"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.
Venita Blackburn is the author of the story collection Black Jesus and Other Superheroes, which won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize and was a finalist for the 2018 Young Lions Fiction Award and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Her stories have appeared in The Paris Review, Pleiades, Madison Review, Bat City Review, American Short Fiction, and Bellevue Literary Review. She is a faculty member in the creative writing program at Fresno State University and the founder and president of Live, Write, an organization devoted to offering free creative writing workshops for communities of color.