Girl Goddess #9 (nine stories) by Francesca Lia Block, 1996
Published by Harper
First line: “In the morning, her mother helped her put on the bathing suit with the cartoon bird baby on it.” (the first line from short story ‘Tweetie Sweet Pea’)
Book Rx: For cool kids, and cool mamas.
My high school literature teacher photocopied ‘Tweetie Sweet Pea’ for us to read in class one day. It was my first taste of Block’s heady, vivid, beautifully detailed writing — and it was seriously life-changing.
I longed to be a character in one of her stories. Block’s characters wrote ‘zines, put music on really loud (David Bowie, Nirvana, Hole, Sonic Youth, Patti Smith, Edith Piaf), danced around their rooms in silver platforms from the ’70s, read poetry, and had picnics in the backyard during the full moon (‘Girl Goddess #9’). And what stories they were in! ‘Pixie and Pony,’ best friends so different, yet so close they were sisters; ‘Tweetie Sweet Pea’ and her sad realization that she wouldn’t be a kid forever; ‘Dragons in Manhattan,’ about Tuck and her two moms, Izzy and Anastasia (and the sweet twist at the end); ‘Blue’ and La and her family’s coping with the suicide of La’s mom.
Block wrote touchingly of the difficulties young kids and teens face growing up, and how often they’re misunderstood at that age. One of my favorite stories in the book, ‘Rave,’ ends on a beautiful, bittersweet note:
… I wish I could have swum just once in the sea of her mermaid tears where all the rock stars should have drowned.
I longed to write paragraphs dripping with scent and sound and color, like Block did. In ‘Winnie and Cubby’:
The restaurant was so crowded and small you could hardly walk inside. There was a mural of shy Japanese women peeking out from behind their fans and under their parasols. Some of them were holding babies. The tea smelled sweet, like brown rice. Winnie and Cubby ordered hot miso soup, spinach with sesame sauce and monster-size California rolls — seaweed cornucopias of fish and thinly sliced, flowery vegetables.
’90s kids like me, also prepare for blasts from the past. From ‘Girl Goddess #9’, on calling in radio station contests:
a few weeks later matt-the-rat at k-kil announced that nick agate was going to be playing at the amphitheatre. we were freaking out because neither of our parents would give us any money to go and of course we were totally broke — it was even hard for us to afford xeroxing girl goddess — and totally heartbroken. then the rat said they were going to give away tickets. we speed dialed k-kil nonstop for three days but we didn’t win.
Cool, no? In this day and age, I imagine the lead characters would totally give up ‘xeroxing’ their magazine and just go blog.
It’s a pity though. In light of the National Library Board’s recent book ban on kids’ books like ‘And Tango Makes Three’ and ‘The White Swan Express,’ I don’t think books like ‘Girl Goddess #9’ would ever get their stamp of approval. Maybe someday.