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Halimah Marcus: Horse Girls w/ T Kira Madden & Maggie Shipstead

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"Equine lover or not, Horse Girls will surely knock you off your feet." — Meredith Talusan

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A compelling and provocative essay collection that smashes stereotypes and redefines the meaning of the term “horse girl,” broadening it for women of all cultural backgrounds.

As a child, horses consumed Halimah Marcus’ imagination. When she wasn’t around horses she was pretending to be one, cantering on two legs, hands poised to hold invisible reigns. To her classmates, girls like Halimah were known as “horse girls,” weird and overzealous, absent from the social worlds of their peers.

Decades later, when memes about “horse girl energy,” began appearing across social media—Halimah reluctantly recognized herself. The jokes imagine girls as blinkered as carriage ponies, oblivious to the mockery behind their backs. The stereotypical horse girl is also white, thin, rich, and straight, a daughter of privilege. Yet so many riders don’t fit this narrow, damaging ideal, and relate to horses in profound ways that include ambivalence and regret, as well as unbridled passion and devotion.

Featuring some of the most striking voices in contemporary literature—including Carmen Maria Machado, Pulitzer-prize winner Jane Smiley, T Kira Madden, Maggie Shipstead, and Courtney Maum—Horse Girls reframes the iconic bond between girls and horses with the complexity and nuance it deserves. And it showcases powerful emerging voices like Braudie Blais-Billie, on the connection between her Seminole and Quebecois heritage; Sarah Enelow-Snyder, on growing up as a Black barrel racer in central Texas; and Nur Nasreen Ibrahim, on the colonialist influence on horse culture in Pakistan.

By turns thought-provoking and personal, Horse Girls reclaims its titular stereotype to ask bold questions about autonomy and desire, privilege and ambition, identity and freedom, and the competing forces of domestication and wildness.

Halimah Marcus’s short stories and essays have appeared in One Story, BOMB, the Literary Review, Amazon Original Stories, the Out There podcast, Indiana Review, Gulf Coast, the Southampton Review, and elsewhere. She is the executive director of Electric Literature, an innovative digital publishing nonprofit, and the editor in chief of its weekly fiction magazine, Recommended Reading, which she cofounded. She has an MFA from Brooklyn College and lives in the Catskill region of New York.

T Kira Mahealani Madden is a Chinese, Kānaka Maoli writer, photographer, and amateur magician. A recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Hedgebrook, Tin House, MacDowell, and Yaddo—where she was awarded the Linda Collins Endowed Residency Award—she serves as the founding Editor-in-chief of No Tokens, a magazine of literature and art. She is the author of the 2019 New York Times Editors’ Choice memoir, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, which is now being developed as a feature film. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award John Leonard Prize, and the winner of the 2021 Judith A. Markowitz LAMBDA Literary Award, she has facilitated writing workshops for homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals, and will join the Department of English at College of Charleston in Fall 2021.

Maggie Shipstead is the New York Times-bestselling author of the novels Seating Arrangements, Astonish Me, and Great Circle, and the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her writing has appeared in many places, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, Travel + Leisure, Departures, Condé Nast Traveler, Outside, The Best American Short Stories, and The Best American Sports Writing. She lives in Los Angeles.

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Books Are Magic opened on May 1, 2017, in Cobble Hill. Founded and owned by NYT Bestselling author Emma Straub and her husband Michael Fusco-Straub, the store is on Smith Street in the heart of literary Brooklyn. 

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