Twilight Teens, GirlChild Press & A Manifesta: Read, Kiddo, Read!

Whether you’re sucking up the plotlines with girls of all ages and stages as part of the Twilight saga book series or are completely unaware of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer as the up and coming J.K. Rowling phenom-in-the-making and need a “Twilight beginner’s guide” to sort out all the ‘will she/won’t she’ vampire innuendo…

…Chances are, you’ll agree that books girls can devour and can relate to in some form or fashion are worth wildly applauding as they’re “Growing Up Girl.”

I find myself emoting, “Read Kiddo, Read!” when I see girls pry themselves loose from media devices to become enveloped in “can’t put it down” page-turners.

Digital is great, and girls (and guys) will no doubt segue online to the new Twilight Teens forum or even roleplay with members (bets on how fast this trends into virtual world vampiredom movie tie-in?) but ultimately, reading taps into the soul on a level of intimacy rarely captured in fast-paced, flying fingers digital-style.

I haven’t yet read it myself, OR seen it yet, so I should probably, um…er…abstain. (Yes, that’s primarily why parents are giving it a hallpass in advance I’m guessing; even Twilight Moms are hooked on the series—though like any pop trend, pithy critics will also rip it and quip it, complete with domain buy and ‘“twilightsucks” blog.)

Still, I’m thrilled Twilight characters Bella and Edward have made such a romantic impact, taking a bite out of the ‘in your face’ pornified pop culture in favor of a gentler storyline of desire. Why? Because Hollywood needs proof that yearning can ‘sell’ over ‘bump-n-grind’ crass desensitization. (I can almost hear the pitch session, “think High School Musical with vampires!”) There’s no doubt the new film will skyrocket the book series even higher (here’s last night’s video coverage of Twilight’s premiere via Lion and Lamb Love fansite) so I’m going to focus instead on lesser known picks for ‘readergirlz’ everywhere…like the awesome power coming out of GirlChild Press.

GirlChild Press may not be ‘Twilight’ in mainstream media madness, (yet) but books like Growing Up Girl and Just Like A Girl are raw and real teen voices worthy of the red carpet/spotlight…right up there with Amy Goldwasser’s 58 teen girls writing Red the book, which we’ll highlight too!

GirlChild Press publishes work “that celebrates the triumph, defiance, and excellence of girls and women everywhere,” whether it’s the diverse collection of poignant poetry, essays and short stories in Growing Up Girl An Anthology of Voices from Marginalized Spaces, or the newly releasedJust Like A Girl” which Shaping Youth Guest Correspondent Deesha Philyaw shares with us today.

GirlChild Press gives you a glimpse of those tender transition years from girlhood to womanhood and the dramas, disillusionment, speed bumps, roadblocks and caution signs teens encounter along the way. It’s as authentic and real as the girls who wrote them…a snapshot of what’s REALLY going on inside these girls’ worlds, minds, hearts, and souls.

Deesha just posted on her blog, Mamalicious about the NEXT GirlChild Press book forthcoming in the Spring 2009 which will be a special edition of essays on “women’s work”

So as long as we’re covering “All Things Girl” this week, we might as well pop that one in here since GirlChild Press editor Michelle Sewell has just announced a call for essays! (hear that moms? Due March 1, 2009)

Deesha herself is an amazing literary force, contributing a bi-monthly column for the excellent Literary Mama, writing a fabulous blog of her own, contributing news and reviews to a gazillion other blogs, (including Anti-Racist Parent where I originally found her witty prose, since Carmen Van Kerckhove is on our Shaping Youth advisory board) AND…somehow Deesha has managed to ALSO launch a helpful brand new site called

Gawdonlyknows how she does it all…um, gee, Deesha could ya take it down a notch for those of us who’re trying to quash the ol’ SuperWoman mythology? 😉 I’m thrilled to have her here today giving us a first glimpse review from her own point of view…

But before we get to Deesha’s take on Just Like A Girl, I also want to share Shaping Youth teen advisor Erin’s ‘must read’ book, RED, (as in, ‘not pink’) which is another literary peek into the “by teens for teens” genre fearlessly and transparently documenting what it’s like to grow up as a girl in this wild and woolly media culture today.

You may have read it already? Came out last year called “RED: The next generation of American writers–teenage girls–on what fires up their lives today” (edited by Amy Goldwasser).

“The best shades of red: a little bit angry, a lot passionate, fired up, primary-color invested in their causes,” these girls (almost 60 of them, culled from 800+ contributions) tackle everything from body image and bullying to frenemies and relational aggression with a firm belief they can effect change, stand up for themselves, and live their life in their words, writing each chapter as it comes, like a work in progress…

Some funny, some painful, with mother-daughter insights titled, “Mascara Wands Are Instruments of War” schoolyard typecasting, Appeal From An Angry Not So Emo” and everyday angst as only teens can represent it (in THEIR own words)…

Red is another one of those ‘tell it like it is’ tomes of authentic conversation spewing from teens that manage to take solace in reading to see themselves on the page and feel not quite so alone.

With that in mind, it’s disclaimer time…

The book picks/reviews and blogs I’m sending your way are NOT squeaky clean-pbs-approved-bubble-wrap fare…NOR are they breathless, commercialized teen trash-n-clash drama of cable hit TV shows (ugh, don’t get me started)

These are literary works that come from the emotional landscape of youth today, with all of the powerful passions you’d expect from a 13-18 year old grappling with self-identity and finding her way in ever-changing environs.

So if words surprise or subject matters jolt, envision my palm outstretched in halt mode to you right now in warning…

Because teen girls are going through ‘stuff’ and if we’re going to be ‘real’ and hear from them firsthand, then you’re going to hear teens talking like teens.

Without further ado here’s Deesha, who has her OWN style of I’m not a princess poignancy, whether she’s writing for the Washington Post, doing a film critique on or lampooning our cultural missteps as a nation…Take it away, Deesha!

You Write Just Like a Girl by Deesha Philyaw

A review of Just Like A Girl, from GirlChild Press

Last year, when a call for submissions announcing an anthology dedicated to “all the grown ass women and smart-ass girls” showed up in my email-box, I knew it was the collection for me.

The call depicted “a world where girls and women know how to pick themselves up and brush themselves off.  These are the clever girls.  The funny girls.  The girls who know there is no sin in being born one.”

I was ultimately invited to be a part of that world, contributing a short story to Just Like a Girl: A Manifesta, edited by Michelle Sewell of GirlChildPress, an independent press.  GirlChildPress previously published “Growing Up Girl: An Anthology of Voices from Marginalized Spaces”. (MySpace site here)

This latest collection features established and emerging writers; poets and PhD candidates; mamas and mamis; grandmothers and young women not old enough to vote; artists and students in the States and abroad–all writing their truths, imaginings, and meditations about girlhood, womanhood, and the places in between.  They write about the real girls: not-yet-adult girls and women who have no qualms calling themselves girls.

These are the vulnerable-but-not-broken girls, the striving-to-be-stable girls, girls with their bodies and their genders in transition; the sexy-confident and self-aware girls, the online dating girls, and the lone punk girls in middle school.

Forget what you heard about sugar and spice and all that.  These girls don’t always “play nice”.  Meet the payback-seeking ‘tween-age girls whose “victims”–guilty of disrespecting and underestimating them–deserve every bit of the comeuppance our protagonists dish out. Then there are the bold girls like the self-described lesbian “girl next door” in Aimee Lone’s prose poem of the same title. The narrator of this poem tells her married secret lover-neighbor “I am blowing your closet wide open”…and then goes on to explain to the cuckolded husband exactly how and why.  She’s not thumbing her nose at him; she’s breaking down “sex, politics, and desire in suburbia” for us, as the poem’s subtitle indicates.

In Just Like a Girl we meet women in conflict with themselves, their mothers, and other women, but not for the titillation of men or to feed drama-hungry tabloid-reading women, but rather as a reflection of their histories, their insecurities and shortcomings.  Flawed women.  No fake “girl power” growling or posing or purporting to be the more evolved, saintly sex here.  Editor Sewell and the writers she has chosen are smart enough to know better.

Just Like A Girl takes on the usual girl-specific suspects including abortion, Barbie, religion, body image issues, rape, abuse, infibulation, mammograms, hysterectomies, sexism, womanism, racism, and domestic violence–all without being sentimental or didactic or ranting.

Even the poems that would be considered “political” don’t proselytize as much as they challenge and provoke, like Askhari’s, “Can You See Me Now? Am I Clear to You” which closes the collection.  With lines like “I believe in peace, but only after justice”, this prose poem is itself a manifesta, an affirmation.

Many of these stories took me back to my own confused childhood and coming-of-age in the 1970s and 1980s, while others reminded me of how thankful I am to have dodged certain female-specific bullets.

But JLAG has its lighter side as well.  If you can’t fathom masturbation, a used Kotex, and the Holy Ghost, all showing up in the same story, you must check out Carol Hill’s “Explosion”.  Even the funny stories reveal deep truths about women’s experiences in the public and private spheres.

The collection is thankfully saccharin-and violin-free.  In Tanisha Christie’s unforgettable-can’t-put-it-down-until-you-finish-it short story about a young woman striving to escape childhood abuse, “Iona Flies Away”, the protagonist faces tragedy without being Tragic.

There are so many stand-out pieces in this anthology, it’s difficult to highlight only a few.  I really liked what I dubbed the advice-giving pieces.  “Never Date a Poet” writes j.scales, herself a poet.  Ever wonder “How Do You Break Up With A Thug”?  “Very gingerly,” according to Jade D. Banks.

Finally, “A Manual for Female Writers” is so good and so riveting that I read the author Mary Williams’s bio three times just to wrap my brain around the fact that such genius-in-print was conjured up by a high school senior and not a grizzled writing-veteran.

With titles such as Janis Butler Holm’s hilariously succinct “If Paris Hilton Wrote Poetry”, “Letter to a Young Woman in Hip-Hop” (Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai), and “Upon My Rapist Adding Me as a Friend on Facebook”, an understated yet resonant poem by Cindy Childress, JLAG is very much a new millennium work, and yet it reaches backwards in time (for example, K. Coleman Foote’s “The Pose”) as well as forward.

“The Loop”, by Jessy Randall, offers a glimpse into a future in which books are contraband and a girl named Aghast Crantastic risks everything to read. JLAG will be my gift-of-choice this holiday season to the women and older girls in my life.  Parents may wish to preview it for girls younger than 15 or so, but I believe this anthology should be required reading in high schools–for girls and boys.

That’s not likely to happen because while as a culture we promote a hypersexual “reality” to kids via “reality” TV, we still clutch the pearls at the idea of kids checking out books with S-E-X in them from the school library.  What a world.

—Happy reading! ~Deesha

Visit Deesha Philyaw’s blog here for more of her insights…And here for her CoParenting101 words of wisdom…

While I’m at it: Heads up on a forthcoming freebie fest in December as the readergirlz give out ‘swag bags’ in their rgz LIVE! chats. (you know we love that team of literary ‘divas’ with their YALSA/readergirlz media mashup in online to offline young adult fiction fun…)

Here’s their upcoming readergirlz slate to keep you in the loop:

November: hosting Ellen Emerson White of Long May She Reign
December: Meg Cabot for How to be Popular
January: Jennifer Donnelly for A Northern Light

Operation Teen Book Drop 2009: Preparations are underway for Operation TBD ’09 to drop 10,000 YA books to hospitalized teens across the country in honor of YALSA’s Support Teen Lit Day. (April 16th, 2009)

And finally, speaking of youth, GirlChild Press and GirlChild networks, don’t forget to support Shaping Youth Advisory Board member Michealene Cristini Risley’s documentary about Betty Makoni’s Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe premiering at Sundance soon, called Tapestries of Hope! (Trailer below)

You can help support this important film (in its final home stretch for the rough cut phase, woohoo!) via IndieGoGo a fabulous new fundraising social network for indie filmmakers! (and visit Michealene on HuffPo!)

Michealene is also featured this week in Q&A on Alternative Film Guide (thinking film) So don’t miss it! So much more important work being done and girls voices to be heard…GirlChild Press and GirlChild Network should team for sure…okay, I see I clearly have some introductions I need to make…

But tonight? I’m curling up with a good book…

Related Reading Resources on Shaping Youth

Shaping Youth: YA Books Become a New Media Experience

Shaping Youth: Ideas For World-Changing: Go Overboard!

Shaping Youth: 31 Flavorite Authors for Teens: readergirlz Teams With YALSA!

Shaping Youth Interviews YALSA President for Teen Read Week

Shaping Youth: A Vision of Students Today: Digital Ethnography Video

YALSA Book Lists & Book Awards

ALA: Best Books for Young Adults

ALA: Fabulous Films for Young Adults Book Swapping Beta; for Earned Credits Books, Music, Videos, DVD Swapping Online: Awesome!

Tapestries of Hope Trailer: Betty Makoni’s GirlChild Network in Zimbabwe via Michealene:



  1. Thanks for the shoutout, Amy. Man, this blog is blazin’! You should be so proud!

    Lorie Ann Grover, rgz diva/author

  2. Well, where there’s blazin’ there’s ‘burnout’ so I’m trying hard to make a New Year’s resolution to veer toward shorter posts and get some back up around here to shore up the flanks!

    Thank you for your kind words though…As you know, I always have ‘a lot to say.’ 😉

  3. Twilight is a thousand times better than Harry Potter. I really love this movie, it is the best movie i have ever watched.

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