Reading Like A Tomboy: Looking For Myself In Literature

 

This fall I’m embarking on my first-ever “Write Like a Girl” Workshop, working with students aged 10 to 14 to determine what exactly “being a girl” means and helping them bring their myriad experiences, hopes, dreams, and frustrations into their writing. I’m hoping to teach the next generation of of quirky, out-of-place kids that they can “girl” however they want — there’s no canon worth bothering about. We’ll read Ophelia Speaks and Body Outlaws and I Am Malala and talk about street harassment and dress codes and Beyoncé.

 

I also teach college writing classes with an emphasis on representation, giving my freshmen a chance to seek out and examine books, films, and TV shows that portray people just like them — or don’t. I try to hasten them toward the important realization that if they don’t see themselves represented, if they grew up being asked to identify with characters with whom they had nothing in common, it is not a shortcoming on their part. Movements like DiversifyYA, the influence of Shonda Rhimes in television, and the debut of comic book superheroes like Ms. Marvel all help me make the case that people representing themselves and those like them is the best way to achieve more diversity in what we read and watch and hear. I have no gift for writing fiction, but I do know how to lead these girls and young women on a search for themselves on the page. I’ve been on this mission for years, because when I was a kid, I had no idea where I fit.

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