CALLING THE MOON
16 Period Stories from BIPOC Authors
For Angela, it came on the basketball court—while playing on the boys’ team. For Penny, it came on a lakeside field trip, inspiring some cringeworthy moments of humor. And to Layla’s disappointment, it came at the start of her first fasting Ramadan, mandating that she take a “holiday.” Whether their period’s coming spurs silence or celebration, whether they are well prepared for it or totally in the dark, the young people in these sixteen stories find that getting a period brings not only changes to their bodies, but also joy, sorrow, and self-discovery. Featuring BIPOC contributors who are some of today’s most talented authors in middle-grade fiction,
For Angela, it came on the basketball court—while playing on the boys’ team. For Penny, it came on a lakeside field trip, inspiring some cringeworthy moments of humor. And to Layla’s disappointment, it came at the start of her first fasting Ramadan, mandating that she take a “holiday.” Whether their period’s coming spurs silence or celebration, whether they are well prepared for it or totally in the dark, the young people in these sixteen stories find that getting a period brings not only changes to their bodies, but also joy, sorrow, and self-discovery. Featuring BIPOC contributors who are some of today’s most talented authors in middle-grade fiction, Calling the Moon offers coming-of-age stories and poetry as varied as the phases of the moon, from funny to heartbreaking to powerful, all of them reassuring readers that they are not alone in their period journey.
With contributions by:
Hilda Eunice Burgos * Veeda Bybee * Susan Muaddi Darraj * Saadia Faruqi * Nikki Grimes * Leah Henderson * Mason J. * Erin Entrada Kelly * Guadalupe Garcia McCall * Elise McMullen-Ciotti * Yamile Saied Méndez * Emma Otheguy * Aida Salazar * Christina Soontornvat * Padma Venkatraman * Ibi Zoboi
An essential, highly relatable collection of short fiction and poems around the topic of menstruation, written exclusively by authors who are Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color
- Candlewick Press
- March 2023
- 368 Pages
“Issues related to race and gender, immigration status, and language diversity are set alongside culturally rich narratives about a singular and pivotal life event, giving young people an opportunity to feel seen, and less alone.” —The Horn Book
“A love letter to all who menstruate, one that’s both welcoming and inclusive—particularly to those experiencing their first period.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“An essential, compelling, and unique addition addressing a universal topic from a wide range of perspectives. “ —Booklist (starred review)
“A powerful, vibrant, and empowering celebration of an important milestone.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Reassures readers that they are not alone, while conveying that every person’s experience may differ. . . this coming-of-age experience is presented as universal and relatable. . . . much-needed. —School Library Connection (starred review)
1. On pages 7–8, Penny says Amber told her “Asian girls don’t get their periods until they’re way older.” Why is this racist? Where do these misconceptions come from? How is it harmful to Asian girls?
2. In “Muñeca,” the mother has a way of healing period cramps that is not found in most books on periods. Why isn’t her knowledge in the books? How might it be helpful to all people who menstruate? What knowledge about caring for our bodies during our periods do we learn in some of the other stories?
3. Leah Henderson’s story is titled “Turning Point.” What is the significance of this title?
4. Menstruation has traditionally been assumed as a marker of womanhood. But what does that mean for people who menstruate who aren’t women? How can we as a society change how we think about periods to be more inclusive? How does “Shiloh: The Gender Creamsicle” help us think about what it means to have a period but not be a girl?
5. In “Holiday,” Aisha says, “We just can’t tell the menfolk about this period business. It’s embarrassing” (page 99). In “Ofrendas,” Lucia is embarrassed to ask her dad to buy pads for her and her sisters. Why do you think some find it embarrassing to talk about their period with people who don’t get a period, whether dads or brothers or others? Why is it important for everyone to know and talk about periods, whether they have one or not?
6. In “Mother Mary, Do You Bleed?,” Jessa’s mother tells her to never use tampons because she is “a good girl” (page 133). Penny in “The Rules of the Lake” is also afraid to use tampons. Why are tampons considered to be bad in these stories? What did you learn about using tampons? What are the pros and cons of using tampons?
7. In “The Arrival” and “Thicker than Water,” both narrators receive unwanted comments from boys about their changing bodies. What does this type of attention do to the girls’ sense of self and self-esteem? Why do some people think it is okay to say these things? Why is it important for adults to talk to kids about such behavior?
8. Periods are given different names throughout the anthology. For example, it is called “heavenly water” in the story “Heavenly Water.” How does calling your period heavenly water change your perception of it? What are some of the other names used in the anthology? How do they impact how you view periods?
9. In “Sometimes You Just Need Your Prima,” what role does extended family play in the lives of the girls? Why are aunts, cousins, and grandmothers so important to each character’s development?
10. In “Cannibal at the Door,” periods are seen as powerful, but in “Shakthi Means Strength,” they are seen as unclean. Why do you think there are such differing views on periods?
11. In “Bloodline,” Adjoa has a very special ceremony that has been practiced by her family for generations. Other characters in the anthologies have special celebrations or rituals that have been passed down. Why are these ceremonies and rituals important? Did your family celebrate your first period? If so, how? If you haven’t gotten your first period, how would you like to celebrate it?
12. All the authors in Calling the Moon identify as BIPOC. Why is it important to have an anthology about periods from BIPOC authors? What do we learn about periods from each of them?
13. In “Part of the Team,” Angela is shamed by members of the other team for getting her period. How does having an anthology like this help to make periods less shameful?
14. In “The Hadiyyeh,” Anna’s mom is upset that Rana told Anna about periods because she wanted to talk to Anna herself at the right time. Since people get their periods at varying ages, when is the right time to talk to them about periods? Who should talk to people about their periods? Should it be their mother or other family members? Should it be a medical professional? Teachers at school? What are the pros and cons of learning from these different perspectives?
15. At the end of the anthology, there is a list of resources that includes books, films, podcasts, and other media. Why is this list important?
The Rules of the Lake
by Christina Soontornvat
“This isn’t a Burger King!” shouted Ms. McKinney over the rumble of the school bus. “You can’t always get things your way.”
This was Ms. McKinney’s favorite saying, and she must have been shouting it at sixth graders since the ’70s to shut down their complaining. Well, who wouldn’t complain if they had to deal with the disappointment facing us out the window?
We were on our end-of-the-year class trip to Possum Hollow Lake. For a month, we’d stared at the promotional posters taped in the hallways that showed a glittering blue lake rimmed with waterslides, a tower crowned with supersoaking water guns, and the best part— the trapeze. For weeks, I’d daydreamed about gripping on to that metal bar, swinging out as far as I could go, doing the perfect backflip, and dropping into the cool, crystal paradise below.
But as our bus pulled into the gravel drive circling the property, all those dreams vanished. Possum Hollow Lake looked like—
“— where possums go to die!” shouted Eric Gunner. The kids around him burst into laughter.
Eleanor and Julie pressed up against me, and we stared out at the chalky brown water. “He’s not wrong.” Eleanor sighed, wrinkling her freckled nose.
“It’s not so bad . . . It’s natural,” said Julie. “This will be like getting back to nature.”
Sometimes I wondered if Julie’s retinas ever got burned from looking on the bright side so much.
“Well, brown water or not, I’m going off that trapeze at least fifty times before we leave this place,” I said.
“That’s the spirit, Penny!” said Julie. “We’re going to have fun no matter what.”
The bus pulled up into a parking spot, and an older man with a shiny tanned face and a polo shirt embroidered with the logo of a swimming possum boarded with a clipboard in hand.
“Welcome to the lake, boys and girls!” he said in a Texas accent that put even Ms. McKinney’s thick drawl to shame. “Let me assure you that despite the color you see out your window, the pH levels at PH Lake are just fine.”
The joke fell flat, but he soldiered on. “We’ve had a lotta rain lately, which has stirred up the silt, but I promise that our lake water is continually refreshed from a spring-fed creek, and it’s perfectly fine to swim in. Couple of rules here at the lake. Number one: Respect each other. No roughhousing, fighting, or chicken fighting. Number two: Respect our plumbing. We got two trailer facilities on the property, and that’s it. You clog ’em up, you’re gonna be doing your business in the woods.”
Eleanor leaned over and whispered, “Do you think he planned his number- two rule to be about number two?”
Julie and I both snickered.
Our teacher’s assistant, Ms. Gallegos, checked our names off her list as we fi led off the bus. It was only ten in the morning, but already sticky and hot. I didn’t care if the water was purple— I couldn’t wait to swing off that trapeze and dive in.
And then, just as we were spreading our towels in the grass near the lake’s edge, I felt it.
In books, they often describe dread as a sinking feeling “in the pit of your stomach.” Totally wrong. Dread is a warm gushing feeling between your legs. It’s the feeling of knowing you started your first period fifty-four miles away from your house.
I pulled Julie and Eleanor close and whispered to them what just happened.
Julie’s mouth fell open. “Are you sure?”
I tugged down my jean shorts, trying to figure out if they were wet without making a scene. “I don’t know . . . but I’m pretty sure.” “Okay, it’s fi ne. Don’t panic,” said Eleanor. “Penny, you and Julie go to the bathroom, and I’ll go ask Ms. McKinney where to get . . . you know. Products.”
I grimaced at the thought of hard- hearted Ms. McKinney knowing I had started my period, but at least I wouldn’t have to be the one to ask her. This was what made Eleanor a champion best friend.
Julie and I headed for the girls’ toilet trailer. It was an air-conditioned version of a Porta Potty with beige plastic wallpaper, two stalls, and a tiny sink. I went into the smaller stall, pulled down my shorts and swimsuit, and assessed the damage. I pressed toilet paper into the bottom of my suit, and it came away dark red.
I could see the top of Julie’s blond head over the stall door. “So did you really start? Is it bad?” she asked.
“Yeah, I did. And it’s not too bad, but not great.” I was grateful that I had worn the one- piece with a purple- and- black tie- dye pattern. The blood hadn’t soaked through to my shorts yet, either.
“Does it hurt?” Julie whispered. She was taller than Eleanor and me by a foot, but her voice still sounded like it did in elementary school. “I . . . don’t really feel anything. My stomach kind of hurts a little— like crampy, but that’s it.”
The trailer door swung open, and I heard Eleanor call out, “Got it! Ms. McKinney had a pack of pads in her first aid kit. Here, Penny. Sorry— it’s kind of . . . on the big side.”
She handed the blue plastic packet under the door. I unwrapped the pad, peeled off the plastic strip, and stuck it into the bottom of my suit. I flushed the toilet and stared at the stall door for a long time before opening it. Of all the days this could happen, did it really have to be today?
When I finally came out, Eleanor and Julie both gave me worried half smiles. “Are you okay?” asked Eleanor.
“Yeah, I’m okay.” I walked to the sink— or should I say, I waddled to the sink. “But this pad is the size of a hot dog bun.”