cover image How to Wrestle a Girl: Stories

How to Wrestle a Girl: Stories

Venita Blackburn. MCD, $16 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-374-60279-6

Blackburn (Black Jesus and Other Superheroes) presents a variety of Black and queer voices in this provocative collection. In “Bear Bear Harvest TM,” a girl’s family members have their excess body fat siphoned and sold for food processing. In “Biology Class,” a girl’s classmates bully a teacher into a breakdown. The second half of the collection follows an unnamed Black queer teen through a series of linked stories as she struggles to endure after her father’s death and her mother’s neglect. In “Fat,” she reacts to a white male physician’s assistant telling her she’s fat. In “Dick Pic” and “Black Communion,” she ponders her mother’s relationship with a pastor who sends pictures of his penis to her sister, and in “Halloween,” she and her friend Esperanza intervene after witnessing a car suspiciously follow a little girl. “Ground Fighting,” one of the strongest and longest stories on offer, finds the narrator coming out to a friend. Blackburn relies a bit too much on clever forms, such as crossword puzzles and lists, which tend to feel like exercises, but many entries present well-wrought narratives of young women coming to terms with their bodies and sexuality. It’s a mixed bag, but Blackburn clearly has plenty of talent. Agent: Jin Auh, the Wylie Agency. (Sept.)