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A Celebration of Girlhood by Melissa Febos

Event date: 
Tuesday, March 30, 2021 - 7:30pm to 9:00pm

Charis welcomes Melissa Febos for a launch of Girlhood with Jami Attenberg, Donika Kelly, Grace Lavery, Bassey Ikpi, Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, Suleika Jaouad, Elissa Washuta, and Melissa Broder. A gripping set of stories about the forces that shape girls and the adults they become. A wise and brilliant guide to transforming the self and our society. This event is co-sponsored by The Lola. The Lola's mission is to bring together womxn as allies and accomplices to tell our stories, raise our voices, and dismantle a system that doesn't serve us. Click here to learn more. This event takes place on crowdcast, Charis' virtual event platform. Register here.
In her powerful new book, critically acclaimed author Melissa Febos examines the narratives women are told about what it means to be female and what it takes to free oneself from them.

When her body began to change at eleven years old, Febos understood immediately that her meaning to other people had changed with it. By her teens, she defined herself based on these perceptions and by the romantic relationships, she threw herself into headlong. Over time, Febos increasingly questioned the stories she'd been told about herself and the habits and defenses she'd developed over years of trying to meet others' expectations. The values she and so many other women had learned in girlhood did not prioritize their personal safety, happiness, or freedom, and she set out to reframe those values and beliefs.

Blending investigative reporting, memoir, and scholarship, Febos charts how she and others like her have reimagined relationships and made room for the anger, grief, power, and pleasure women have long been taught to deny.

Written with Febos' characteristic precision, lyricism, and insight, Girlhood is a philosophical treatise, an anthem for women, and a searing study of the transitions into and away from girlhood, toward a chosen self.

This event is free and open to all people, especially to those who have no income or low income right now, but we encourage and appreciate a solidarity donation in support of the work of Charis Circle, our programming non-profit. Charis Circle's mission is to foster sustainable feminist communities, work for social justice, and encourage the expression of diverse and marginalized voices.

We will be archiving this event and adding closed captioning as soon as possible after airing so that it will be accessible to deaf and HOH people. If you have other accessibility needs or if you are someone who has skills in making digital events more accessible please don't hesitate to reach out to We are actively learning the best practices for this technology and we welcome your feedback as we begin this new way of connecting across distances.

By attending our virtual event you agree to our Code of Conduct: Our event seeks to provide a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, religion (or lack thereof), class, or technology choices. We do not tolerate harassment in any form. Sexual language and imagery are not appropriate. Anyone violating these rules will be expelled from this event and all future events at the discretion of the organizers. Please report all harassment to immediately.

MELISSA FEBOS is the author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me, a Lambda Literary Award finalist and Publishing Triangle Award finalist. Her essays have appeared in Tin HouseThe BelieverThe New York Times, and elsewhere. Febos is the inaugural winner of the Jeanne Córdova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction from Lambda Literary and the recipient of fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, The BAU Institute, The Barbara Deming Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and others. She is an associate professor at The University of Iowa, where she teaches in the Nonfiction Writing

Jami Attenberg has written about food, travel, books, relationships and urban life for The New York Times MagazineThe Wall Street Journal, the Sunday Times, Slate, and others. All This Could Be Yours was published in 2019 by HMH Books and Serpent’s Tail (UK), as well as in Italy, Germany, China, and Brazil. Her work has been published in a total of sixteen languages. Her debut collection of stories, Instant Love, was published in 2006, followed by the novels The Kept Man and The Melting Season. Her fourth book, The Middlesteins, was published in October 2012. It appeared on The New York Times bestseller list, and was published in ten countries in 2013. It was also a finalist for both the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and the St. Francis College Literary Prize. A fifth book, Saint Mazie, was published in 2015 and has been optioned by Fable Pictures. Her sixth book, All Grown Up, was published in 2017 and was a national bestseller, appearing on numerous year-end lists. She lives in New Orleans, LA.

Donika Kelly is the author of the chapbook Aviarium (fivehundred places) and the full-length collections The Renunciations (forthcoming, Graywolf) and Bestiary (Graywolf). Bestiary is the winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry, and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. She is a Cave Canem graduate fellow and member of the collective Poets at the End of the World. Her poems have been featured in The New YorkerThe Paris Review, and Foglifter. She currently lives in Iowa City and is an Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa, where she teaches creative writing.

Grace Lavery is a writer, editor, and academic living in Brooklyn, NY. As an Associate Professor of English, Critical Theory, and Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, her research explores the history and theory of aesthetics and interpretation, with particular interests in psychoanalysis, literary realism, and queer and trans cultures. Her forthcoming speculative memoir, Please Miss, will be published by Seal Press in 2022.

Her first book, Quaint, Exquisite: Victorian Aesthetics and the Idea of Japan, was published by Princeton University Press in 2019, and her scholarly essays have been published in Critical Inquiry, Differences, Social Text Online, Transgender Studies Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is a General Editor of Transgender Studies Quarterly. She writes for non-specialist readerships on queer/trans culture and politics, and has published work in Autostraddle, The Guardian, Gay Magazine, them, and Catapult, where she has an occasional film column entitled “Lurid Speculations.” Grace has a husband named Daniel and a Japanese Chin named Bon-Bon. She enjoys cooking and walking.

Bassey Ikpi embodies the brilliance of multifaceted creative minds. The writer, performer, and advocate is author of the instant New York Times bestselling book, I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying (Harper Perennial 2019). Essence Magazine esteemed this debut collection of essays as “beautiful and compelling,” while Audible defines the writing as both “visceral” and “comforting.”  The compilation, which went into a second pressing on the day of its release, has earned the mental health activist stunning reviews from readers and media outlets nationwide. 

Alex Marzano-Lesnevich is the author of THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir, which received a Lambda Literary Award, the Chautauqua Prize, the Grand Prix des Lectrices ELLE, the Prix des libraires du Quebec, and the Prix France Inter-JDD. It has been translated into ten languages. Marzano-Lesnevich has received fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, MacDowell, and Yaddo, and has written for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Harper’s, ELLE France, and many other publications. Their next book, BOTH AND NEITHER, about life beyond the gender binary, is forthcoming in 2023 from Doubleday in the US and publishers internationally. An excerpt, "Body Language," appears in THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2020. They live in Portland, Maine, and are an assistant professor at Bowdoin College.

Suleika Jaouad is an Emmy Award-winning writer, speaker, cancer survivor and the creator of The Isolation Journals, a global movement cultivating community and creativity during hard times. Born in New York City to a Tunisian father and a Swiss mother, Suleika Jaouad's career aspirations as a foreign correspondent were cut short when, at age 22, she was diagnosed with leukemia. She began writing her acclaimed New York Times column and video series "Life, Interrupted” from the front lines of her hospital bed, and has since become a fierce advocate for those living with illness and chronic pain.  She served on Barack Obama’s Presidential Cancer Panel, and her reporting, speaking and teaching engagements have brought her everywhere from the main stage of TED, the United Nations and Capitol Hill, to a maximum-security prison and a two-room schoolhouse in rural Montana. She has written reported features, essays and commentary for New York Times MagazineVogue, NPR, National GeographicGlamour, and numerous other publications. Her book, Between Two Kingdoms is forthcoming in 2021 from Random House. When she’s not on the road with her 1972 Volkswagen camper van and rescue dog Oscar, she lives in Brooklyn.

Elissa Washuta is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and a nonfiction writer. She is the author of My Body Is a Book of Rules and Starvation Mode, and her book White Magic is forthcoming from Tin House Books. With Theresa Warburton, she is co-editor of the anthology Shapes of Native Nonfiction: Collected Essays by Contemporary Writers. She’s a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship recipient, a Creative Capital awardee, and an assistant professor of creative writing at the Ohio State University.

Melissa Broder is the author of the novels MILK FED (Feb 2021; Scribner) and THE PISCES, the essay collection SO SAD TODAY, and five poetry collections, including SUPERDOOM: Selected Poems--coming this Summer from Tin House. She lives in Los Angeles.

Event address: 
Girlhood By Melissa Febos Cover Image
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9781635572520
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing - March 30th, 2021

National Book Critics Circle Award Winner
National Bestseller
Lambda Literary Award Finalist

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY TIME * NPR * The Washington Post * Kirkus Reviews * Washington Independent Review of Books * The Millions * Electric Literature * Ms Magazine * Entropy Magazine * Largehearted Boy * Passerbuys

Whip Smart: The True Story of a Secret Life By Melissa Febos Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312583781
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - July 19th, 2011

A dark, wild, powerful memoir about a young woman's transformation from college student to professional dominatrix

Abandon Me: Memoirs By Melissa Febos Cover Image
ISBN: 9781632866585
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Bloomsbury USA - February 6th, 2018

Named One of the Best Books of 2017 by:
Esquire, Refinery29, LitHub, BookRiot, Medium, Electric Literature, The Brooklyn Rail, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Largehearted Boy, The Coil and The Cut.

Winner of the Lambda Literary Jeanne Cordova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction

Event Summary: 
Charis welcomes Melissa Febos for a launch of Girlhood with Jami Attenberg, Donika Kelly, Grace Lavery, Bassey Ikpi, Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, Suleika Jaouad, Elissa Washuta, and Melissa Broder.