Book cover
What She Said
Deanna Templeton

I saw Deanna Templeton’s arresting photographs of young women at the Kinship: Photography and Connection exhibit at SFMOMA a few weeks ago, and took a note to seek out her book. (I found it for sale online from Setanta Books.)

I devoured this book today from beginning to end. Powerful, intimate, redemptive, and beautifully illustrated. It brought me to tears. I admire Templeton’s unashamed vulnerability in revealing this to the public. Her teenage diary entries are lightly edited, if at all, and they reveal so much— pain, self-hatred, hope, fear, small joys, acts of kindness…

I left the house crying. 1 part of me felt like saying “Fuck You!!” I don’t Need any you!!" Another part felt like fuck’n everyone, I wish I was dead. The 3rd one felt like I got stuff to live for, I can’t give up. And the 4th is alone, left confused, mad and sad with no answer but to go to sleep and see what the next day brings.

Sometimes I grow weary of big stories, big stakes, big events. The events of What She Said are small, and they remind us that even small lives are deeply lived. What She Said is in the tradition of Marie Bashkirtsef and Mary MacLane. I was struck by this remarkable passage from Templeton’s diary entry from November 30, 1986:

Well here I lay listening to Pink Floyd, with M.AS.H. on the tele, with a splitting headache, eyes hurting, my whole self is tiring me out.

And could not help thinking of this:

I am weary of self—always self. But it must be so. My life is filled with self. from I Await the Devil’s Coming by Mary MacLane

To this intimate diary style I love so much, Templeton adds her beautiful natural photographs of girls. The effect is mesmerizing. I don’t know these girls, and they cover the spectrum. But placed next to Templeton’s diary entries, they take on “lives like loaded guns.”

Finally I’ll add that the physical book is beautifully produced, including gorgeous photographic reproductions of handwritten diary pages. I’m so glad I found it.