About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

118 - The Disappearing Girl

Odd juxtaposition, this. In between reading The Disappearing Girl: Learning the Language of Teenage Depression, by Lisa Machoian (Dutton, 2005) today, I was selling Girl Scout cookies with a passel of tweens, on a college campus where we were surrounded by young women (and men) just on the other side of adolescence. Neither is that unusual an event, but it did put some of Machoian's warning into sharper focus.

My initial reaction is that Disappearing Girl was a decent enough book, well-written, and packed with extended, moving case studies. Machoian's goal seems to be to assist parents, counselors, and others who work with adolescent girls in understanding what depression looks like in this population, and how they can best help. I'm neither a clinician nor the parent of an adolescent (yet), but it seems like for the most part, she succeeds; if nothing else, the few reviews I was able to find online were positive.

There's not a lot of new content here; I can't say I learned much about depression or female adolescence that I didn't already know, though (as my blog-reading public will attest) I do tend to gobble up books on both topics. What is new is Machoian's focus on portraying, in direct quotes and paraphrases, the girls' own experiences of depression and its onset. She also returns repeatedly to the problem of distinguishing normal teenaged angst from genuine depression, and in the final chapters, offers some guidelines for parents and others who struggle with this question.

I can't find too much to criticize about the book, with the possible exception of Machoian's tendency to insert herself into the girls' stories a bit more than seems necessary, but I also can't seem to find much concrete to say to recommend it, either. This isn't because it's a "bad" book; on the contrary, one Amazon reviewer called it "paradoxically uplifting," which I can see; yes, it's a book about teenage depression, but it also reflects tremendous hope, both on the part of the girls Machoian profiles and the author, that this condition can be understood and treated. Mostly, I just came away feeling like I'd read this book before. Yes, it's more psychology and less culture than, say, The Triple Bind, but it also suggests that I've gotten into a bit of a rut when it comes to reading about certain subjects. I think perhaps I just need to lay off the books on treating and/or parenting adolescents, and read some nice juicy fiction for a while.

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