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Exploring the Many Faces of Daughterhood in Rebellious Daughters

Sarah Biggerstaff

Life experience is such a varied and personal thing; no two people experience something in exactly the same way.

Yet, we are all connected by our shared experiences, and by our experiences of shared states. Rebellious Daughters explores this idea through a series of short pieces by leading Australian women of diverse professions, backgrounds, and ages.

Each is essentially a micro-memoir, chronicling the woman’s experience of rebellion in the one role that all women occupy in some respect during their lives: daughter. Each looks at daughterhood and rebellion differently, yet all of them address the ways in which as women and daughters, we struggle to define ourselves as individuals, separate from our parents, while still acknowledging where we come from, biologically, culturally, and socially.

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These mini-memoirs are all deeply personal, as all memoirs are, often with an almost confessional feel to them. One reveals how it’s author abandoned her father at his greatest time of need, and had to work through her feelings of guilt after his death. Another writer details how she took her conservative and unwitting elderly mother to Sexpo purely for the purpose of making her uncomfortable and confronting her with realities as sharply varied from her strict Jewish lifestyle as possible.

Many of the incidents recounted in the book are disquieting, producing a kind of cringe effect, making you wonder how these women could be comfortable revealing so much about themselves, their experiences, and their families. Yet, it’s cathartic in a way, to read these women’s experiences of rebellion, whether small or large, and learn a little bit more about what has shaped them into the women they are today. No doubt the experience of writing about their rebellions for the collection was a cathartic one as well.

The essays are all extremely well written, engaging, and evocative, capturing a moment in time most women have themselves encountered. Some of them are outright funny, tracing the awkwardness of first crushes, kisses, and other forays into adult sexuality. Others are a little sad, or nostalgic. All of them are moving.

Whether you are familiar with the work of the writers or not, the collection makes for great reading and invites you to reflect on your own feelings about womanhood, daughterhood, and identity. Not all of them will speak to your experience of daughterhood, especially if you never rebelled, or never did so openly at least. But I think that everyone at some point in their life, whether in adolescence or later, struggles with who they are as a person – who they want to be, and how big or small a role they want their family and their background to play in that identity. This collection really speaks to this idea, or at least it did for me.

At twenty-seven, with a good relationship with both my parents, and any hormone-fuelled, identity-driven rebellion behind me (I hope!), I still took away a great deal from this book, and I think you will too. Because in the end, the one universal experience women have is that of being a daughter, even if not a truly rebellious one.

You can find Rebellious Daughters at Muse Canberra

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Sarah Biggerstaff

Sarah Biggerstaff is a literary enthusiast, from Canberra, with a Masters degree in English Literature from the University of York in the United Kingdom. She is currently in her first year of an English PhD, the focus of which is British women’s fiction from the inter-war period, with a particular interest in feminist readings of these novels. Sarah hopes to one day write books, as well as review them, and in the meantime, is happy sharing her passion for books with others. More about the Author

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