Hilarious, poignant, and stunningly clever, Jill Gutowitz’s essay collection Girls Can Kiss Now was one of my most anticipated reads of 2022 and it definitely did not disappoint!
When I talk about this book (which is often), it usually goes something like this: “I’m reading this book, it’s called Girls Can Kiss Now. Have you ever heard of a title so excellent?!” Even if I had never heard of this book, if I saw it in a bookstore this title alone would induce me to buy it. It’s such a small phrase but it perfectly articulates the premise of Gutowitz’s collection: the boom in lesbian culture and media in mainstream society, and the social history of how we got here.
Through a series of witty and smart personal essays, Gutowitz explores popular culture’s treatment/representation of queer women throughout the last two decades in conjunction with her own life and her journey of self-discovery in relation to her own sexuality. The essays, alternately personal, deeply resonant, and hilarious (and sometimes all three at once) are truly a snapshot of the significance of popular culture in all of our lives—and how that significance has changed as the internet has evolved.
I have been waiting with very little patience to read this book since it was announced. A collection of essays about lesbianism and queer life written by someone who, like me, spent their formative years in the 2000s in a weird miasma of confusion and intrigue with only the internet to console you? Sign me up. This book recounts nearly every aspect of what it’s like to grow up in a very particular time in queer history: the moment when the marginal moves toward the mainstream. The moment where, suddenly, Ellen isn’t the only celesbian you can list. Gutowitz expertly articulates the strangeness and the delight associated with that shift, and even though a lot of these essays are personal and specific to her own life, they are so obviously relatable to queer experience that I found myself totally engrossed by the writing.
Not all of the essays are completely personal, though. This is a book about lesbian popular culture. Chapters like “The Ten Most Important Sapphic Paparazzi Photos in Modern History” and “The Current Lesbian Canon, as It Stands” are engaged with popular representations of queer culture. This book is such a clever and whip-smart collection. It’s so funny and insightful, and it’s required reading if you’re interested in the evolution of lesbian culture.
I can’t recommend Girls Can Kiss Now enough for anyone interesting in queer culture, lesbian media, and the growth of the internet and social media over the course of the twenty-first century. This book couldn’t have been more clever!
Rachel Friars is a writer and academic living in Canada, dividing her time between Ontario and New Brunswick. When she’s not writing short fiction, she’s reading every lesbian novel she can find. Rachel holds two degrees in English literature and is currently pursuing a PhD in nineteenth-century lesbian literature and history.