Women have been around for a while but, thanks to age-old stigma, female biology has been left pretty enigmatic.
Book cover image: Period Queen by Lucy Peach.
Enter Fremantle-based Lucy Peach ‒ self-proclaimed 'period preacher' ‒ ready to have pillow talk about periods and demystify the female body in Period Queen.
Though a folk singer who usually imparts 'womb wisdom' via performance, Peach has recently taken to the written word. Period Queen, her seminal publication, dismantles the assumption that women's bodies 'yield discomfort' by exploring the ebbs and flows of each month's four hormonal phases. Renaming these phases as 'take' 'do' 'give' and 'dream,' she posits living in line with your menstrual cycle. By understanding and planning for hormonal fluctuations, you do not need to struggle at the mercy of your ovaries, but, rather, dance in tandem with them.
Period Queen is a fun read with gripping energy. Peach, an amusing storyteller, presents years of knowledge with consumable breakdowns of complex information. Her personality oozes onto the page, reassuring readers of their cyclic nature in a world that demands consistent stamina and convincing them of the need for a positive relationship with the body, and thus, the self.
For those not used to self-help speak, Peach's style can feel chaotic. It's not surprising that a performer ‒ who decided one day to 'write a book!' ‒ presents something that reads more like a Ted Talk than carefully crafted prose.
Peach's playfulness trips over itself: excessive use of italics, bold and capitalisations feeling like emphasis notes for a speech. With cute graphics and lists using bullet-love hearts, the book styles itself for teens, risking being jarring, perhaps patronising, for more mature readers, while its earnest tone teeters on cheesy for anyone over 15. Yet, there might be an adult crowd who lap up being called 'queen' with 'superpowers' every second page as well as enjoy ‒ and not cringe at ‒ the advice, once you finish your period, to 'organise your clothes in rainbow colour.'
The book is repetitive in its thesis of listening to your body as you move through your cycle ‒ encouraging soaking in the bath with a dream journal and cup of tea ‒ rather than delving into critical discussion.
Like astrology, it's comforting being afforded a set of rules that explain your body and mind, but without evidence and theory, it feels more like an indulgence than reality. With only one page of references accompanying the 266-page volume, additional research was needed to nuance Peach's points. Instead, they were hijacked, begging the question of whether she is paraphrasing or jumping to conclusions.
This is dangerous territory for a book so charismatic, and not so forgivable when vital topics are skimmed over with concerning antidotes. On period pain, she merely suggests eliminating dairy while contraception is only mentioned twice. On the several days when someone takes the 'sugar pill,' she says, 'Pay attention to your feelings or any threads of meaning, for this is when you are most likely to feel and sense them as it's the only time that you don't take any synthetic hormones.'
Her light condemnation of contraception deems Period Queen irrelevant for many. A deeper discussion is essential: Peach claims it's outside the scope of the book, however pain and contraception are undoubtedly paramount to anyone picking up a book about periods.
This points to a larger problem: it's confusing who the book is for as it consistently excludes large parts of its potential audience. Peach is deeply caring in her advocacy for period awareness, but tends to be generic. She hardly speaks beyond the ideal, problem-free menstrual experience within the scope of economically privileged womanhood.
With this straightforward approach, a large demographic will enjoy this good-humoured book but those whose period falls outside the norm – whether due to illness, poverty or gender identity – will feel alienated in their reading.
3 stars out of 5
Period Queen by Lucy Peach
Publisher: Murdoch Books
Categories: Non-Fiction, Australian
Release Date: 2 June 2020