Review: how to be a good girl by Jamie Hood

5 February 2021

how to be a good girl is a miscellany. Never just quite poetry, never entirely essay. It’s a
beautiful thing.

“My go-to for invoking the brilliant trans-eye view of the agonies and pleasures of
heterosexuality.”
– Torrey Peters on how to be a good girl.

Though no one seems to know exactly what it is.

how to be a good girl…cover[s] constructions of womanhood through the specificity
of one woman’s experience with femininity, sex, and surviving trauma.”

– Walker Caplan, Lithub

Or it’s not that no one knows what exactly it is, just no one can quite agree on what the
through line is.

they are not my kin” – Jamie Hood, how to be a good girl

And that sounds like a negative. It isn’t. The book suffers from no lack of coherence, no fundamental
relational deficit with making sense. It flourishes in its variability.

The self that Hood presents on the page longs desperately to be ‘good’ but the
question lingers: what does that even mean in a world of trauma, confusion and a greater loss.”
– Emma Specter, Vogue

No two people will have the same take-away If done right (and it is). The work is too
dynamic to maintain any one interpretation, too flexible for its core, its most solid point, to
be identifiable.

“I don’t anticipate ever being a poet’s poet.” – Jamie Hood, how to be a good girl

Here, in how to be a good girl, everything is synthesised, it is economical in its artistic grace.
This economy of language allows for poetry to emerge even when the work’s tendencies
lean towards other modes of expression like essay or criticism. Every word is given a greater
weight, every word speaks to and furthers the multiplicity of interpretation that
characterises the book as a whole.

“For the bad girl speech is heretical by default.” – Jamie Hood, how to be a good girl

The core—the transiency of it, the way in which it resists singularity—is helped by the
variety of content Hood covers. From newfound and blossoming love to analysing a plethora
of literary figures, there is nothing that Hood seems hesitant to touch.

“[There is] little room for books with new, controversial ideas or challenging literary voices.”
– André Schiffrin, The Business of Books

Perhaps most interestingly is the way in which the book touches on and justifies its own
existence. There is talk of publishing, and money, starving through the winter if you don’t
buy the book you are already reading, of audience, of its own construction. There’s a tell
here that you can hardly notice, it gives the book life. It makes it a living, breathing thing.

“Ultimately the project felt so free form to me, and so sort of casual —and also very indebted to very
intense emotionality— that is just seemed like lyricism was the best
approach” – Jamie Hood, an interview with Nat Hollis

In—more casually than subtly—displaying the art of its construction, the work colours itself
with a humanity that is almost irresistible in its tangibility.

“ i get high         soothe my        self
remind                            —self
even if a failure it will have been a beautiful one”
– Jamie Hood, how to be a good girl

Displaying this construction reveals the —

“This dream of art production as coming out of nowhere but the muse, like we erased the idea of networking opportunities and all the sort of walking through shit to get to gold. You know? But we also erased the fact that art is hard work, it is labour.” – Jamie Hood, an interview with Nat Hollis

— labour of the whole thing. It makes it all the more approachable, beautiful, poignant, and
altogether entirely human. And, in my opinion, for this and a thousand other reasons, you
would be entirely remiss to pass on any opportunity you have to read it.


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