shock. My second reaction was a very long, loud laugh with my head tipped back. A collection of short stories on the theme of menstruation! What a hoot! It was bold, it was fresh, and it was long overdue. If only I could have gotten my hands on more stories about womanhood when I was thirteen and wondering if I was normal...when I was twenty and wondering if I was pregnant...when I was thirty and trying to explain menstruation to my eight-year-old daughter.

Each day when I was in eighth grade, the girls gathered on the playground in covert circles to share secret stories of their menstrual experiences. The best I could contribute was the greatly embellished tale of my little brother using my mother's pads to do the dirty deed when we had run out of toilet paper. Why had I not yet begun my period? I had passed the age when my mother started hers. Was there something wrong with me? The question dominated my mind in those days during the fall of 1974.

Day after day it seemed I wore the only unbloodied undies in all of Piscataquis County, Maine, until the big day came at last. In subsequent months the familiar red blot would become an annoyance, but that first time I rejoiced while rinsing my panties in cold water to prevent stains as Mama had taught me. Now I, too, could spend recess bemoaning how I had bled through two tampons AND a pad during a double period science lab (double period har har). We wore our womanhood proudly in our secret society. Cramps were our badge of honor. No boys allowed.

During my long, loud laugh while Alyssa waited on the other end of the phone for an answer, I recalled that long-forgotten recess ritual of telling period tales, recalled how desperate we all had been for understanding of what it meant to bleed, to become interested in sex, to be able to have babies: to be a woman. Yes, with pleasure, I would edit a collection of fiction about menstruation for an audience of mature young adults. And so I set to work inviting writers to contribute work from a variety of perspectives. Their stories range from comic to tragic, historical to contemporary, autobiographical to purely imaginary. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed working with these talented authors.

Pat Brisson has published a dozen books, including The Summer My Father Was Ten, winner of the Christopher Award. She says, "I wrote 'Taking Care of Things' because I wanted to see if I could write something for an older audience, since my books are mostly picture books and easy-to-reads. Joyce McDonald suggested I use the voice that I've used in writing occasional humorous essays for my friends. That set me on the right track and the story idea came from what must be a universal concern of women everywhere -- what if you get your period and can't get to a ladies room? I just compounded the situation by inventing a series of obstacles that needed to be overcome (and throwing in a love interest)."

Lisa Rowe Fraustino, editor of this anthology as well as Soul Searching: Thirteen Stories of Faith and Belief, teaches in the English Department at Eastern Connecticut State University, specializing in children's and adolescent literature. "I got the idea for 'Sleeping Beauty' from a newspaper article about a college student who was found dead after giving birth in a dorm bathroom, and nobody had even known she was pregnant. This situation, unbelievable yet true, raises many questions. How could a smart, talented young woman hide her pregnancy even from herself? Wouldn't she have missed her periods? My story imagines some answers and provides an implicit warning in the way that traditional fairy tales do. Women need to accept their bodies or dire consequences will result."

Joan Elizabeth Goodman began her career as a picture-book illustrator. She claims, "I wrote (with difficulty) in order to have something to illustrate. The writing eventually seduced me." Thirty books later, she has expanded from picture books and middle-grade novels to young-adult historical fiction including Paradise, based on a true story of survival. She got the idea for "The Czarevna of Muscovy" from a fragment she had read about the medieval Terem in the Kremlin. "It made me wonder how those women endured their lives of confinement."

Deborah Heiligman has written fourteen children's books, most of them fiction. "Ritual Purity" is her first piece of young-adult fiction. "When I heard about the book on menstruation, my first thought was, there has to be a mikveh in it. I wanted to put a mainstream but troubled young woman in the Orthodox world and see how they would react to each other. When I was working on the story I had a great talk with a woman who was an Aunt Barbara for a young woman who lost her mother as a kid. She told the girl: 'You have to stop being the girl who lost her mother. That shouldn't define you for the rest of your life.' So I told that to Mimi, too, and what better way to move on than through the mikveh ritual? The other, deeper reason I wrote about Mimi and Barbara: I lost my own mother when I was thirty-four, and I have spent a lot of time trying to replace her. I just can't seem to do that, so I try to do it in fiction."

Linda Oatman High has published picture books, middle-grade novels, and a young-adult novel called Sister Slam, Twig, and the Poetic Motormouth Road Trip. She's also a songwriter and teacher of writing workshops. She says, "I wrote 'The Uterus Fairy' six weeks after undergoing a hysterectomy, wishing for my own Uterus Fairy while struggling with mixed emotions at the ending of my childbearing years."

David Lubar has the distinction of being the only male author to rise to the challenge of writing a menstruation story for this anthology. He claims it wasn't hard to find inspiration. "Several years ago, my wife and I stopped to say hi to a couple we knew, and we all decided to have dinner together. When the other guy and I headed out to pick up some food, my wife asked me to get her a box of tampons. I didn't mind, but my friend flinched. He actually didn't want to go near me in the store after I had the box in my hands." Recent books by David Lubar include FLIP, Wizards of the Game, and Dunk.

Michelle H. Martin is Assistant Professor of English at Clemson University. She wrote her Ph.D. dissertation on menstruation in children's literature and was invited to write the Introduction to this volume because of her knowledge about the topic. Her baby, Amelia, was born on June 12, 2003. She weighed six pounds, eight ounces, and was nineteen inches long.

Joyce McDonald is the author of several young-adult novels, from the multiple award-winning Swallowing Stones to Devil on My Heels. "The idea for 'Transfusion' came from several sources," she says, "including my own experience of working the graveyard shift in the psychiatric ward at the university hospital when I was a senior in college, and a funny story a friend told me about unleashing a whole carton of eggs at her husband during one of their more heated verbal battles. When I first began to weave together these and other seemingly disparate threads, I had no idea that the end result would be a story about the emotional distortions that sometimes accompany a colossal case of PMS."

Alice McGill was born the great-granddaughter of slaves in North Carolina. Known as a storyteller and for her historic portrayal of Sojourner Truth, she has written several children's books, including Molly Bannaky, In the Hollow of Your Hand: Slave Lullabies, and Here We Go Round. The story "Moon Time Child" developed from her keen interest in the everyday life of female slaves. "Drawing from passed-down stories regarding menstruation and forced breeding, I wanted to write about how young slave women protected themselves under harsh treatment. Unfortunately, very few slave women were able to save themselves from forced breeding. I am still wondering how these women viewed their babies. Perhaps that's another story."

Han Nolan has won numerous awards for her young- adult novels, including the National Book Award for Dancing on the Edge. She says, "I guess the seed for my story is from my own childhood. When I was in third grade and waiting in line at the water fountain, a friend of mine told me about periods and I didn't believe her, or I didn't want to. I had never heard of such a thing. She told me all girls and women get it and I thought to myself, Well I never will. That's as far as it went. I never tried to prevent it. The majority of the story is just from my imagination but it came from that incident and the idea of someone learning about getting periods too early and the possible consequences of that."

Dianne Ochiltree is a reviewer of children's books and the author of several books for young readers, including Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins. She has traced her ancestry on her father's side back to the Blackfoot tribe, and her lifelong interest in Native American cultures and customs inspired "The Women's House." "Menstruation held powerful meaning for the Lenni-Lenapes, as it did for most Native Americans. I grew up in a family of three sisters close in age, much like the spacing in Sparrow-Song's family, and I enjoyed revisiting the love, laughter, and mood swings of our sisterhood in the story. I was fortunate to have several strong women in my own family who generously gave me the support and guidance needed to make the transition to womanhood. This story helped me to honor the bond that we all have with our life mentors, and with each other."

Julie Stockler says, "Unlike the other contributors to this book, my story is not only my first piece of published fiction, it is the first piece of fiction that I have ever written. For the past thirty years, I've ...

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