Arts & Entertainment, Features

Tavi Gevinson discusses ‘Rookie on Love,’ becoming a twentysomething

Tavi Gevinson greets a fan at her book signing on Monday evening. PHOTO BY ALLEGRA PEELOR/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Clad in Calvin Klein, former fashion blogger célèbre and current editor-in-chief of Rookie Mag, Tavi Gevinson, strode onto Cambridge Public Library’s stage, ready to discuss her online magazine’s newest print publication, “Rookie on Love.”

“Thank you for coming,” Gevinson said, addressing her audience. “I try to leave my house as little as possible, so I’m very impressed and flattered.”

With contributions from Alessia Cara, Janet Mock and other celebrities, the anthology delves into romance, friendship, family and self-love with 45 unique essays.

“When you ask 45 writers, or 44 because I’m one of them, what’s going on in their love lives, do they want to write about it, everyone has an answer, even if it’s not romantic,” Gevinson said, in an interview with The Daily Free Press.

Most writing about love feels cliché and vaguely problematic, Gevinson said. “Rookie on Love” was designed to counter those mediocre musings.

“Especially because our audience is teenagers and young women, I like the idea of doing a book about love that felt like kind of an antidote to all of that other stuff, without calling it that,” Gevinson told The Daily Free Press. “I think if we were like, ‘This is a book about healthy love’ you’d be like, ‘Ew! I wanna know about unhealthy love!’”

Normally at “Rookie on Love” talks, Gevinson said, contributors read their essays from the anthology. But in Cambridge, with no contributors living nearby, Gevinson performed the reading, opting to share some unpublished writings.

Gevinson’s narrative snippets explored what it means to really know (and possibly love) somebody, the dangers of idealizing people, and acting.

“[A] diary is having a crush, because you’re writing for yourself, for the most part,” she read. “Real writing, be it a novel or an essay, is closer to being in love with someone. You’re trying to communicate and to be understood, for the reader to feel your two minds meld for a moment.”

After receiving hearty applause, Gevinson began answering readers’ questions, many of which centered not around love, but growing up.

When Gevinson launched Rookie Mag, a publication written by teenage girls for teenage girls, she was 15. Now 21, Gevinson — along with many readers who grew up alongside her — is slowly outgrowing her own creation.

Abigail Baldwin, a junior at Emerson College, recalled reading Rookie every day during high school and likened her experience initially stumbling upon the site to “finding identity.”

“It was like finding identity because, before that, I didn’t have any outlet that I felt like was for girls that were like me,” Baldwin said. “It was really important to me in high school, and now I’m kind of growing up with Tavi.”

In her teens, Gevinson said, she treated Rookie like a personal outlet, a place to figure things out. In her 20s, she feels more protective, hoping to maintain a space where today’s teens can figure themselves out and feel represented.

“Up until the Internet, the experience of being in high school was always defined by media made by adults,” she said. “I weirdly, from my younger self, inherited a platform, where there’s this opportunity I didn’t quite recognize when I was younger, which is for many, many teenagers to share their stories and see themselves reflected in each other’s stories.”

Serena Longo, marketing coordinator at Harvard Book Store, which held the event in collaboration with Cambridge Public Library, said the organizers previously hosted Gevinson to discuss Rookie Yearbook Four and were excited to work with her again.

“[Rookie] really speaks to being a young woman and everything that means, which is so many things for so many different people,” Longo said. “[Tavi] really started a ball rolling.”

After Gevinson’s talk concluded, dozens of attendees, waiting to have their copies of “Rookie on Love” signed, formed a line that wrapped around the library’s auditorium.

This year, Gevinson said, she’s focusing on expanding.

“For everyone who’s in [‘Rookie on Love’], there are a lot more young people who want to be creative but don’t know how and need more guidance,” Gevinson said. “I’m very interested now in how to help those people.”

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