A topical read for 2016, the year in which tampon tax hit our headlines and Chinese Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui spoke openly about her period, Sarah O’Mahoney tackles this topic for her debut book for older childre n and teenagers. O’Mahoney believes that ‘this most important and life defining rite of passage is largely uncelebrated. Our periods need to be honoured and recognised fully in this world.’ And through her book Making Pink Lemonade that she challenges us to reconsider our relationship with menstruating.
Written fro m the perspective of twelve year old Kali, the reader follows her journey into womanhood from starting her first period at the age of ten to learning to love her cycle as the book progresses. Beginning with the lines ‘The first time it happened I thought I was dying. It seemed the only reasonable explanation’, we immediately sympathise with Kali. In some ways she becomes ‘everywoman’, someone we can relate to through our shared experience.
If you’re wondering what Making Pink Lemonade (or MPL for short) means, then fear not, as Kali explains on page 19 tha t this is her euphemism for having a period. This theme is well illustrated with an attractive front cover in pink and blue, designed by the Feminist Library’s own Eva Megias. O’Mahoney herself is a prominent figure at the Feminist Library, and so this project, a collaborative effort between writer and graphic designer, in many ways represents what they’re about. Although feminism isn’t necessarily the main subject of the book, it does feature, with Kali learning about women’s achievements within history as well as how women all over the world deal with their periods.
The book is easy to read with illustrations throughout and broken into small chapters, reflective of the twenty eight days of menstruation. That’s not to say that the book only deals with periods, it is also a story of relatio nships between Kali and her family, and also her best friend Ava. Easily accessible and very funny, the book is a light-hearted way to discuss what can be an intimidating topic for many young girls and even women. Living in a patriarchal society, periods are often considered ‘taboo’ being only discussed in science class and at the doctors. As Kali mentions on page 4, ‘How can something so important be swept under the carpet and not talked about? It truly is the biggest cover-up of all time.’ MPL helps to remove some of these stigmas, and celebrates both having a period and being a woman.
Often much of th e information we are given about women’s health is by men and is scientifically presented. MPL manages to be both informative and yet use language that is approachable for young people. With references to Justin Bieber, One Direction, and Robbie Williams, O’Mahoney makes Kali a relatable character for young girls. This book is recommended for ages nine and above, and would be perfect to give to a young girl starting secondary school. An easy way for families to have an informal chat about something that can be seen as embarrassing or difficult to talk about, MPL makes periods less scary. As O’Mahoney says, ‘It was the book I needed when I bled on the bathroom floor and didn’t have the slightest idea what was happening to me.’
For those who aren’t the intended audience, MPL is still an enjoyable read, especially for those who remember feeling confused or frightened at the arrival of their first period. Many young adult books are devoid of any mention of periods, which make MPL a refreshing read. So make yourself a pink lemonade, using the recipe on page 27, and cosy up to MPL, the friend or sister you never had.
Review by Lorna Harrington