Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave

by Jacquelyn Lewis

Twenty-six authors dish about breaking the rules in this blunt, charming essay collection.

Twenty-six authors—including Pam Houston, Lolly Winston, and Mary Roach—expose their own naughtiness in this collection of confessional essays, noteworthy for their charm and bluntness. None of their misdemeanors (forging a letter in middle school, lying, indulging in the occasional one-night stand) can be construed as truly wicked; more often, the sins lie in the minds of the authors themselves, as with “Dinner” by Jennifer Gilmore—a wrenching tale of bulimia wherein the author feels she failed her father by telling him about her disease. In another contribution, “Lisa the Drunken Slut,” Maggie Estep offers a theory for why these kinds of memories weigh on some women’s minds: “Maybe they are just sad girls, girls adrift among the shoals of others’ expectations and society’s weird reefs?” But not every writer here is unburdening herself of some secret guilt. There are some proud scamps as well, like Tobin Levy, who impulsively flies across the country in order to bed a casual friend for the weekend, or Katharine Weber, who, at 18 years of age, climbed the south tower of the still-under-construction World Trade Center. Sussman skillfully blends all these stories into a collection of highly complementary confessionals, and the collection honestly coheres. More than a litmus test of guilt, this book gives a glimpse into what it means to disobey.

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