Don't Cramp My Style: Stories about THAT Time of the Month


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 ...

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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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fraustino (editor of Soul Searching: Thirteen Stories About Faith and Belief) homes in on a subject that often fascinates preadolescent and adolescent girls, perhaps because it's not frequently discussed in fiction. Producing original stories, the dozen authors here are in tune with their audience's tastes and needs. They look beyond the discomfort and inconvenience of menstruation to examine the spiritual transformations of their female protagonists. Dianne Ochiltree tells how a Native American girl regards her coming of age with disgust and trepidation until she visits the "women's house," where she bonds with several women in the tribe and witnesses childbirth for the first time. For some characters, like Alice McGill's Salome, a slave girl sold as a breeder, the onset of menses marks the end of a carefree childhood. For others, like Linda Oatman's 15-year-old heroine (who fears she may be pregnant), having a period is a sign of liberation. Ranging in tone from funny to tragic and depicting a variety of eras and cultures, this book will give readers occasion for laughter and reflection. Ages 11-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
This highly recommended collection of eleven stories by different authors encompasses an impressive variety of times, cultures, attitudes, and moods. "That time of the month" connects the stories. In The Women's House by Dianne Ochiltree, a Native American girl dreads her first trip to the "women's house," where all women spend the duration of their bleeding each month, only to find a wonderful place where she learns about her own value to the community. Maroon by Han Nolan is written from the perspective of an eight-year-old whose older cousin stays with the family because she is pregnant. When Candy Sue dies trying to terminate her own pregnancy, it affects the younger girl late into adolescence. In Moon Time Child, Alice McGill illuminates a little-known aspect of plantation life. Beginning her period means that soon Salome will go with other slaves to meet young men with whom they will be forced to breed. David Lubar, the only male author in the group, humorously offers The Heroic Quest of Douglas McGawain, in which a teenager's girlfriend asks him to buy her some tampons while he is out shopping. The writing in this collection is consistently excellent. The only concern is one of initial appeal, but with pushing, a variety of young women will enjoy these stories—those curious about what is to come as well as those grappling with their sexuality. A few stories even address issues of losing one's virginity. This book turns a monthly annoyance into an event of significance and wonder. VOYA Codes: 5Q 3P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Simon & Schuster,304p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Angela Carstensen
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-This collection of 12 stories is something of a mixed bag. Pat Brisson's opening selection, in which Carly, 16, runs a hilarious obstacle course through her high school to get to the girls' room, is lighthearted and entertaining. It is followed by a survey of depressed premenstrual young women from around the world. Alice McGill's "Moon Time Child" is a slave narrative in which Salome, 13, dreads her first period because it will render her a breeder. All is well, however, when a kind older woman finds a way for her to breed with the elder's grandson. In Deborah Heiligman's "Ritual Purity," tough, drug-addicted Mimi is sent to live with Orthodox Jewish relatives; when her aunt miscarries and Mimi saves her life, she also learns to value her own. Fraustino's "Sleeping Beauty" is the inner monologue of an overachieving premed student who denies her own pregnancy until she gives birth in a stall in her dorm bathroom. More affecting, and more subtly drawn, is Han Nolan's Southern Gothic "Maroon," about the death of a teenage girl by coat-hanger abortion, as seen through the eyes of her eight-year-old cousin. Despite the few bright spots, the tone tends to be heavy-handed and a bit preachy; overall the selections tell quite a bit more than they show. Good nonfiction, like Lynda Madaras's What's Happening to My Body? Book for Girls (Newmarket, 1991) and fiction like Erzsi Deak and Kristin Embry Litchman's Period Pieces (HarperCollins, 2003) cover the subject with more style, humor, and grace.-Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The punnish title does not really reflect the tone of this fiction collection featuring coming-of-age rituals in various cultures-there's almost no lightheartedness. Instead, Han Nolan's "Maroon" presents the harrowing tale of a girl who finds her own horror in an unmarried teen cousin's pregnancy and death; and Linda Oatman High prays that "The Uterus Fairy" will make that period arrive at last. Alice McGill starkly presents the breeding of slaves in "Moon Time Child." The Jewish ritual mikvah and the Lenni-Lenape's women's house have central roles in the stories by Deborah Heiligman and Dianne Ochiltree. As often happens in anthologies around a theme, the quality of the writing is uneven. The lone male contributor, David Lubar, whose "Heroic Quest of Douglas MacGawain" is the sweetest and least dark, describes a young man's search for tampons for his girlfriend at the local store, and it will produce chuckles and joy. (Short stories. 11+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689858826
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 3/2/2004
  • Pages: 304
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet 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.

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Read an Excerpt


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 been a freelance medical writer, creating books, videos, articles, and Web sites for physicians. More recently I've been trying my hand at writing essays. The idea for 'Losing It' came from one of those essays. Like Jessie, I biked around Lake Superior with a pack of friends the summer after graduation. Like Jessie, I have often found myself losing my voice when it really counts. Now, for example. Even though I am going to be fifty years old and have two teenage daughters of my own, my joy in having my first piece of fiction published is seriously tempered by the knowledge that my mom and dad will be reading it."

Last week I showed my seventy-eight-year-old grandmother the forthcoming book jacket and described the theme of Don't Cramp My Style. She had the same reaction I had upon Alyssa's phone pitch: shocked silence followed by hearty laughter. And I realized at that moment that this book may have an even broader appeal than I had originally envisioned. Women of all ages love to tell and hear menstruation stories. We've been sharing them with each other for centuries. It's about time we started putting more of them in books.

And guys, if you're brave enough, you're invited to read them too. Welcome to the secret circle.

Lisa Rowe Fraustino

Ashford, Connecticut

July 19, 2003

Copyright © 2004 by Simon & Schuster

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Table of Contents


introduction "snapshots in blood" by Michelle H. Martin

"taking care of things" by Pat Brisson

"the heroic quest of douglas mcgawain" by David Lubar

"moon time child" by Alice McGill

"the women's house" by Dianne Ochiltree

"the czarevna of muscovy" by Joan Elizabeth Goodman

"sleeping beauty" by Lisa Rowe Fraustino

"transfusion" by Joyce McDonald

"maroon" by Han Nolan

"ritual purity" by Deborah Heiligman

"losing it" by Julie Stockler

"the uterus fairy" by Linda Oatman High


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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2005

    A girl who likes books........ just not this one!!!!

    I normally like books about teenage stuff, but when I read this book I got really scared! Half of the stories were weird and the other half were weirder! One was so scared I started to cry! I wouldnt suggest this book unless you like this kind of thing?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2006


    This book was pretty good. Some of the stories I didn't enjoy like the moon time. That was just stupid. Otherwise it was all good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2004

    Most of the stories are boring

    I havent even finished it because the last 2 stories just were long an very boring. It was a good idea though.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2004

    Excellent Anthology

    I may not be the target audience for this book (I'm an adult male, I suspect most of its readers will be adolescent females), but I thought this was a terrific anthology, and a great way to get a discussion started about 'that time of month.' For girls, it gives some perspective, and for boys (if you could get them to read it), it would go a long way toward demystifying the ways of women (!). I especially liked Dianne Ochiltree's 'The Woman's House,' and David Lubar's very funny 'The Heroic Quest of Douglas McGawain' (a teenage boy goes out to buy tampons for his girlfriend!).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2004

    Great Concept, Poorly Executed

    What could have been a funny, insightful, authentic anthology just doesn't quite make it. Many of the stories seem to have menstruation thrown in: the event doesn't add anything to the plot. 'Heroic Quest,' about a guy buying tampoons for his girlfriend, is the best of the bunch. The rest range from 'pretty good' to 'downright stupid.' I'd like to see this redone with better stories from better-known authors.

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