City of Girls
Book Review - City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
I have a long history with Elizabeth Gilbert and her books. My senior year at Stephens College I took an independent study with a professor I adored, It was a Women’s Studies course. I hadn’t been able to take it when she normally offered it, so I would meet in her office and we’d discuss the textbook and other course materials once a week. Part-way through the course she assigned me to a read a memoir written by a woman (to this day, this is my favorite school assignment.) I wasn’t the avid reader back then that I am today. I had no idea what to read, so I googled memoirs written by women and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert had just come out. No one was really talking about it at the time, it wasn’t the huge sensation that it is today. There was no movie starring Julia Roberts, yet. I read that it was about Italy and food (I didn’t even make it to the pray and love sections before I decided that would be the one I’d read. Needless to say, I loved it.
During the seven years I taught at Indiana University, I taught a course on visual merchandising which asked students who often thought of themselves as analytical and business-minded to think creatively and create with their hands. These students would rather crunch numbers in a spreadsheet rather than draw a picture. So as part of this curriculum, I had them watch Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on creative genius. I wanted my students to think about creativity in a new way. These two experiences with Elizabeth Gilbert make me feel like we’ve been long friends when, in fact, we’ve never met and I couldn’t get in touch with her to do an author interview. Ha! Regardless, I was happy to read her latest book, a novel called City of Girls.
City of Girls is written in the spirit of How I Met Your Mother. Vivian Morris is writing a letter to Angela about what Angela’s father was to her: their relationship, how they met, and what he meant to her. Spanning from 1940 to 2010, Vivian details her life leading up to meeting Angela’s father and their lives after. This book was a slow burn. Although Vivian’s life story was interesting, it was also unremarkable. Defining moments in Vivian’s life seemed somewhat overblown for a novel, albeit completely believable for real-life. However, once the identity of Angela’s father is revealed, the story exploded into an emotional, heartstring-tugging story that made me shed actual tears. I was so glad that I stuck with the book, there is a lot to learn from Vivian and her friends and family about being human to one another.