Jocelyn, Jodie, Jennifer, Jacqui, Joelle. Ignoring the optimistic advice of elders, these five working-class teens in the Rust Belt band together in their embrace of bad behavior and poor taste as they navigate sexuality and identity with loud-mouthed joy and clear-eyed cynicism.
Winner of the 2021 Blue Light Books Prize, Rochelle Hurt's The J Girls: A Reality Show is a tribute to the grit and glitter of millennial girlhood and a testament to its dangers and traumas. Hurt's creative, genre-bending mix of poetry, fiction, and screenplay brings the girls to life with campy performances of monologues, soap opera clips, mock interviews, talk shows, commercials, and even burlesque. Vulgar, rhapsodic language serves as costume and shield, allowing the J Girls to script their own images and project glowing, outsized versions of themselves into the safe space of the TV screen.
Playful and poignant, The J Girls is a flashy ode to performance and a nostalgic elegy for adolescent friendships.
Opening Credits: Adoration of the J Girls
Episode 1: The J Girls Get High
Less is More
Jen's Prayer for Effacement
Ode on My Upspeak
Commercial Break: Bath & Body Works Pastoral
Episode 2: The J Girls Chase Tail
To My '81 Chevy Celebrity
Jen's Prayer for Containment
Ode to the C Word
The Birth of Anger at the Roller Skating Rink
Origins & Outcomes
The Cut Felt Round the World
Commercial Break: Lip Smacker Fantasia
Episode 3: The J Girls Give Face
Demolition Derby Queens
Cunts in Girls' Room
oo yay & eye yay
Commercial Break: Wet n Wild Romance
Episode 4: The J Girls Get Caught (on Camera)
What the Thief Learned to Take Early
Jen's Prayer for Exposure
Ode to an Empty Womb
Commercial Break: Avon Grotesque
Episode 5: The J Girls Reunion
Episode 6: The J Girls Cash Out
Silence is Golden—
I Could Eat You Up
Who Taught You That One?
Can I Call You Ellie?
End Credits: Beatitudes for Meek Girls
Brilliant, startling, and stirring, Rochelle Hurt's new book blurs poetry, fiction, and playwriting to capture the lives of a fierce group of girls in Ohio in the late 1990's. Presented as VHS tapes unspooling at a church rummage sale, it's impossible to categorize this innovative, edgy, often hilarious collection. Is it a TV script for the show we've all been waiting for? Is it a love letter to girls we kissed when the nuns weren't looking? Is it a diary, a ransom note, an ad for a sticky floral body spray? "Words get worn / this way: at festivals, we tuck our violence in / our bras with cash for cigarettes and pretzels." Hurt's gorgeous lines linger: "The sky bowed / behind you all afternoon, waiting / for permission. Girl, you / are a hall of mirrors falling on me, / you are the end of looking." I wanted to be part of this club, to kiss The J Girls and kiss up. This book lets you in on secrets whispered behind the door of a bathroom stall with a few too many sneakers underneath, and at least one pair of wobbly heels. Press your ear against the door and listen.~Carol Guess, author of Girl Zoo and Doll Studies: Forensics
What does it mean to become a woman? In The J Girls, Rochelle Hurt has produced a cinematic anthem, a war cry against gender norms, and a sad reminder of how little has changed for girls traversing the rocky journey into adulthood. The strength of this collection is in the collective experiences where the body becomes an object of desire and the origin of resistance. These poems are unapologetic and tender. Part theater, part screenplay, part poetry, The J Girls is a genre-blending collection demanding the reader see these archetypes as real people with real stories and real unspeakable trauma.~Nandi Comer, author of Tapping Out: Poems
Like the teenagers at its center, Rochelle Hurt's The J Girls: A Reality Show is wild, smart, aching, and fearless. This genre-exploding book exquisitely captures the thrumming ecstasy and terror and guilt and bravado and tenderness and rage of adolescent girlhood. The J Girls understand that no girl is ever only one girl, and they claim themselves, in all of their iterations, again and again. This book is the bite-and-glitter I wish I'd had as a companion during my own high school years; I'm so grateful to have it now.~Catherine Pierce, author of Danger Days
Rochelle Hurt's collection The J Girls: A Reality Show is dynamite. I love the genre-bending. I love the poetics and trash celeb culture and satire and swerve. It reminds me of Euripides and Kathy Acker, and I can't wait for the book to debut.~The Cyborg Jillian Weise, author of Cyborg Detective and Give It to Alfie Tonight
Startling and familiar, sometimes vulgar, often hilarious, and very sure of itself, The J Girls is, without a doubt, one of the best books I'll read this year.~Lisa Summe, Cleveland Review of Books