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Bookworm: Advice on getting, keeping love

‘Girlhood’ offers optimism and enlightenment

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“Tiny Love Stories”

  • Edited by Daniel Jones and Miya Lee
  • c. 2021. Artisan
  • $14.95; 199 pages

“The 80/80 Marriage: A New Model for a Happier, Stronger Relationship”

  • By Nate Klemp, PhD, and Kaley Klemp
  • c. 2021, Penguin Life
  • $26, $35 Canada; 218 pages

“Single and Forced to Mingle: A Guide for (Nearly) Any Socially Awkward Situation”

  • By Melissa Croce
  • c. 2020, Atria
  • $16.99; 176 pages

Your beloved is getting on your last nerve. You can probably blame it on the pandemic: you’re both working from home and that’s a lot of togetherness. Or you’re separated by miles and masks. Or, well, to heck with this Valentine’s Day stuff, anyhow. So why not do something about it with these three books?

“Tiny Love Stories” edited by Daniel Jones and Miya Lee from Artisan; and “The 80/80 Marriage: A New Model for a Happier, Stronger Relationship” by Nate Klemp, PhD and Kaley Klemp from Penguin Life; and “Single and Forced to Mingle: A Guide for (Nearly) Any Socially Awkward Situation” by Melissa Croce, from Atria.

First, try to remember why you fell in love in the first place with “Tiny Love Stories: True Tales of Love in 100 Words or Less,” edited by Daniel Jones and Miya Lee. This book is filled with pages and pages of small random anecdotes from big random people and the Modern Love column in The New York Times. Each tale tells of love found, created, lost, or never there, and it’s not just about romantic love: some of the stories are about realizing that love is gone, loving one’s self, loving one’s children, knowing where love is (or isn’t) and finding the good in strangers, too. Bonus: it’s quick to read but it sticks to your mind.

Next, change your focus. Used to be that people said marriage was a 50/50 proposition. Then it was 80/20, and you were supposed to alternately share the larger number in partnership decisions and actions. But in “The 80/80 Marriage” by Nate Klemp, PhD and Kaley Klemp, you’ll learn a “new model” for today’s modern marriage.

Using interviews with dozens of married couples of all ages and walks of life, Klemp and Klemp explain how a marriage is enhanced when both partners give 80 percent to make things work. This book helps when you’re out of sync with one another, when you’re unsure of the “roles” you should have (especially when you’re both at home and so are the kids) and how to set boundaries for this new way of being a team. There are plenty of takeaways inside this book, as well as exercises to share – and if all else fails, Klemp and Klemp offer ways to deal with a partner who’s reluctant to try this new method.

But what if none of the above is relatable to you?

Well, then, you need “Single and Forced to Mingle” by Melissa Croce, a book for anyone who puts on a brave face and goes forth, Valentineless.

Not just about finding Mr. Perfect (or, no thanks, Mr. Thinks-He’s-Perfect), there are three big benefits in reading this quick-to-read book: one, you’ll find irreverent advice on dating apps, awkward outings, stupid things that daters do, single women in literature, and the ridiculousness of Dating 2021. Two, you’ll get a bit of comfort, knowing that there are lots of other folks whose grandmas are trying hard to set them up. And three, you’ll get plenty of LOLs because – why not? Dating stinks, so you might as well laugh.

So, hunker down this winter with your honey, or lock down tight. Grab something for yourself for the kind of Valentine’s Day you’re going to have this year. For you, Romantic Soul, these books will truly hit a nerve.

“Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices” author Masuma Ahuja.

“Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices”

  • By Masuma Ahuja
  • c. 2021, Algonquin Young Readers
  • $16.95, $22.95 Canada 256 pages

One in almost eight billion. That’s you, and of all the people on Earth, you’re unique. Nobody else thinks exactly like you or feels the way you feel – or do they? Read the new book “Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices” by Masuma Ahoja, and you might find some kindred spirits.

“Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices” by Masuma Ahuja.

Through her column, The Lily, in the Washington Post, Masuma Ahoja has met some interesting girls from around the world. She’s written about them and their hopes and dreams because life, even for “ordinary” teenage girls, is far from ordinary.

First, says Ahuja, twenty percent of the world’s teen girls are married, including “most of” the 250,000 kids – some as young as 12 – that are married in the U.S. Each year, sixteen million of the world’s girls ages 15 to 19 become mothers, and 130 million 6-to-17-year-old girls are not in school. Still, life as a girl isn’t all bad...

In Australia, 14-year-old Anna enjoys learning new languages – she’s studying Mandarin now – and she’s a big book lover. Ayaulym from Kazakhstan is at university; she likes studying, too, and her favorite subject is “Science of Culture.” On the other hand, Amiya from the UK is not fond of school whatsoever, though her teachers remind her that she should be grateful for a free education. For Chanleakna, getting an education takes courage: at age 16, she moved by herself from Cambodia to another continent to learn.

Claudie in Vanuatu is 13-years-old and loves to surf. Desiree in Dubai spends her free time with her dog, Pixie, while 18-year-old Emilly in Brazil spends what little extra time she has with her husband and infant daughter.

Ireland’s 16-year-old Emma wants to be a published author someday. Favour, 13-years-old and from Nigeria, wants to be a doctor, so she can help lower the maternal death rate in her country.

Merisena, 13, from Haiti, likes to watch TV, “if there is electricity,” and Sattigul, age 16, from Mongolia will sleep in her family’s winter house tonight.

Another glass ceiling has busted lately. The list of firsts has grown, things are looking up for today’s young women, and “Girlhood” offers both a very measured tenor on this good news, and proof that there’s a long way yet to go.

The thirty girls that author Masuma Ahuja profiles will make sure it happens.

First: there’s poverty here, and privilege. Opportunity, and opposition. There are many someday-scientists, many budding linguists, feminists, mathematicians, and athletes. Even those girls who have, by Western standards, a hard life, show eagerness, resilience, and determination, washing the book in a luster that contributes to an overall fresh-air optimism you’ll feel when you flip to a random page and peer into the future. Indeed, you’ll be left with inspiration and a lot of reason to smile.

Boys will be enlightened at what’s inside this book. Forward-looking parents of tomorrow’s women need to read it, too. But for girls ages 12-to-20, there’s so much more to “Girlhood.”

This book could show them the world.

More:Bookworm: Get ‘Blood Grove’ and put that bookmark in a drawer

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.