Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave

New York Times Editor's Choice!
San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller!

"I behave badly to set myself apart. To test myself. To push myself. To prove something. To shock someone. ... I behave badly because I can."

That's how Ellen Sussman describes her deviant endeavours. To better understand them, she's invited 25 other bad girls together to share their stories. Ann Hood lies, Mary Roach confesses. Erica Jong, the original bad girl, challenges her own claim to that fame. Susan Cheever almost flunks out of prep school and then flunks her chance at redemption. Caroline Leavitt marries and cheats. Pam Houston behaves badly at her father's funeral. Daphne Merkin measures the penis. There's a kind of energy that gets generated when bad girls get together. These pages bristle with danger. The writers are digging deep—bad behavior lies in their souls. And what they bring to the surface reveals truths about our psyches and our society.

Reading Bad Girls for your book club? Check out Ellen's Book Club Reading Guide. And contact Ellen about meeting with your book club.

Click the video below to see Ellen and Lolly Winston reading from Bad Girls at the 2007 Book Group Expo.

Contributing Bad Girls:

Ann Hood
Caroline Leavitt
Elizabeth Benedict
Michelle Richmond
Mary Roach
Katharine Weber
Pam Houston
Tobin Levy
Joyce Maynard
Laura Lippman
Kim Addonizio
Susan Casey

Kate Moses
Elizabeth Rosner
Kaui Hart Hemmings
Jennifer Gilmore
Susan Cheever
Maggie Estep
Roxana Robinson
M.J. Rose
Lolly Winston
Madeleine Blais
Daphne Merkin
Susan Straight
Erica Jong


…refreshingly, Sussman makes no pat pronouncements about "what it means" when women, bred for compliance, misbehave. "Is bad behavior a fall from grace or a triumph?" she asks. "The answer is yes." Then come the tales of glorious, even dangerous, badness, of rebellions both classic and creative.
NY Times

Whether they're writing about the parish priest, disappointing parents, or forged permission slips, these writers write so good about being bad. If you're easily scandalized, you may want to stick to the new Harry Potter. But for those of us who have moved on, Bad Girls will remind us of our past and maybe let us look on it a little more kindly. — Gentry Magazine

26 funny, feisty women writers tell all. Ellen Sussman's anthology "Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave" reminds us that bad girlery is so much more than sloppy behavior and wardrobe malfunctions — it's a calling. It's the call to self, mixed in with the call of the wild. Anybody can get a DUI, but a real "bad girl" is a creature of passion and conviction, simmering rage and acute horniness, frailty and fearlessness. Rare is the anthology without a clunker, but there is none here.
L.A. Times

These stories are funny, serious, sometimes horrifying: tales of anorexia, compulsive speeding, childhood abuse, promiscuity, lying and plenty more. They’ll make you laugh, and think, and think again. — Seattle Times

In Bad Girls, Ellen Sussman (author of On a Night Like This), Mary Roach, Pam Houston, Maggie Estep, Ann Hood, Erica Jong, Roxanna Robinson, and Lolly Winston, among others, dish about the thrills of walking on the wild side, even if only occasionally. "Between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one," confides Winston, "I smoked pot behind the garage, shoplifted costume jewelry, cut class to drink Boones Farm wine, trespass, and skinny-dip in the reservoir, manufactured a fake I.D., smoked codeine out of a bong, slept with boys whose last names I couldn't remember, wrote other students' English papers for beer funds, and ate the maple syrup I was supposed to sell to raise money for my high school." Need we say more about why you'll be laughing and crying through this addictive collection? — More

TO SUM UP: True tales of girls behaving badly from 26 (naughty) female writers.
WHY IT'S WORTH YOUR TIME: These essays take back the "bad girl" label from spring-breakers and celebutantes.
DON'T MISS: Joyce Maynard's "A Good Girl Goes Bad," on her destructive relationship with J.D. Salinger. — Marie Claire

Ann Hood has a little issue with lying; Daphne Merkin dares to call a penis a penis; Maggie Estep's best-friend prototype is the "drunken slut"—these frank accounts and ribald-to-rueful others from such widely admired writers as Roxana Robinson, Pam Houston, and Elizabeth Benedict in the anthology Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave ( W.W. Norton), edited by Ellen Sussman, make for seriously sexy (and smart) summer reading. — Elle Magazine

These stories prove intriguing and brave. A lively assortment with enough variety to hook a wide range of readers. — Publishers Weekly

First-rate execution by top-notch talent. — Kirkus Review

Reading Bad Girls makes you feel so good, like you've gained access to a secret confessional. You might think things like: ‘Thank God, I never did THAT' or ‘maybe I'm not so bad after all.' Or maybe you are BAD and here you've found 26 wise and wonderful reasons to leave you feeling good about it. — Jill McCorkle, The Cheerleader

Affairs, one-night stands, forgery, self-destructiveness, risk-taking and lies--these essays about bad girls cut deep into the heart of what it means to grow up, what it means to become a woman living life in all of its radical fullness. Certainly these terrific essays are marked by confusion and pain, but running like a trip wire through every single one of them is a hint of wildness, a glimpse of joy. — Dani Shapiro, Black and White and Family History

Bad Girls is a witty, sassy turn, both hilarious and heartbreaking. The perfect summer book for smart readers. Amanda Eyre Ward, Forgive Me and How To Be Lost

Sharp, wicked, perceptive, funny observations by some of the writing field's most fertile creative minds. Makes me wish I had been more of a bad girl, if only for the insights into the human condition. Lalita Tademy, Red River and Cane River

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Excerpt from Ellen's Introduction

I once drove to East Hampton with my husband to meet hot-shot clients of his who had invited us to their summer house for a weekend. My husband was a corporate attorney – I was a writer and college teacher. The clients were advertising executives. We met them at the door of their luxurious home, got the very grand tour and walked through the back door so they could show off their ocean. I took one look, threw off my clothes and ran naked into the waves.

I behave badly to set myself apart. To test myself. To push myself. To prove something. To shock someone. To get attention. To get a reaction. I behave badly because I can. Because I won't get caught. Because I will.

Every time I come close to being a good girl the bad girl in me goes wild.

I'm not alone. There are a lot of us acting badly out there.

I gather these writers' essays here because I want to peek behind the curtains. I want the naughty rush of witnessing bad behavior. I want the comforting shoulder rub of recognition. I want the smarter-than-me insight into what makes us so bad. Not that I'm about to change my bad girl ways.

Maybe I just want a little company. I'm a bit of a loner. (I wonder if most bad girls are.) But I'm not going to miss this party.

My first memory: I'm standing on the stage. I'm two or three and I can feel the smallness of me on that stage. My eyes burn against the bright lights – out there, somewhere, is a sea of people. There's a hum of noise and then silence. I look straight out into a black space that is filled with everyone I know and I recite:

There was a little girl

Who had a little curl

Right in the middle of her forehead

When she was good

She was very, very good

And when she was bad

She was horrid!

I kidnapped my Brownie Scout Troup.

I let a twenty-one year old boy teach me almost everything I ever needed to know about sex when I was fourteen.

When a massage therapist let his hands wander, I went back for more.

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