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Author uses ‘real world’ experiences in novel about growing up

It is a familiar story – a new college graduate tries to find her place and experiences all the ups and downs of the “real world.” For many of us, this fate looms close on the horizon and the pressures of making it as an adult may seem overwhelming. At least that’s how it felt for author Alison James.

“People always told me, ‘Your twenties are the best years of your life,'” James said, “And while your twenties are fun, they can also be quite stressful.”

To counteract this pressure, James set out to sum-up her trek through the twenty-something jungle in her new book, “The 10 Women You’ll Be Before You’re 35.” The book charts, in a humorous and lighthearted way, the different stages of the transition from eager college graduate to confident adult woman.

James, a 1996 Princeton University graduate, was inspired to write the book when she realized her experiences since college were not that uncommon. “This book is everything I wish I knew and my friends wish they knew when they were starting out in the real world,” James said.

Filled with witty anecdotes and plenty of female empowerment, James’ book is heavy on humor and light on the type of pressure that usually accompanies post-college transition stories.

“The year after college is like the Twilight Zone,” James said. “You’re completely shell-shocked, doing some job that’s not what you expected it to be.”

The humor in the book aims to put this, and other seemingly unpleasant experiences, in perspective. “If you learn to laugh at some of the awkward moments and discomfort you feel as a new graduate, the adjustment will be so much easier,” James said.

Because recent graduates tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves to establish their adult lives, James thinks they lose sight of the big picture. “The first job I took or the guy I dated at 22 don’t even matter now,” James said.

The stages are recognizable, even to those who have not yet been through them. James’ personal favorite to write was the “Wirl,” the half woman/half girl. At only 30, James often sees this stage in herself. “I never felt like there was a good word to describe that point in your life where you still relate to college people but you can also sit in a meeting at work with 50 year-olds and do just fine.”

The point that James wants women to get from her book is that the twenties are about a series of transitions, not just one large conversion from young adult to full working woman. “Any stage you’re in will pass if you want it to,” James said. “You’re not stuck in one particular place. You have the power to change your life at any age.”

But these changes aren’t all easy. While “10 Women” takes a playful tone with these in-between years, it does not give the clich?d impression that life is one big party. “I wanted women to know that you don’t have to have your life all figured out by 22,” James said. “In fact, what you think you want right now is probably very different than what you’ll want five years from now.”

While not all women experience the stages that James describes, she hopes the overall message will translate to readers. “I try to bridge the gap between self-help and entertainment,” James said. “I wanted women to know that it is normal to feel pulled in a million different directions.”

As we transition into summer, the uncertainty of summer jobs, internships and classes draws near. What better way to alleviate the stress then to laugh at the future?


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