Title Witnessing Girlhood
Subtitle Toward an Intersectional Tradition of Life Writing
Author Leigh Gilmore, Elizabeth Marshall
ISBN 9780823285488
List price GBP 19.99
Price outside India Available on Request
Original price
Binding Paperback
No of pages 160
Book size 153 x 229 mm
Publishing year 2019
Original publisher Fordham University Press (Combined Academic Publishers)
Published in India by .
Exclusive distributors Viva Books Private Limited
Sales territory India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, .
Status New Arrival
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Witnessing Girlhood is a tour de force: demanding and authoritative. Gilmore and Marshall articulate a powerful analysis of representations of girls and women on the fraught subjects of domestic violence, rape culture, survivor and victim identity, and persistent concerns about intrinsic female vulnerability. Here is a necessary and eloquent feminist affirmation on issues of gender and violence.”

Gillian Whitlock, author of Soft Weapons and Postcolonial Life Narratives: Testimonial Transactions


Witnessing Girlhood brilliantly analyzes the role of childhood to trauma narrative and reader empathy. Working against the cliché of the sentimentalized child, Gilmore and Marshall demonstrate with clarity and determination that the ‘white savior’ trope in life writing about trauma is not the ascendant mode. This book’s depth and quality emerge from the authors’ profound, long-standing investment in trauma studies and childhood.”

Katharine Capshaw, University of Connecticut


When more than 150 women testified in 2018 to the sexual abuse inflicted on them by Dr. Larry Nassar when they were young, competitive gymnasts, they exposed and transformed the conditions that shielded their violation, including the testimonial disadvantages that cluster at the site of gender, youth, and race. In Witnessing Girlhood, Leigh Gilmore and Elizabeth Marshall argue that they also joined a long tradition of autobiographical writing led by women of color in which adults use the figure and narrative of child witness to expose harm and seek justice. Witnessing Girlhood charts a history of how women use life narrative to transform conditions of suffering, silencing, and injustice into accounts that enjoin ethical response. Drawing on a deep and diverse archive of self-representational forms—slave narratives, testimonio, memoir, comics, and picture books—Gilmore and Marshall attend to how authors return to a narrative of traumatized and silenced girlhood and the figure of the child witness in order to offer public testimony. Emerging within these accounts are key scenes and figures that link a range of texts and forms from the mid–nineteenth century to the contemporary period. Gilmore and Marshall offer a genealogy of the reverberations across timelines, self-representational acts, and jurisdictions of the child witness in life writing. Reconstructing these historical and theoretical trajectories restores an intersectional testimonial history of writing by women of color about sexual and racist violence to the center of life writing and, in so doing, furthers our capacity to engage ethically with representations of vulnerability, childhood, and collective witness.


Introduction: Witnessing Girlhood

Chapter 1. Girls in Crisis: Feminist Resistance in Life Writing by Women of Color

Chapter 2. Gender Pessimism and Survivor Storytelling in the Memoir Boom: Girl, Interrupted, Autobiography of a Face, and Nanette

Chapter 3. Visualizing Sexual Violence and Feminist Child Witness: A Child’s Life and Other Stories and Becoming Unbecoming

Chapter 4. Teaching Dissent through Picture Books: Girlhood Activism and Graphic Life Writing for the Child

Epilogue. Twenty-First-Century Formations: Child Witness, Trans Life Writing, and Futurity




About the Authors:

Leigh Gilmore is Distinguished Visiting Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Wellesley College. She is the author of several books, including most recently Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives.

Elizabeth Marshall is Associate Professor of Education at Simon Fraser University. She is the author of Graphic Girlhoods: Visualizing Education and Violence.

Target Audience:

People interested in feminist affirmation on issues of gender and violence. This book offer a genealogy of the reverberations across timelines, self-representational acts, and jurisdictions of the child witness in life writing.


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