Book Review: Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? by Marie Simas

January 17, 2011
Title: Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? A Catholic Girl's Memoir
Author: Marie Simas
Genre: Memoir, Non Fiction
Format: Paperback
Year Published: 2010
Source: I was sent this book for review.

Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? A Catholic Girl's Memoir by Marie Simas is a bittersweet account of her childhood and teenage years by the author. 

When I first started reading this book, I thought that it was going to be a lighthearted account about growing up in a Portuguese Catholic family. I thought that it might be harsh on the Catholic Church. But it isn't really so much about the Church, but rather about the fears and hypocrisies about some people living under Church doctrine, and old world Portuguese values.

Her father was incredibly cheap in many ways -- Marie almost never got new clothes -- but always seemed to have the money to spend on family trips back to "the old country" -- Portugal. Not being Catholic or Portuguese, I found the book to be very illuminating on how these values affected her family dynamics.
Simas grew up in a brutally violent home. Her father was abusive. The father continually rapes the mother -- even while she's dying of cancer. Because Marie simply doesn't accept her father's brutality towards herself or her mother, he beats her with a belt on a regular basis. As Simas says:
At school, some of the guidance counselors suspected abuse. But my father worked for the school district, so none of them felt comfortable confronting him. They had to work with this asshole every day, and the teacher's union was powerful back then. It's doubtful that my father would have been reprimanded unless he was actually convicted of child abuse, and that was never going to happen.
What I like about Marie is that while she couldn't escape the beatings, she refused to meekly accept it. She was always rebellious. She became so desperate for love, however, that despite both parents warning her about sex, when she is fifteen she loses her virginity to the first boy who pays any attention to her. She misinterprets his physical affection as real love and believes that he will take her away from her "miserable family." When he goes away and a few days later she realizes that she probably won't hear from him again. Simas touchingly recalls:
That night, I fell asleep as soon as it got dark outside. The sun set on my adolescence. Though I had experienced severe beatings, threats, and almost constant fear, nothing could compare to the pain I felt from lost love.
The father's abuse and her first lover's rejection affected Marie's future relationships with men profoundly. She becomes a "user" of men -- something that she is not proud of today. She wanted to hurt men as they had hurt her -- even nice men who actually cared for her. While Marie harshly judges those around her, she is equally hard on herself. She is being honest.

Things I don't like? Well, I don't really like the title -- it might make some people curious but might turn some potential readers off. The book is divided into short chapters that make the narrative seem a bit choppy instead of flowing into each other as a cohesive whole.

I may not agree with everything the author says, but I definitely understand where she is coming from. I have a feeling that this book was a catharsis for the author; a way of exorcising her demons -- her anger and despair. She also has a mordant sense of humor that probably saved her life. You may find yourself crying one minute and laughing the next.
This book is brutally honest. Be prepared. There is marital rape, brutal child abuse, and strong sexuality. You can read her blog here, and her professional website by clicking here.

It's a blog hop!

Jennifer at Crazy for Books has a weekend blog hop every week!
Book Blogger Hop
This week's question is: Why do you read the genre that you do? What draws you to it?" 
A. I love to read all types of books because my taste in books is truly eclectic, but I especially love memoirs and biographies. I love finding out how other people lived their lives and how they confronted the challenges that they faced.

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