Girls' Night out Gets Smart; from Cheyenne to Manhattan, Teenage Girls and Their Mothers Are Gathering for Honest Talk on a Surprising Topic: Books

By Picker, Lauren | Newsweek, March 21, 2005 | Go to article overview

Girls' Night out Gets Smart; from Cheyenne to Manhattan, Teenage Girls and Their Mothers Are Gathering for Honest Talk on a Surprising Topic: Books


Picker, Lauren, Newsweek


Byline: Lauren Picker

It could be a book group like any other. Fourteen friends and neighbors are gathered in Janet Boltax's Montclair, N.J., living room, discussing a novel. Conversation, frequently punctuated by laughter, flows as freely as the tea and pink lemonade. What makes this group different is its composition: women and their eighth-grade daughters who--brace yourself--actually seem to enjoy their mothers' company. "It's cool to hear her perspective on things," says Emily Claman, a 13-year-old whose oversize hoop earrings match her mom's.

Yes, she said cool. And, no, these are not aberrant adolescents who missed the memo on how teenage girls are supposed to act. Scenes like this one--call it Oprah's Book Club meets Mommy and Me--are playing out in living rooms and at public libraries across the country. "We hear more and more about them. They've become so popular," observes Carol Brey-Casiano, president of the American Library Association in Chicago. There are as many mother-daughter pairs on a wait list to join the club at the Central Library in Cheyenne, Wyo., as participants in the group. Even American Girl Place in New York City is getting in on the act; the pre-tween shopping attraction recently launched a book club where moms and their daughters can talk about a designated American Girl title over tea, with the help of a moderator from the New York Public Library.

The concept is simple: read books, discuss. But these clubs are not just about books. In an era where parents are crazy busy and kids grow up too fast, it's an opportunity for mothers and daughters, a group arguably hard-wired for conflict, to slow down and communicate. "Reading and talking together can enrich our relationship with one another," notes Shireen Dodson, author of "The Mother-Daughter Book Club." And it doesn't matter if the book is a Newbery Medal winner like Sharon Creech's "Walk Two Moons," a popular book-club title or a volume in the trendy "Gossip Girl" series. "Just the fact that the mother would do this speaks volumes to the daughter about how important she is," says Roni Cohen-Sandler, a psychologist and author of "I'm Not Mad, I Just Hate You! …

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