Glimmering Girls: A Novel of the Fifties

Glimmering Girls: A Novel of the Fifties

by Merrill Joan Gerber
     
 

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Glimmering Girls tells the story of three extraordinary American women during a time of sexual and cultural repression. Francie and her friends Liz and Amanda are college students, coming of age intellectually, emotionally, and physically in a setting where men were forbidden entry to women's dorm rooms, and women were locked into those rooms after curfew.

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Overview

Glimmering Girls tells the story of three extraordinary American women during a time of sexual and cultural repression. Francie and her friends Liz and Amanda are college students, coming of age intellectually, emotionally, and physically in a setting where men were forbidden entry to women's dorm rooms, and women were locked into those rooms after curfew. College life for women was governed by one simple, cardinal rule: Marry Before Graduation or Be Lost Forever. Any thirst for adventure was supposed to be satisfied by the occasional panty raid. Francie and friends, however, find all this hard to swallow, and they resist their appointed futures as elementary school teachers and holders of the precious "MRS" degree. Doing the unthinkable, the three move off campus to live in a house with three men-Liz's boyfriend and two handsome, mysterious Southern twins who fix foreign cars in a shop off campus. There the young women's rebellion against expectations deepens, and they begin the real-world education of pursuing their dreams. Francie yearns to be a writer, and is encouraged by her Russian literature professor. Then she meets Joshua, a talented and dedicated piano student, who presents the ultimate challenge: does she maintain her "virtue," or give in to her sexual desires, finally breaking fully free of repressive "respectability"? Glimmering Girls follows Francie, Liz, and Amanda through this and other discoveries and adventures. Ultimately, each finds a way to live fully at a time when their entire culture seemed arrayed against them.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"As a woman of that period I enjoyed particularly the detailed account of dorm regulations, of surveillance, of two "feet on the floor" rules for evening guests. [Gerber] hasn't forgotten much about what it was like to move into adulthood—sexual and social—in a world so restrictive, fearful, and distrustful of natural impulses."—Janet Burstein, author of Telling the "Little Secrets": American Jewish Writers of the New Wave

"Gerber's fine attention to craft is abundantly evident, from the wonderful pacing of the narrative to her sympathetic and adroit rendering of her independent and intelligent artist-as-a-young-woman protagonist struggling through an era of American life that refuses to extol such qualities in women."—Andrew Furman, author of Contemporary Jewish-American Writers and the Multicultural Dilemma: Return of the Exiled

"Readers will enjoy Glimmering Girls for its combination of poetry, sexuality, humor, and yearning in a young woman’s life."—Charlotte Zoe Walker, SUNY Oneonta, former NEA creative writing fellow and O. Henry Award winner

Kirkus Reviews
Gerber (This Is a Voice from Your Past, p. 71, etc.) gives a spot-on rendition of collegiate girlhood circa 1959, when, for women, the only options to marriage were teaching or nursing. Francie is a New Yorker, transplanted to the University of Florida and rooming with Mary Lou, who spends her time reading bridal magazines and fantasizing about finding a husband before graduation. By chance, Francie meets Liz and Amanda, two blonde and slightly rebellious coeds who become her "teachers of life" (they take her to a party where a man whispers passages in her ear from the then banned Lady Chatterley's Lover). Second semester, the three rent a house off-campus with Liz's boyfriend Bill and the twin brothers he works with. The delicious anticipation of living together focuses at first on shared meals, though Francie is clearly expecting overtures from one of the twins-until it becomes clear not only that Liz and Bill are really a couple (Francie discovers Liz's contraceptive jelly-"proof!") but that the twins are interested mainly in each other. Eventually, Francie meets Joshua, a pianist with dark curly hair and strong shoulders, and soon they're making out on a secluded bench after curfew. Francie's feelings about sexuality-her curiosity, willingness to experiment despite pressures to retain her virginity, her fear she's gotten pregnant through heavy petting, her discovery that a prof is gay and having an affair with a student she knows-are presented with a combined naivete and desire that are appropriate to the decade before the sexual revolution. Her gradual steps toward the life she might lead after graduation include difficult decisions and the courage to go against convention. Adelightful period piece that brings to life an era of sexual tension and innocence as three "glimmering girls" discard their innocence to become "illuminated women."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780299210601
Publisher:
University of Wisconsin Press
Publication date:
02/24/2005
Series:
Library of American Fiction Series
Edition description:
1
Pages:
260
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Merrill Joan Gerber teaches fiction writing at the California Institute of Technology. Her many novels, short-story collections, and non-fiction works include Botticelli Blue Skies, and the prize-winning King of the World and Kingdom of Brooklyn. Her most recent books are Gut Feelings: A Writer's Truths and Minute Inventions and This Is A Voice From Your Past: New and Selected Stories.

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