A collection of essays that reclaim the titular stereotype to ask bold questions about autonomy and desire, privilege and ambition, identity and freedom, and the competing forces of domestication and wildness.
This is no collection of cliche musings about the bond between horse and human. These are essays—cerebral, emotional and deeply intimate—by writers including Jane Smiley, T Kira Madden, Maggie Shipstead and Carmen Maria Machado, all of whom have had a formative relationship with horses. These provocative memoirs explore big subjects: childhood, power, independence, desire. The authors don’t sugarcoat. The pain they express at times is palpable, and because they represent such a refreshing diversity of voices, there’s a story here for just about everyone ... After reading their stories, I’ve come to see a horse girl as a brave, young, empathetic seeker of freedom and connection, someone who may or may not identify as a girl but surely identifies with the power and potential of a massive animal with steely muscles and a soft nose ... Anyone looking to connect with the fire in the belly of their girlhood, or anyone simply drawn to books about people and their passions, will find something to love about Horse Girls.
What makes Horse Girls such a moving read is that it often explodes these ingrained ideas. Horse girls can be queer, nonbinary, Asian or Black or Latinx or multiracial. They can be middle class (like me) or poor. Even when a horse girl looks like an ‘80s Ralph Lauren ad, there’s always more to the story ... I was last on a horse about eight years ago in Big Sur. I was humbled by how terrifying it was to be on top of a massive animal, at its mercy. I treasured the experience but thought I never wanted to repeat it — until I read this book. Now I’m itching to know that freedom and fear again.
Intimate and probing . . . . If riding horses means borrowing freedom, as the adage goes, this anthology most powerfully and poignantly grapples with what someone might be trying to free themselves from when they seek out these animals. These writers' stories will resonate with those who were themselves, or have ever loved, a horse girl. Each piece reflects the pain, love, gentleness and complexities of life that are wrapped up in that bond.”