Review: Sweet Secrets

Sweet Secrets

Sweet Secrets: Stories of Menstruation

by Kathleen O'Grady, Paula Wansbrough

1997. Second Story Press, Toronto.

Sweet Secrets is a brilliant idea: a book that mixes facts about menstruation with short stories about different girls' experiences with first periods. I'm no 10 year old girl learning about puberty, but from my perspective the execution of this book lives up to its potential.

The facts are accurate, comprehensive and positive (bodies, babies, yeast, gynecologists, ecology, the works). My pet criteria is even met: reusable menstrual products are covered. The focus is always on empowerment and active female roles, rather than things that happen to girls.

But it was the stories that got me excited about this book, and they didn't disappoint. Context, experience, sensations and feelings are very often neglected in menstrual education, and storytelling is a great way to fill in that information.

The stories in Sweet Secrets are well-written and diverse. There are capable girls, helpless girls, girls who have good experiences with menstrual culture, girls with religious customs they find oppressive, girls who enjoy their sweet womanly secrets, girls who hate it and take grouchy vengeance on their families, girls who couldn't care less, and girls who are just silly and weird.

There's even a section of stories about waiting, which are the only stories I can ever remember reading about expectant pubescent girls that don't culminate in the inevitable arrival of a period. The arrival of that period always made me, late-bloomer that I was, feel left out. The inclusion of stories about waiting, not getting, warmed my heart even at 25.

My particular tastes and experiences were addressed in this book, along with a range of situations that would be relevant to most girls. I would happily suggest Sweet Secrets as a stand-alone puberty reference for any girl.

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