Till now, Stephanie has done her best to play by the rules—which seem to be stacked against girls like her. It doesn’t help that she wants to play football, dress like a boy, and fight apartheid in South Africa—despite living in rural middle England—as she struggles to find her voice in a world where everything is different for girls.
Then she hears them on the radio. Greenham women—an irreverent group of lesbians, punk rockers, mothers, and activists who have set up camp outside a US military base to protest nuclear war—are calling for backups in the face of imminent eviction from their muddy tents. She heads there immediately, where a series of adventures—from a break-in to a nuclear research center to a doomed love affair with a punk rock singer in a girl band—changes the course of her life forever. But the sense of community she has found is challenged when she faces tragedy at home.
Other Girls Like Me took me back to my teenage years as I watched the news and saw the furore the women at Greenham Common caused. I wasn’t sure I fully understood their actions, their mentality or was even aware of the whole LGBT community, which at the time wasn’t seen as the norm within society. Fast forward to today and the LGBT community is alive, thriving and generally accepted, but for me personally I still wanted to understand their thoughts, their own view on society and the world around them.
Davies, lifted the lid on that world in a truly eloquent and deeply personal way, from her life growing up in an average family, to her right of passage at Greenham Common. One thing that stood out was her struggle from a very young age, not just within her family, to be treated as an equal to the opposite sex, to be allowed to play football, to go on their football trips and not be pigeonholed into her girls corner.
The clashes with her parents only served to emphasis their lack of understanding, even if they held some of the same believes regarding nuclear weapons and apartheid. I found her relationship with her father particularly interesting and at times immensely moving, as I felt she tried and often failed to gain his respect and indeed his admiration for her endeavours.
Her young life was one of discovery of her political and ethical views, but more an exploration of her sexuality. The expectation that the obligatory boyfriend was the norm, even that one boyfriend exerted control over every aspect of her life, overrode many of her decisions, and you desperately wanted her to have that light bulb moment when the realisation that another world and other decisions were open to her.
When that light bulb finally did switch on, her life became all the more fascinating and I loved the descriptions of her life in Greenham Common. Davies gave you a real feeling of camaraderie, of women, who looked out for each other, lived how they wanted to live, found freedom to express their common views and opinions. Their concentrated actions against the Cruise missiles were often hit and miss, with numerous arrests and clashes with military and police but that didn’t deter only solidified their objectives and their actions. In their midst you could see Davis grow and mature, but you sensed she still wasn’t happy, that she hadn’t found her own voice until one night and a family trauma changed it all.
Yes, it was upsetting for her, but in other ways it was a hidden blessing, a forced detachment from those around her, breathing space to grieve and to think for herself. As if grief wasn’t enough, an impending court case and the impending threat of prison added to her anguish. Yet Davies was a fighter and you admired her determination to defend herself, the hours of research and practice she put in. You felt it gave her purpose and direction, empowerment and beliefs in her own decisions and capabilities, in essence it forced her to take control of her life and its trajectory.
The court case itself was thrilling, tense, as you could so easily have imagined yourself in a novel rather than someone’s own reality.
And it was this that made Davies memoir so good. It wasn’t mired in stereotype, but infused with huge emotion, personal anguish and a look inside the thought processes of a mixed up directionless young woman. The fact Davies didn’t make us feel sorry or pity her, that she took responsibility for her actions, was refreshing. I was pleased there was an epilogue or I would have felt quite bereft if I didn’t know where she was now.
I would like to thank Bedazzled Ink for a copy of Other Girls Like Me to read and review and to Midas PR for inviting My Bookish Blog to participate in the blogtour
About the author
Stephanie Davies is a writer who worked for many years in communications for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the United States. A UK native, Stephanie moved to New York in 1991, where she taught English Composition at Long Island University in Brooklyn and led research trips to Cuba. Before moving to New York, she co-edited a grassroots LGBTQ magazine in Brighton called A Queer Tribe. Stephanie earned a French and ESL teaching degree from Aberystwyth University in Wales, and a BA in European Studies from Bath University, England. She grew up in a small rural village in Hampshire, where much of her first book, Other Girls Like Me, takes place. At the age of 22, Stephanie joined a women’s peace camp outside a US military base at Greenham Common in Newbury, a life-changing experience that is at the heart of Other Girls Like Me. Today, Stephanie divides her time between Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley, New York where she lives with her wife, Bea, and rescue dog, Emma Peel.