cover image UnSlut: A Diary and a Memoir

UnSlut: A Diary and a Memoir

Emily Linden. Zest (HMH, dist.), $14.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-942186-00-7

From sixth through eighth grade, Emily Linden was shamed and bullied, in person and online, for being a “slut.” Upset about girls who committed suicide after being bullied for sexual behavior (real or rumored), Linden revisited the diaries she kept, put excerpts online, and founded the UnSlut Project, where bullying victims can post their stories and find support. This book is Linden’s diary, transcribed “word for word” and filled with detailed accounts of romances, rumors, bullying, poetry, and episodes of cutting and suicidal thoughts, alongside Linden’s present-day comments. Boys and girls come and go in the entries, and without any scenes or shaping, it’s hard to keep them straight. Linden’s annotations oscillate between snark regarding her younger self and sincere reminders about cultural conditioning and gendered assumptions (“One thing about my middle school self that really embarrasses me is my passive, unquestioned homophobia”). It’s alternately eye-opening and depressing to see how young all involved are, how little they actually know about sex, and how unhelpful parents, teachers, and friends are, but the lack of characterization throughout makes it hard to feel a deeper empathy. Ages 14–up. (Dec.)