“Each of the stories in this collection are powerful declarations by the current class of Girls Write Now mentees. They use poetry and prose, personal essay and fiction, to write their truths into existence. Make no mistake, this is no easy thing. Writing in this way, laying out so many vulnerabilities, hopes and fears for others to read—it takes courage. But by doing so, these young writers are stepping into a powerful legacy of truth-tellers—the Audre Lordes and Octavia Butlers and [insert your favorite badass!]—who dared to do the same. Let us all find inspiration in these pages, then go out into the world and boldly, loudly, fearlessly take our place. These Girls Write Now mentees are leading the way,” says Anthology Editorial Committee Co-Chair Maya Millett, in her note from the 2020 Anthology Editorial Committee. Read Maya’s full note here.
Can’t wait to read the bold, inspiring stories written by the Girls Write Now Class of 2020? Check out the excerpts below from Taking Our Place in History: The Girls Write Now 2020 Anthology!
The introduction to this year’s anthology was written by Christine Ball, the Senior Vice President and Publisher at Dutton, Putnam, and Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Rupi Kaur, the internationally bestselling poet, illustrator, performer, and author of milk and honey and the sun and her flowers, dedicated a poem to the young writers of Girls Write Now.
Thank you to Dutton, who partnered with us again this year to help produce the anthology, and thank you to Amazon Literary Partnership for their charitable contribution. This anthology would not be possible without their tremendous support.
An excerpt from ‘this is’ by Britney Phan
“this is” is an answer to the question: “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” Just recently in history, women have the power to seize their opportunities and follow their dreams. This piece reflects on those dreams, and the future.
It will always be summer here. The heat sticks to our skins in a layer of sweat built out of the days we spend just gazing at the sunset. The colors paint our arms the shade of purple descending into yellow. I reach over to pull out a dandelion and blow the petals to the wind, watching as each one disappears along with the sun over the horizon. My sister laughs at me, swatting away a fly that gets too close. Her face has gotten a little older, a little longer, stretched out at the edges, but then I’ll look at her smile and be reminded of the time we were both children, equally striving for nothing, just as we are now. In this dream, my sleep is an endless black tunnel and when I come out, there’s only sunlight ahead, Everything I wanted sits in front of me on platters I’ve already tried, and when it’s all over, I’m sitting against my favorite couch in the corner of my living room. Television plays softly in the background while my mother nonchalantly hums a tune she heard in her younger days, and she’ll tell me about it, running her hands through my hair as I fall asleep to her voice.
An excerpt from ‘A Planted Scar’ by Janet Rojas Vazquez
I dedicate this poem to my mom, Ana Vazquez. She sacrificed so much to help me become the woman I am. Even when we aren’t together, I know she’s giving me strength.
I was four years old
When my mom went to the grocery store
And didn’t come back.
I am from the red roses my mom left me
That my abuelita told me to cherish.
I save them inside my soul.
I was born to a little girl playing with her doll
Dressing her up
And braiding her hair.
I am from “don’t come looking all messy and dirty”
In a big house with ten rooms
Where my toys are everywhere.
I grew up climbing mango trees
Looking for the green fruits
With the sour taste.
Excerpt from ‘A Snapshot in Time’ by Rachel Kelly
“A Snapshot in Time” is a story about June, a teenager, who bonds with her grandmother and learns how far her love reaches.
My favorite album is the one of their trip to Washington DC where they marched for women’s equality. I get out of my chair and am on my tiptoes almost touching the album. I reach as far as I can for it and sit back down. I slowly open the album, and that’s when I see my Grandmama peek through the study door. I gasp and hold the album tight.
My Grandmama walks into the room. “I didn’t know you were interested in old photos.” She sits down in the chair next to me. “You like the photos of the march?”
“That day was so historic,” she remarks. “Your mom, her sisters, and I went all the way to DC to be there. I even took them out of school. Their teachers thought I was crazy, but your grandpa and I knew it was the right thing to do.”
“Wow, did Grandpa go? How come I don’t see him in any of the pictures?” I ask.
“Oh, he wanted to go so badly, but right before we were going, he broke his leg. I wanted to stay with him in New York, but he made us go. His mom thankfully took care of him since she also knew the significance of us going to the march.”
“I thought you didn’t drive?” I asked.
“No, I still don’t,” she replied sadly.
“How did you…”
She cut me off. “We took a bus from New York with other people in the march. There were buses with loads of people going—but enough with this book. You see it all the time, and you’ve heard this story at least twenty times! I want to show you my favorite album.” She proudly picks up a thin book all the way at the end. “Have you ever looked at this one?”
An excerpt from ‘put your elbows into it’ by Lilly Sabella
I’ve lived in the same home in Queens my whole life, and everything—from cabinet doors to cereal boxes—reminds me of my childhood. This is a poem about my parents and how I fit into our family.
My mother washed dishes my whole life
her fingernails long and wet under suds of dish soap
and with each smear of Dawn over our plastic plates and cups,
she’d show me how to really put your elbow into it.
When you’re cleaning up after a man.
My father ate dry cereal every night before he went to bed
he’d take those plastic cups
leave every cabinet door open
every cereal box out
and fall into bed with a groan
his hip his back his knee always aching
and on the nights he’d cramp and twitch
because his screams were so loud it had to mean Trouble,
and with Cheerios crumbs pressed into his skin, he showed me
How to really be afraid of a man.
An excerpt from ‘Epiphany of Hotpot’ by Chelsea Yan
Moving from city to city at a young age, away from my family and relatives, shaped my passions and how I view the world. These two chants connect blurry fragments of my childhood to my hopes for the future.
When I was young,
I dreaded the ride back home after a large dinner party.
I had no idea if I
did anything wrong, or
said anything impolitely, or
ate anything too ferociously, or
sat in a chair that significantly violated the feng shui of the table.
Did I act like the girl I’ve been raised to be tonight?
The older I grew,
The more I wanted to escape.
No more dirty looks,
or evil smirks.
No more superstitious rules,
and exaggerated cultural taboos.
Baba couldn’t believe that
His only daughter can’t even get along
With her own family.
It’s all because she’s not a boy.
He explained to them.
Only Mama understood me
In this big wide world,
And that was enough.