Heather Orlando Jerabek
The Girls is a novel that examines the consequences of religious extremism: how can an oppressed group survive in a society that disavows equality, science, and ultimately, bodily autonomy?
A different kind of campus novel, The Girls follows four young women as they navigate the bizarre world of Scofield Boarding School for Girls—where students may only walk on preordained pink sidewalks, must endure public shaming for real or imagined sins, and are surrounded by massive walls and miles of desert on all sides. The girls struggle with concerns that all too often plague women because of contemporary societal norms including: insecurity regarding appearances, shame regarding sexuality, mental illness, gender identity expectations and complicated family dynamics, all in a setting seeped in generational patriarchy and intolerance.
Some are pushed, and others go willingly, but the young women in The Girls all fight for the thing they so desperately require—a voice in an environment that desperately seeks to silence them.
Our fathers taught us of everlasting life. They poured oil, anointed our foreheads; told us we would never die. Told us: dear hearts, the boys are the chosen ones, but you are the promised land. We nodded, backs straightening. We’d heard the parables. We’d heard of The Father from our fathers; with voices, deep and certain, they spoke of His power over death. O grave, where is thy victory? our fathers asked. O death, where is thy sting?
We were silent as we have been taught. Truth did not require voices; it required only obedience.
We often discussed how our fathers reacted, the moment the news of the death reached them. How they might have wondered about the details. Tried to explain our failure. It’s a simple matter of faith, they would have said; it’s a simple matter of strength. We were anemic, after all. Girls, who gave unto the earth: our blood, our toil, our pain. We only gave, we did not take. It was foolish to attempt it, they would have said. Foolish to expect a miracle amongst such frailty.
We still remember the force of her screams—how her face folded into sharp angles and retreated behind shadows of pain.
Our voices: confident then beseeching.
Her voice: piercing then faint.
We, hands hovering in the space above her head.
We, confident in the power of our immortality.
We, breathing into these slain that they might live.