Swimming Upstream by Laura Choate

Swimming upstream is a well written and thorough resource for parents guiding their daughters through puberty. Although the author does go on a few soapbox rants (e.g., body image and Barbie), most of the book is extremely useful and informative. For me, the best aspect of this book is that there were quite a few areas that made opening a dialogue with my daughter quick and easy. In discussing them with my 12 year old, I hope she will have the knowledge and confidence to avoid many of the pitfalls of middle school.


The book breaks down into two parts: the first explaining the world into which our girls are emerging and then part two on how to deal with that world. Topics include: appearance, attention, accomplishments: toxic cultural expectations for today’s girls; girls in transition; vulnerable girls and common mental health issues; parenting from your inner core; developing a positive body image; cultivating healthy relationships, keeping success in perspective; charting a life course.

A strong focus in the book is vulnerability due to insecurity: especially body image and ‘frenemies’.  Cultural norms such as having to be perfect, suppress emotions like anger, vicious backbiting and underhandedness by supposed friends, and unrealistic expectations that girls can’t possibly meet confuse and confound new teens.  Drugs, mental issues, and dangerous relationships with boys often have a common source in that insecurity. The book aims to give girls a strong foundation upon which to develop resilience and strength.

I’ve read quite a few books on the topic now and I found Swimming Upstream to be surprisingly useful. It’s rare that I want to read a book near my daughter so we can discuss various examples or topics – but this book definitely encouraged that interaction. Especially since there were so many topics covered that are already bothering her in 6th grade: friendship problems, girls changing, and expectations in her social circles constantly morphing.

I feel like I have armed my daughter with the ability to make better decisions and not let media/friends/etc. devastate her self-esteem. As well, I can help her recognize toxic situations, messages, and friends – and give advice but let her navigate the tricky middle grade years.

In all, this is definitely an excellent book. A few rants aside, smoothly written and highly useful. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

This entry was posted in alternate history, homeschooling, nonfiction, schooling and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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