Go with the Flow by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann, 336 pp, RL 4

Go with the Flow
by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann
Published by First Second
Purchased at Barnes & Noble

With Go with the Flow, Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann have created a graphic novel that will make every reader who is or will be menstruating feel like they have a new best friend. A completely engaging story of friendship serves as the backbone for a book about periods, inequity and menstrual activism. As I read Go with the Flow and write this review I am expecting the imminent arrival of what I estimate to be the 450th period of my life, a monthly occurrence that has cost me more than $5,000 over the last 40 years. After reading Go with the Flow, I read several articles about period equity, including this article where I learned women menstruate, on average, for nearly seven years during their lifetime (!) and that tampons are taxed while Viagra is not (!) and am fired up. I am deeply grateful to Williams and Schneeman for writing this book and bringing period equity and menstrual activism into my world and the world of everyone who reads this book, whether they bleed each month or not.

When new girl Sasha gets her first period while wearing white pants (if you menstruate, you know that this is basically the dreaded WORST CASE SCENARIO and everyone knows someone it happened to) Brit, Abby and Christine guide her away from the mean girls and into the bathroom - where the feminine product dispenser is empty. This sends artist and writer Abby on a journey of research and activism as she fights to get the school district to provide feminine products to students for free. Along the way, she leans on Brit, Christine and Sasha, sometimes too much, as she works to remove the stigma from talking about periods and ensure that students who are eligible to receive free lunches also have access to free tampons and pads at school.
Woven into this powerful plot are threads of other stories. Christine comes to understand and accept her attraction to Abby, while Brit struggles with devastatingly painful menstrual cramps and fears of what a diagnosis might bring. In her author's note, Williams shares her monthly pain, struggle and search for answers, a search that resulted in a diagnosis of endometriosis that came after fourteen years of tests, surgeries and visits to the emergency room.  Go with the Flow, both in story and back matter, is inclusive and educational, noting that, while the majority of people who have their periods are girls and women, "transgender men and nonconforming people also have their periods, and this is something to note because menstrual health is an issue that affects more than just girls and women."

With Virginia recently (symbolically, since the deadline for three quarters of the states to back it expired in 1982) becoming the 38th state to approve the Equal Rights Amendment, the Pink Tax (the fact that women pay up to 13% more for products like razors, shampoo, dry cleaning, clothes and skin care products), and the fact that women still make 80.5 cents for every dollar men make, I think it is important not only to raise our children in a way that eliminates the stigma around open discussion of menstruation, but to be  period activists and equality activists. Here are a few links to organizations, podcasts and articles about periods!

In May of 2019, seven eighth graders from Bronx Prep Middle School created the podcast Shh! Periods and won the middle school grand prize in the first-ever NPR Student Podcast Challenge, beating out 6,000 entries from all 50 states and Washington D.C. 

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