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Foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates

By Ava Stern


Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang explains what female rage is and what it feels like. Set in 1950s Upstate New York, this novel follows five high school girls as they form “Foxfire” their version of a gang. Vengeance remains the main value of every member and it gets them into quite a lot of trouble. The best part about this book is probably the revenge. The girls mainly target predatory men and boys in the name of feminism and women empowerment. This novel is fast-paced in a stream-of-consciousness format that feels like you’re right in the backseat of the getaway car fleeing the scene with Foxfire.


The leader/founder of Foxfire, Margaret “Legs” Sadovsky is a portrait of an independent and determined young woman. The way that Oates describes her character is intoxicating, with such a strong personality and way with people that encapsulates what it feels like to be a high school girl. What I liked most about this book is how the character Legs changes. She may run a girl gang and steal cars and break the law, but she is still a high school girl. She is both naive and aware at once. Confronted with problems at home, Legs uses her girls to escape and make a life for herself. At the end of the novel, the girls of Foxfire rent a house and it serves as a kind of haven for any girl who needs a place to stay. The overwhelming theme of sisterhood is comforting and reminds me of the close female relationships and groups I have been a part of. When they all lived together, it kind of reminded me of summer camp, when we all would sleep in the cabin together and spill every secret and regret. Sisterhood is such a powerful force and Oates managed to spell it out on the page. When I finished this book, I seriously considered a tattoo with the Foxfire symbol. One of my favorite reads this summer.


“I look back now to that first year that was FOXFIRE’s supreme happiest time but we didn’t know it then, you never know at the time. Living’s immediacy, you go full sail, you’re in a fever of motion. Until it’s safe and past and down and dead and you can say, like walking from a dream. ‘Yes I was happy then, yes now it’s all over and I can see I was happy then.’ Maybe that’s the advantage of dying?” (Pg 56).

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