the public claiming of formerly secret canons. Tell us what to read at:

The Girl Canon of Carmen Maria Machado

  1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott taught me that girls’ stories are important, and worth telling for many hundreds of pages. 
  2. The Anne of Green Gables & Anne of Avonlea miniseries from the 80s taught me that stubborn, outspoken, bookish girls were wondrous creatures who could do anything they decided to do.
  3. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury taught me about atmosphere and horror. 
  4. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson & The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder taught me how to construct my own worlds (and made me cry).
  5. The Giver by Lois Lowry taught me that the future could be terribly, but not irrevocably, broken.
  6. Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Wayside School is Falling Down, & Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger by Louis Sachar taught me about postmodernism and formal conceits.
  7. Tangerine by Edward Bloor taught me that a story’s perfect ending can be horrifying and cruel.

  1. Flowers in the Attic (et al.) by V.C. Andrews taught me that I could write about taboos. 
  2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez taught me that I could write about magic like it was reality, because sometimes that’s the only way to tell the truth. 
  3. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf taught me that I was going to have to push against powerful social forces to make the life I wanted for myself.  
  4. Mama Day by Gloria Naylor taught me to write protagonists with bite and flaws and fire.
  5. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber taught me that feminism was a complex thing that couldn’t be pinned down or pigeonholed. 
  6. Bird by Bird by  Anne Lamott taught me that it was okay to write shitty first (and second, and third) drafts. 
  7. Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton & Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson taught me to write with compassion. This line from Winesburg, Ohio has always stayed with me: ”The knuckles of the doctor’s hands were extraordinarily large. When the hands were closed they looked like clusters of unpainted wooden balls as large as walnuts fastened together by steel rods.”
  8. Livejournal taught me to write every day, no matter what. 
  1. Vox by Nicholson Baker taught me that explicit sex can be joyous, funny, kind, big-hearted, and sexy. 
  2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro taught me how to tuck horror behind quietness. 
  3. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler taught me that plot surprises can be meaningful and not “coy” (an adjective I despise and would obliterate from writing workshops everywhere if I had the power).
  4. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters taught me that lesbians get their own stories, too.
  5. Stranger Things Happen & Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link taught me to not be afraid to break any & all rules for any goddamned reason I please. 
  6. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell taught me that science fiction wasn’t out of my reach. 
  7. The Book Thief byMarkus Zusak taught me the importance of picking the right narrator. 
  8. Weetzie Bat (& sequels) by Francesca Lia Block taught me to write as crazily as my heart wanted, and to let my prose shimmer and spark all over the place. 
  9. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter taught me to blow apart fairytales and myths and use the pieces to build my own stories. 
  10. Birds of America by Lorrie Moore taught me that darkness and humor are excellent bedfellows. 
  11. The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino taught me to write with joy. 
Carmen Maria Machado is a fiction writer, critic, and essayist whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, AGNI, The American Reader, NPR, Los Angeles Review of Books, and many other publications. She lives in Philadelphia with her partner.
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