Women’s History Spotlight: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Posted by – March 17, 2015
Categories: Literature & the Arts Society & Politics

Only about half of us will ever really know what it’s like to be a teenage girl. Others depend on stories to better understand the experience, which can be difficult to tell, and even harder to portray authentically. Yet, this year’s Sundance Festival saw the premiere of a film that depicts the raw emotion of female adolescence perhaps more honestly and fully than any on-screen portrayal ever before, by focusing on a topic often skimmed over: sex.

Based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Marielle Heller’s debut film of the same name—starring Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, and Kristen Wiig—tells the story of Minnie, a teenage artist growing up in 1970s San Francisco. While Minnie’s story is individual, and most of us can’t relate to having an affair with our mother’s boyfriend, the emotion behind the narrative is genuine and familiar.

What Alexander Skarsgård loved about the script when he first read it was that it’s not judgmental or sentimental—as is the case for most coming-of-age stories told by older narrators. Instead, he said, “This felt so real.”

Marielle Heller, the film’s writer and director, talked about avoiding judgment and about the nuanced relationships between characters in an interview at Sundance:


Mackenzie Wahl gives us a bit more information and feedback on the movie in her review:


The San Francisco Chronicle described Gloeckner’s literary portrayal of Minnie as “one of the most believable teenage protagonists ever written, a complicated, contradictory child posing as a woman.  Her ‘Diary’ is a page-turner of a very high order and a tour de force of emotional intensity and damage.”

Gloeckner and Heller have each worked with Minnie’s story to get to the heart of the budding sexuality of a teenage girl. Their ability to approach her narrative without fear or reservation has allowed them to create something truly authentic, and long overdue.

Bel Powley said in an interview, “I want people to come away from this movie and think that it was a really good piece for women and for teenage girls. I think it’s groundbreaking in a sense that not a lot of people have made films about girls discovering their sexuality and sexual feelings. I think this is the first one that does something like that. And I think it’s something that everyone feels, boys and girls, but it’s not really addressed with women. So I want people to feel that that’s what we’ve done here.”

We hope that The Diary of a Teenage Girl will help chip away at the taboo surrounding the the newfound sexuality of teenage girls, and create more room for these coming-of-age narratives alongside the stories told by male counterparts.

Although Minnie is a fictionalized character, the honesty of her story and the courage of the women who have worked and are working to tell it (writers, directors, actresses…) encourages all women to share their stories, whatever they may be.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we invite you to take some time to try telling your own story in whatever medium seems right.


Marielle Heller’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl will be coming to theaters in August 2015. If you’re like us, and want to read the book before watching the movie, check out Phoebe Gloeckner’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl in the meantime, or take a look at her first book A Child’s Life and Other Stories.

You can also find out what Phoebe Gloeckner has to say about seeing her novel as a play for the first time, telling the truth in artwhether her novel is autobiographical, and using both words and image to tell a story in the videos shared below.




Tags: Graphic Novels & Comics Phoebe Gloeckner Video
About the Author

Marina is the Marketing & Digital Programs Coordinator at North Atlantic Books. After living in New Orleans and Amsterdam, and exploring a couple of continents, she returned to the San Francisco Bay Area to work at NAB. She's passionate about astrology, nonfiction books, and sustainable living, as well as all things metaphysical.