Friday, May 29, 2015

Book Review: The Girls of Huntington House

A Fair Trade Book

Title: The Girls of Huntington House
Author: Blossom Elfman

Author's web page:
Date: 1972
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
ISBN: 0-395-13951-1
Length: 212 pages
Quote: “I would also learn a lesson, a significant and vital lesson, from a sixteen-year-old girl without any judgment, without any logic, without any husband.”
Presumably the stories of the pregnant teenagers are the fictional part of this book. After an introduction like that, one suspects that the teacher, who narrates their story, is probably Blossom Elfman.
Among the things the teacher learns from her students is a short summary of the inadequacy of a compulsory school system. “The best way for kids to escape the overcrowded city classrooms? Just get pregnant.” From the nurses at the school she learns more useful, though icky, information about pregnancy.
Teacher doesn’t learn, at the special school for pregnant girls, what she already knows about men. It’s so unfashionable, but...Teacher always says no to her Significant Other. He stays around. The students have all said yes to men. None of those men has stayed around. Most men are pursuers; what’s completely achieved becomes uninteresting. For teacher to appreciate her superior “relationship skills” would have been very unfashionable in 1972.
Instead, she learns a much more fashionable piece of wisdom for this historical period. Brace yourself for this revelation: Teacher has been thinking too much! Just like the pregnant teenagers have been feeling too much, and not thinking enough! Teacher needs to learn to feel more!
This is not my idea of a satisfactory revelation. Nevertheless, along the way The Girls of Huntington House have things to tell us that teenaged girls need to hear: being pregnant is often uncomfortable, often disgusting, and it ruins your high school social life, and then you may not even get to keep the baby. That qualified as enough of a meaningful message that libraries across America stocked this book, and A House for Jonnie O, for thirty-five years.
And has anything really changed enough to make more than the vintage slang in this book outdated? Even in 1972 not all school districts funded special schools for pregnant students, and meanwhile, being a pregnant teenager is still uncomfortable and disgusting, still ruins your social life, and may still lead to your being denied custody of the baby. Only, now, some states allow social workers to urge pregnant teenagers to “choose” abortion, which is even more uncomfortable and disgusting, and still ruins your social life, and—the main reason why these greedheads recommend it—may not give you a much-needed break from school.
Tragically, our society still isn’t ready to hear what Joycelyn Elders had to say to teenaged girls: When you just want to have fun with your date, there are a lot of things you can do that won’t lead to pregnancy. This web site shouldn’t need to spell them out. Remember what you’ve learned about how to start babies, and then do whatever else comes to mind, except that. As long as all you’re after is a pleasant sensation, the sensation of starting a baby won’t  be any more pleasant than that. When the daily drama of being “in love” has settled down and you’re ready to be a married couple and start a family, that will be a bigger thrill, but in a different way. As long as you just want to have fun, you can have fun without letting an unwanted baby spoil the fun...or even letting ovarian cancer spoil the fun later.
Blossom Elfman is a living author, so The Girls of Huntington House is a Fair Trade Book. For those who don't know, what this web site means by "Fair Trade Books" is that authors still deserve payment when people buy books secondhand. When you send salolianigodagewi @ $5 per book + $5 per package for shipping, we send Elfman or a charity of her choice $1.