"I say vagina because I want people to respond," says playwright Eve Ensler, creator of the hilarious, disturbing soliloquies in The Vagina Monologues, a book based on her one-woman play. And respond they do--with horror, anger, censure, and sparks of wonder and pleasure. Ensler is on a fervent mission to elevate and celebrate this much mumbled-about body part. She asked hundreds of women of all ages a series of questions about their vaginas (What do you call it? How would you dress it?) that prompt some wondrous answers. Standouts among the euphemisms are tamale, split knish, choochi snorcher, Gladys Siegelman--Gladys Siegelman?--and, of course, that old standby "down there." "Down there?" asks a composite character springing from several older women. "I haven't been down there since 1953. No, it had nothing to do with [American president] Eisenhower." Two of the most powerful pieces include a jagged poem stitched together from the memories of a Bosnian woman raped by soldiers and an American woman sexually abused as a child who reclaims her vagina as a place of wild joy.
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