LITTLE SISTERS by Carolyn Lieberg


The Last but Not the Least
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Another simplistic pigeonhole useful for any junior siblings who want to blame someone else for their own problems: the disadvantageous fate of being a little sister. There are theories (psychologist Alfred Adler’s, notably) that suggest birth order is responsible for character—that is, firstborns tend to be conventional, though achievers, and lastborns, rebellious and adventurous. Generally speaking, that theory has seeped in as just another ingredient of our now prevalent mental health stew, but Lieberg stirs it back to the top with this banal conglomeration of anecdotes, interviews, and academic references that is supposed to pass for insight. Divided into five repetitious chapters, her small volume opens by describing what being a little sister entails (many variations); relationships with older siblings (good and bad); survival skills (flattery, sulking, tattling); and which effects of being Her typically carry over to adulthood. Subsequent chapters discuss self-esteem (how to keep up with the achievements of older siblings), competition (a Darwinian scramble), mischief-making and rebellion (how to get noticed), and adult relationships (little sisters look for older brothers to marry). Many of the less-than-riveting anecdotes concern the interaction between the author and her older brother. For instance, the story of the latter’s vomiting his spinach onto his dinner plate is neither endearing nor enlightening: —Jerry was getting more pressure to eat the spinach than I was. Perhaps he was fighting it harder, or perhaps he was getting a special invitation to show his little sister how big boys should behave.— Spinach was never again served in that household—a small victory for both little sister and big brother. Each chapter offers a list of famous little sisters, ranging from nutritionist Adelle Davis to Anita Hill, and including Gloria Steinem and Maya Angelou. Precious and contrived—enough to give little sisters a bad name.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-885171-24-2
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1998


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