Twisted Sisterhood


“Moving chapters on the power of mothers, forgiveness and female friendships. Valen’s tone is appropriately friendly, and her message – that women have everything to gain from being less judgmental and more supportive of each other – certainly has value.”
The Washington Post

“Valen maintains a tone of measured affability throughout her book . . . [and] has an incisive chapter on the maternal role in schoolyard meanness.”
The New York Times Book Review

Twisted Sisterhood is a thorough, well-researched, earnest look at how women might stop turning away from one another.”
The Associated Press

“A smart, insightful, knock-out read.”
More magazine

“A smart, savvy, breakthrough look at the compelling, complex bonds that divide — and can ultimately unite — women of all ages and every culture.
—Leslie Morgan Steiner, author of Crazy Love; editor of Mommy Wars; former Washington Post columnist

“If you think you are alone in nursing a clique-inspired emotional wound, are wary of certain types of women, or are worried about your own daughter’s peer-group, you need to read this validating and important book. Kelly Valen’s research shows that many of us have been hurt deeply by a girlfriend and we often carry the lingering pain throughout our lives. In sharing the poignant voices of women from her study, Valen shows us that we are certainly not alone and points a way toward civility, kindness and true sisterhood.”
—Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabees

“Kelly Valen has written a smart, sweeping book about the ways women relate and given us all something to think about.”
—Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place, Lift, Glitter and Glue

“This is a brave and deep book. Kelly Valen shares her own painful experience of exclusion and humiliation at the hands of “friends,” as well as the details of incidents she’s gathered in her research – the looks, gestures, gossip, and confrontations – that have wounded other hearts. Yet she shows us that it is the caring side of sisterhood that gives our relationships the power to hurt. She rightfully suggests that we understand and monitor our own behavior and potential to wound as much as we scrutinize how we’re treated.”
— Cheryl Dellasega, PhD, author of Surviving Ophelia Girl Wars; Founder, Club and Camp Ophelia

From Random House:

You know all about the trouble with “mean girls” and competitive, judgmental women. Maybe you had a cruel high school experience straight out of the movie Carrie. Maybe you’re content with your cluster of girlfriends but find yourself anxious because your daughter’s peers are excluding her. Maybe you’ve been harassed or marginalized by other females for being something they were or are not: fat, acne-prone, brainy, a different religion, too pretty, overconfident, a different kind of mother. Maybe you have a difficult female boss who is wreaking havoc on your ability to trust women in the workplace. And maybe you’ve shrugged it all off and figured: That’s just the way girls and women operate.

But have you ever considered what all this negativity is doing to us? The stories differ, and the consequences of our incivility range in severity, but one thing seems almost universal: Women carry powerful impressions and memories of their female-inflicted wounds. The hurt lingers.

In The Twisted Sisterhood, Kelly Valen picks up where her arresting New York Times essay about a painful sorority encounter left off. She pulls back the curtain, revealing the troubling findings from her interviews and unique survey of more than 3000 women from all walks of life. Demonstrating the paradox of how we can both support and sabotage one another, Valen’s research shows that although the majority of women report having at least one girl-friendship they wouldn’t want to live without, well over half approach female camaraderie with wariness and admit that they can’t freely extend themselves to certain types of women. An overwhelming majority say they’ve endured serious, life-altering knocks from other females, while a solid 97% of those polled believe it is crucial that we try to improve the culture among girls and women in this country.

Laying bare the legacy of the belittled “girl wars” across a woman’s life, The Twisted Sisterhood exposes the hidden, enduring, and widespread fallout from bullying and interpersonal aggression and highlights the residual undercurrent of distrust some feel. Capturing the emotions and attitudes of contemporary women, Valen highlights the positive but gives voice to the lingering memories, ambivalence, and struggles so many of us are quietly experiencing. She considers the net effect of our darker habits — an increasingly inhospitable and dysfunctional society of women — and looks to the future, offering hope and practical ideas for how girls and their mothers, women, and “sisters” can come together and improve their profoundly needed and life-sustaining female connections.

No matter how content or supported you feel with your current circle of friends, Valen explains, each of us holds a stake in helping foster a more mindful civility. Calling for a new normal in relationships, her provocative and illuminating book is sure to spark meaningful dialogue that will inspire us to live and behave authentically for the betterment of our selves, our daughters, and the next generation of women.