Published in March 2022, Girls Can Kiss Now is an entertaining collection of essays by writer, Jill Gutowitz. I received an advanced readers copy of Gutowitz’s debut book from Atria Books and the gorgeous line drawn cover mixed with the notable author made this book an instant read.
CW: Sexual assault, outing, homophobia, cursing
About the book
An essay collection by writer Jill Gutowitz, Girls Can Kiss Now talks about lesbian representation in the media and how growing up in the early 2000s impacted her view of herself and her sexuality. Gutowitz analyzes the medias response to the hyper focus on Lindsay Lohan and her “mental instability” when she began dating Samantha Ronson, to Perez Hilton outing celebrities, to the queerness of Taylor Swift’s folklore and evermore albums. Throughout these pop culture investigations, Gutowitz also sprinkles in her own personal anecdotes of how she came to discover her sexuality. Gutowitz describes Girls Can Kiss Now as a love story because of her vulnerability through her reflections.
Jill Gutowitz may have been reading my mind while writing Girls Can Kiss Now. No, I also did not have an encounter with the FBI but much of Gutowitz’s book is highly relatable. Prior to reading Girls Can Kiss Now I knew little to nothing about Jill, except for her love for Taylor Swift and seeing a few of her viral tweets on lesbian twitter (not a real place, just a corner of the internet). After finishing her debut essay collection, I now know quite a bit about Jill and her life growing up as a suburban white girl on the east coast, as Girls Can Kiss Now is more of a memoir about Jill’s first 30 years of life, rather than essays specifically focussed on pop culture.
With this in mind, I really loved Girls Can Kiss Now. I recently read and reviewed The 2000s Made Me Gay by Grace Perry which is very similar in that it’s an essay collection styled memoir that focuses on pop culture and its relationship to Perry’s identity. However, Girls Can Kiss Now was more memorable and relatable for me specifically because of the references Gutowitz makes. I am about five years younger than Gutowitz, so much of her relationship to pop culture in the 2000s is similar to my own.
Listening to Girls Can Kiss Now as an audiobook on my drive to Colorado with my fiancée was a memorable and laugh out loud adventure because of Jill’s writing style. Gutowitz writes with such honesty, and slight awkwardness about her experiences that she brought upon herself, like a visit from the FBI following some angry tweets about politics or an unusual conversation with her parents about her viewing of porn as a tween because of AOL reporting suspicious behaviors on her account. Considering this, I loved Girls Can Kiss Now because I could see myself in specific essays, like Jill’s analysis of the impact that Orange is the New Black had on sapphic representation in the media.
Sapphic Representation, Orange is the New Black, and Queer Awakenings
Gutowitz dedicated an entire essay in her debut collection to Orange is the New Black and the influence it had on showing realistic, multidimensional sapphic relationships on a major steaming service, let alone as one of the first Netflix Original Shows to air in 2013. Yet, her discussion of the impact of Orange is the New Black on popular culture and sapphic representation is not what I related to the most, but how she discusses her realization of her queerness.
Throughout Girls Can Kiss Now, Jill asks the chicken versus the egg question about lesbian media and pop culture. I also ask this question- which came first, my queerness or Orange is the New Black? I related too well to Jill admitting that she would do anything to watch the groundbreaking show, because I too as a teenager living at home would hide in my room and stream Orange is the New Black directly against my parents rules. Seeing women kiss and love so wholeheartedly on television made me realize it was okay to do the same and led me to really embrace the feelings I had buried deep down. Listening to Jill detail the same about herself made me feel seen, really seen. Like I was the one speaking through the car speakers or the one writing the words on the page.
Considering this, Girls Can Kiss Now is not an intersectional read as it is focussed primarily on Gutowitz and how she came to be today. Jill centers whiteness throughout the book and speaks specifically to the privilege she had growing up in a middle class family impacted by the 2008 recession. With this in mind, although this essay collection is overtly white, it can still be a fun read if you relate to sapphic representation in the media and its relationship to your sexuality.
If you like Girls Can Kiss Now you might like…
- The 2000s Made Me Gay by Grace Perry (memoir/essay collection)
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle (memoir)
- One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (science fiction)