Thursday, August 18, 2022

For the Love of Angry Girls - a Guest Post by Moth Detlaf

This is not a guide for making your angry girls feminine.

This is not a guide to make them likeable.

This is not a guide to tone down their anger to make them palatable.

ID: dark paneled wood serves as the background for painted flowers
This is examining how the angry girl functions in literature.

This is supporting the young readers who identify with her anger.

This is showing that her rage at the injustice around her can change her world.

    The "angry girl" has been a constant in YA since before I was born. She changes shapes, and her anger takes different forms, but from Alanna in Song of the Lioness to Katniss in Hunger Games to Wu Zetian in Iron Widow, she is there. The angry girl speaks to these young readers--many of whom are girls or queer or both--and shows them that their anger at how the world treats and views them is justified. That that anger can be directed and productive. In Extasia, we see that anger culminate in a moment of pure, unadulterated hope.

ID: gray bricks spattered with pink paint serve as the background for the images of the covers of Extasia, Iron Widow, The Hunger Games, and Alanna: the First Adventure

    She comes into readers' lives in teen and young adult literature--the times in people's lives where they can first remember being viewed differently for their body, being told they need to act a certain way because of their body parts--and tells them that the feelings boiling in their bellies is not something they need to shy away from. It is power. Books with angry girls cannot be switched out for a cishet boy--the trope does not exist, the boy is simply a boy. 

    The angry girl deals in fiction, yes, but her anger is focused on the society we live in; if it wasn't for the patriarchal standards of girlhood in our world, the angry girl would exist as simply a girl. She reflects the pain and shame AFAB children go through in puberty, experiencing what many refer to as "womanhood" while being inescapably young. There is power in removing that shame. She takes the expectations of society and uses them when they suit her, and destroys them when they don't.

    If you are writing a book with an angry girl, I urge you to nurture her anger. Allow it to shape the narrative and the world around. The angry girl, in her pain, deserves, above all else, to be treated with care and understanding; in doing so, the reader's anger will also be treated as such.

Moth Detlaf (they/them) is a bookseller and the social media manager for Books of Wonder in NYC. They can often be found huddled in a corner somewhere surrounded by a palace of queer books for all ages--bonus points if there are dragons involved. Finding the books that make kids of all ages and demographics (including the grown up ones) feel the way they have always felt as a reader is one of their favorite things.

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