Rebellious Daughters – edited by Maria Katsonis and Lee Kofman (book review)

Earlier this year, I reviewed The Dangerous Bride by Lee Kofman.

Not long afterwards, I was offered the chance to review another book featuring her words, and the words of many Australian women. How could I resist such an offer?

Here are my thoughts on Rebellious Daughters.

Rebellious Daughters / edited by Maria Katsonis and Lee Kofman

(Ventura Press, 2016)


Good daughters hold their tongues, obey their elders and let their families determine their destiny. Rebellious daughters are just the opposite.

In Rebellious Daughters, some of Australia’s most talented female writers share intimate stories of defiance and independence as they find their place in the world.

I love a good collection of memoirs, and I love them even more when they’re themed. I had high hopes for Rebellious Daughters, but can’t quite articulate what those high hopes were.

I enjoyed the read well enough. I particularly enjoyed Jane Caro’s piece on parenting teens who rebelled in different ways, if only for the glimpse into my parenting future. I also enjoyed Lee Kofman’s tale of a rebellious moment backfiring hilariously, while Jo Case’s recollections of play-acting at teenagehood and fitting in struck a chord with me (even if her specific actions didn’t).

If I were to write a mini-memoir for such a collection, I could certainly use Jamila Rizvi’s title, ‘The Good Girl’. Meanwhile, Rochelle Siemienowicz’s piece earned the coveted ‘Most Dog-Eared Section’ trophy, as she delivered zinger after zinger while describing her efforts to not become her mother.

The bite-sized memoirs were each very well done. However, overall, I’m not sure they come together to create a single must-read piece of literature. There’s something almost unfinished about the collection; when I turned the final page, I felt that I wasn’t done. There was no satisfied sigh.

But even as I type those words, I wonder how important it is to be finished. Perhaps reflecting upon and sharing our histories in order to spark a broader conversation is more than enough.

I usually share a small selection of standout lines from books that I review here on the blog. This time, I have decided to share a standout line from each contribution in Rebellious Daughters. These lines aren’t necessarily the ‘best’ of each contribution, nor even the ones that best capture them. They are simply the lines that spoke most clearly to me.

Standout lines:

  • He was 36 when I was born, old for those days, and I was 36 when he died. These numbers are of some neatness but absolutely no significance. – Halligan
  • I was a caterpillar, filled with the knowledge of wings not yet formed. – Kneen
  • I am a modern girl. I don’t want my father’s life and the frayed remnants of an old world threaded into mine. – Kaminsky
  • It took Mimi’s Christmas play for me to finally understand that playing by the rules wasn’t always the preferable path to social success and the praise of adults. – Rizvi
  • ‘Don’t let them spoil you,’ she would say, as if I was milk and not to be left out of the fridge. – Kofman
  • My grandmother was imprisoned inside a forgetful mind. – Henry-Jones
  • While I started conventionally, enrolling in a Commerce degree as dutifully expected, I soon realised I couldn’t stomach the rugger-bugger private school boys in my economics classes. – Katsonis
  • I never resented her absence when she was at work, but I collapsed in tears over this crucial test of her loyalty. – Wyndham
  • There is, of course, a certain amount of irony in writing about family, seeking to better understand these relationships, only to find yourself further away from your loved ones. – Starford
  • In fact, I just could not take this model of womanhood seriously when I saw the way it trapped my mother so miserably in her own marriage. – Kwon
  • I am part of the dance, but always a step behind, never in the lead, often performing the wrong steps. – Case
  • I don’t know this yet, but two years will pass before I see my stepfather again, two years in which he never tries to contact me, the child whom he has spent the past decade introducing to people as his daughter. – Redhouse
  • I had spent so long blaming Mum for her illness and all the horrible things that happened because of it. I had judged her and found her wanting as a mother, a wife, a human being. – Pajalic
  • Even before adolescence turbo-charged my self-awareness, I had a sense of being precious cargo as an only child. – Baum
  • I smiled back, internally rolling my eyes, wondering whether he knew I was another type of Asian. – Law
  • The complicated truth was that I loved my baby passionately, even as I hated the relentless drudgery of keeping him alive. – Siemienowicz
  • It is difficult to navigate the years when your children separate from you, but it is what they must do if they are to successfully become their own people. – Caro

Rebellious Daughters is a thought-provoking read that will have you laughing, feeling and reflecting on your own moments of rebellion (or otherwise). Recommended for anyone who has ever been, known or had a rebellious (or non-rebellious!) daughter.

You can purchase Rebellious Daughters from Booktopia here, or from Book Depository here. A percentage of sales of this book goes to Women’s Legal Service Victoria.


Have you read Rebellious Daughters? What did you think?

* This is not a sponsored post. I received a copy of Rebellious Daughters for the purposes of review. All views are my own. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click to purchase the item, I earn a little commission, but you don’t pay any extra.


  1. says

    What a fabulous collection of writers on a great topic. I can imagine it would be very thought-provoking and it’s certainly not a conversation that has a neat ending.

    • Emily says

      No, it doesn’t. I wasn’t expecting a bow to be wrapped around it, but I was expecting… something… apparently.

  2. says

    This is on my to-read list, but it’s not up the top. I think maybe it will be good to have around to read one section, and then leave it for a while and then another. We have four daughters, and I was a bit of a rebellious daughter, so no doubt will be able to relate to many stories!

  3. says

    I enjoyed most of the pieces in this book Em but thought the same thing – they didn’t necessarily sit together well and seemed a bit ad hoc.

    I had to read my review to remember the specifics but I noted that some of the pieces seemed to be a bunch or random thoughts while others very much flowed in a story arc of sorts.

    • Emily says

      Good observation. Perhaps a more detailed brief? But then the authors might have felt constrained… gah, I don’t know!

  4. says

    I think it sounds interesting. The title definitely grabs me. But I also don’t like when a book doesn’t take me somewhere. It’s probably not that style of book anyway. But my time is limited to read at the moment so I want to always be reading good books in my limited time frame – well at the moment anyway.

  5. Hugzilla says

    Sounds like an awesome concept for an anthology (and Jane Caro is a big fave here!) Would definitely be something I’d pick up and read – great to see women’s voices being featured here.

  6. says

    I hate it when books don’t have a resolved ending. Having said that though this still sounds like a really interesting book and I’d love to read it one day. #teamIBOT

  7. says

    I usually enjoy books with collections of essays and I like the concept of this one – although I must admit that reading about teenager girls is a scary concept (I am NOT ready to be a mum of a teenager!). I’d love to read Jane Caro’s piece as I’m always keen to hear/read what she has to say.

    • Emily says

      I really enjoyed Jane’s observations. And I didn’t have my own experiences to compare to, so could lose myself in her story more easily than some of the others.

  8. says

    I’m glad to read your review. I have to be honest – Zi found most of the stories ‘worthy’ and the topics interesting, but with a couple of exceptions, dull in the way they were written. I felt like the authors were holding back – maybe because they were writing on such personal issues, it was almost self preservation? I’m not sure, but it was frustrating. But with the quotes you’ve collected, I wonder if I wasn’t reading it in quite the right light – I might skim back over them with a different perspective. Thanks!

    • Emily says

      Thanks for your views. ‘Worthy’ is a great description – I think that’s why I couldn’t put my finger on it. Because nothing was bad.

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