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March 5, 2009

Book Notes - Liz Funk ("Supergirls Speak Out")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published books.

Liz Funk's Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls examines the stresses facing high achieving young women in today's society, and why they feel the need to overachieve. A "supergirl" herself (Funk is 21). she brings a fresh and often personal approach to the topic in a book every parent, teacher, and uncle (like me) should read.

Janice Erlbaum wrote of the book, ""Liz Funk's refreshing candor, rigorous research, and dynamic, accessible tone help carry her important message to the young women who need it most."

In her own words, here is Liz Funk's Book Notes essay for her book, Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls:

My book, Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls, is part investigative journalism, part media criticism and social commentary, and part personal history. In the book, I followed five young women through the summer and fall of 2007 and interviewed nearly 100 more young women and experts to explore why today's overachieving "Supergirls" feel like 100% is never enough. I use the term "Supergirl" to describe a young woman (age 13-30, roughly) who wants to be perfect in every way: she wants to get great grades, she wants to get into a good college, she wants to get a good job, she wants to be a ranking member of her social circle, she wants to be skinny and pretty, she wants to be charming, and she wants to have the latest designer jewelry and clothes. Unfortunately, many of these women look to these outside definitions of value—going to Yale, being pretty, wearing Tiffany jewelry—to justify why they matter. I found that so many young women lack a sense of intrinsic worth—they feel like they don't inherently have value, and as such, they're constantly trying to improve themselves and be better!

I have to warn you, my taste in and knowledge of music is almost exclusively limited to "Top 40."


"She Will Be Loved," by Maroon 5

I think that this song perfectly illustrates the lives of Supergirls. This song—which got famous the summer before I went into 11th grade—got me thinking about the secret selves of perfect girls before I had the writing skills and the critical faculties to articulate the problem going on for girls. After all, the first two lines of the song are: "Beauty queen of only 18/ she had some problems with herself…"

"Fabulous" by Ashley Tisdale, High School Musical 2 Soundtrack

I wrote about this song in my book: it's a catchy, cute song, but the way it teaches young High School Musical fans to idolize designer stuff is highly problematic. Tisdale sings: "Get me my Jimmy Choo flip-flops/ Where is my pink Prada tote?/ I need my Tiffany hair band/ and then I can go for a float!"

"Daughters" by John Mayer

I love this beautiful, crooning song (the live John Mayer "Trio" version is best); it sums up what can happen to young women emotionally when they have destructive relationships with their fathers.

"Jane Fonda," by Mickey Avalon

When I was researching this book, this song was all the rage… especially amongst young women. Girls who were articulate and intelligent were singing the lyrics to this profane, misogynistic song thinking it was funny, and not getting that the joke was on them.

"Pressure," by Billy Joel

I used to listen to this song in high school when I needed to stay up late to do AP history homework.

"No Air," by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown

This is a catchy song with some great singing, but I think it's also reflective of the way that girls infest their entire identities in guys. Sparks sings, "But how do you expect me/ to live alone with just me?/ ‘Cause my world revolves around you/ and it's so hard for me to breathe!"

"The Fear" by Lily Allen

Not only do I think that this is one of the best songs that any female songwriter in Generation Y has yet written, but this song is all about the weird priorities for young women today. She sings, "I want lots of jewelry and f--kloads of diamonds; I heard people die while they're trying to find them!" It's sort of reflective of this idea that we Supergirls can get so wrapped up in our own problems and our own insecurities that we forget that there are people out there who would think that our lives are cakewalks. Which isn't to discredit the Supergirls' problems, but it is to say that there is so much more to life than grades and thinness, and the Supergirls should appreciate their advantages!

"White Houses" by Vanessa Carlton

I love how this song illustrates how wonderful it is to be young and female… when adolescence is done right. This is a beautiful song about a lazy summer with entertaining sexual undertones.

"If I Were a Boy" by Beyonce

So many girls wistfully expressed to me how they perceived that boys' lives were much easier. Apparently Beyonce agrees.

"Nobody's Perfect" by Miley Cyrus.

To be perfectly honest, I listened to a lot of Miley Cyrus while I was writing this book, and this song was particularly fitting.

"Best of Me" by Chrisette Michele

This is a melodic ballad about a woman who gets over a painful breakup and finds that the things that are alluring about her to men can be for her own happiness, too! She finds her intrinsic worth and sings, "What's mine will be just for me…" If you can keep a secret, I'll give you a peek at what's to come: this song actually provoked the "AHA!" moment that helped me figure out the argument for my next book, which is about young women and male validation.

Liz Funk and Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls links:

the author's website
the author's blog
the book's website
the publisher's page for the author
the publisher's page for the book

Feminist Law Professor guest post by the author
Life, Words, & Rock 'N' Roll interview with the author
Schenectady Daily Gazette profile of the author
Shaping Youth interview with the author
Teen Fiction Cafe interview
The Writing Porch interview
Ypulse interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Online "Best Books of 2008" Lists
Largehearted Boy Favorite Novels of 2008
Largehearted Boy Favorite Graphic Novels of 2008
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Why Obama (musicians and authors explain their support of the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2009 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)