“A blistering collection of short stories that takes the expected innocence of girlhood and shatters it into the varying states of weirdness that it truly is.
Blackburn plays with both genre and structure—lists, calendar charts, crossword puzzles—to explore the heavy topics of growing up in American society. The most affecting of the stories follow a teenage girl as she grieves both the passing of her beloved father and her own loss of childhood. Thrust into womanhood with a wildly chaotic mother, a loving sister, and a slew of men who prey on her family, she is forced to contend with who she is—in her body, as a person, in her sexuality—largely on her own.
Ambitious and experimental, this is a collection that picks at the scars of girlhood and asks the reader to confront what caused them in the first place.”
Venita Blackburn’s characters bully and suffer, spit and tease, mope and blame. They’re hyperaware of their bodies and fiercely observant, fending off the failures and advances of adults with indifferent ease. In “Biology Class,” they torment a teacher to the point of near insanity, while in “Bear Bear Harvest™,” they prepare to sell their excess fat and skin for food processing. Stark and sharp, hilarious and ominous, these pieces are scabbed, bruised, and prone to scarring.
Many of the stories, set in Southern California, follow a teenage girl in the aftermath of her beloved father’s death and capture her sister’s and mother’s encounters with men of all ages, as well as the girl’s budding attraction to her best friend, Esperanza. In and out of school, participating in wrestling and softball, attending church with her hysterically complicated family, and dominating boys in arm wrestling, she grapples with her burgeoning queerness and her emerging body, becoming wary of clarity rather than hoping for it.
A rising star, Blackburn is a trailblazing stylist, and in How to Wrestle a Girl she masterfully shakes loose a vision of girlhood that is raw, vulnerable, and never at ease.