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How to Wrestle a Girl

9780374602802 fc
Paperback, MCD × FSGO, 2021
Releases 09/07/21
Blackburn  venita by virginia barnes

Venita Blackburn

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"How to Wrestle a Girl is a work of stunning grace and rhythm. In these stories Venita Blackburn reminds us she is a writer unlike any other, her stories propelled by voice and wit and harsh beauty." --Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Friday Black

Hilarious, tough, and tender stories from a farseeing star on the rise


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.

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  • "Venita Blackburn’s How to Wrestle a Girl is bold and inventive, moving between sharp realism and work that shifts the rules of form, the body, or the physical world, finding new ways to tell the stories of how girls are taught to be girls. Blackburn has the talent to put words to the things we thought existed just outside of language, but she also has the wise restraint to bring us just close enough to look directly at the things there aren’t words for and leave them unsaid."

    Danielle Evans, author of The Office of Historical Corrections

  • "How to Wrestle a Girl is a work of stunning grace and rhythm. In these stories Venita Blackburn reminds us she is a writer unlike any other, her stories propelled by voice and wit and harsh beauty."

    Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Friday Black