I finished reading So We Can Glow yesterday and needed to attempt to write my feelings on it. This book is a collection of short stories that showcase the longing, desire, friendship, and inner lives of women…and I LOVED it.
From Kentucky to the California desert, these forty-two short stories expose the hearts of girls and women in moments of obsessive desire and fantasy, wildness and bad behavior, brokenness and fearlessness, and more.
What Readers May Not Like
Usually, this would be what I didn’t like in a book, but for me, the things I initially didn’t like eventually made more sense by the end and I ended up not minding them too much. Overall, I think this book is for a VERY SPECIFIC audience and will only go over well with that audience.
Pop Culture References: This book is not for everyone because of the plethora of references to pop culture that I think would be a bit alienating to some readers, especially since it is primarily Western/US pop culture. But for those who consumed similar media as an adolescent, it is perfect. I would obviously fall under the latter group of people. There are threads of reference throughout the book that evoke a sense of nostalgia both for things I’ve never experienced, but have seen in TV/movies, and those that I have experienced firsthand. For example, I got such strong Friday Night Lights TV show vibes from a few of the stories…and that was before I got to the story ” Tim Riggins Would Have Smoked” (Tim Riggins is a FNL character). There was also a Cheese Touch reference…if you know you know (Diary of a Wimpy Kid). I’m sure there were some references I missed, but this personally did not take anything away from my read-through. I’ll gush more about my love of all the references later on.
Super Short Stories- Fragments Really: Many of the stories were only one to three pages long and left me super confused. I thought that maybe I was just completely missing the point and decided to keep on going. I’m glad that I did, because eventually the characters in some of these stories were revisited and the collection became much more cohesive. I can see the shortness and vagueness of the stories being a turn-off for some readers. Honestly, I couldn’t say that I really loved many of the stories on their own, but as a whole, the book truly evoked a sense of nostalgia for the magic of being a woman.
Pop Culture References: As a teenager
and maybe even now, I was obsessed with so many different musicians, movies, TV shows, and actors. It got to the point where I would completely absorb myself in the worlds that I loved through clothes, makeup, and endless daydreams. The internet gave me access to so many things I would otherwise not have known about and basically shaped my personality.
I am lucky to have a best friend who also shares my love of similar things, but prior to reading So We Can Glow, I had never read a book that put these feelings into words so precisely. Me and my friend always talk about the yearning that we hold in our hearts and the things that trigger that yearning. Books, movies, shows, art. Leesa Cross-Smith PUT THAT YEARNING into this beautiful book!
Women (I’m speaking broadly here, anyone with any identity can feel this way) have rich inner-lives that I think many protect and hold extremely close to their hearts, so seeing it flayed out and exposed in such a way was so cathartic. There were so many moments where I thought, “Oh, it’s not just me”. It brought up so many memories of when I was younger and made me want to write them all down. When it comes down to it, we are all so connected in what we love and what we want in life, no matter the specifics. The friendships women (and queer folk) have with one another are so special and this book truly exemplifies that…the intimacy of friendship. There is a certain kind of romance within some friendships and it’s so magical. Here are some quotes that I really loved that encompass my feelings.
“What a relief to not be scared to death of you, here alone, I’d tell you. That’s why the only men I give my heart to live on my TV.” – “Tim Riggins Would’ve Smoked” (This gave my recent Friday Night Lights Tim Riggins obsession major validation)
“Crystal and I would write WINONA FOREVER on our arms sometimes. Sometimes on our feet if it was warm enough to wear sandals. The boys we liked asked us what it meant, but we wouldn’t tell them. WINONA FOREVER was ours and ours only.” – “Winona Forever” (I was also obsessed with Winona Ryder and watched all of her movies one summer, cut my hair like hers in Reality Bites, and went to drink a malt at a restaurant they filmed at…so I felt SEEN)
“Same. This is so funny…all the women our age…we were practically living the same life! We’re all connected like magic.” – “Teenage Dream Time Machine“
The Break Between Fantasy and Reality: The few crushes I had as a teen basically consumed me. I would build up the person until they were a majorly unreal fantasy and one word that was out of line with this fantasy would completely shatter my feelings. No person, especially no man, could ever live up to such a glossy fantasy. I’m not saying it was healthy, but it’s something that I have done and the author truly captures the vibes of such an intense feeling so well. It’s not framed as being “crazy” or wrong, but as being something that girls do to protect themselves from getting hurt. Ugh I love it so much!
“I fell in love with a delusion.“- “Get Faye and Birdie”
“Listen to a mother when she tells you about her child.” – “Get Faye and Birdie”
Girlheart Cake with Glitter Frosting: This was my favorite short story from the book, even though it’s basically just a list of people, places, and things that are a “recipe” for a girl. It includes so many things that make me FEEEEEL. I want to hand this to every person I meet and have them highlight the things that they love because we really all do appreciate at least some similar things that connect our hearts. I had to make a playlist of some music referenced in this book that I have also listened to and yearned to so much since I was a teenager, so here it is. I talked about my love of the band Hole in my last Weekly Snapshots post and it’s all come full-circle.
So, overall I loved this book. Most of the stories on their own would probably not be noteworthy, but together they created a glossy, glittering tapestry of what it is like being a girl and a woman. It doesn’t speak to all experiences, but it gets down to the point that women are ETHEREAL. I can’t see any straight cis man I know understanding this book at all and I love that. This book is in a secret language that can only be understood by some. Luckily, I understood it and I know that it will be a piece of art that continues to inspire me in the future.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! What are some of the pop culture things that you love or have loved that shaped you? I’d say all the 90s/00s romcoms/TV shows (maybe I’ll write some posts about these sometime), Hole/Courtney Love, and Jeff Buckley. Cheers, hope you have a great weekend!