On Feb. 23, UCCS alumnus Karina Manta made a Visiting Author appearance over Zoom to read from her new memoir “On Top of Glass,” a collection of short stories that follow her experience as a queer girl in figure skating.
Manta’s book was loosely inspired by a creative nonfiction essay that she published in vol. 46 of the riverrun Literary and Arts Journal titled “Tongue Tied.”
According to Laura Collins of the UCCS English Department, “Karina graduated from UCCS in 2019 with an English degree and … is a former competitive ice dancer for Team USA, competing at the elite level and becoming the first female member of the team to come out as queer.”
“Karina writes not only to make sense of her experiences but to help others, particularly the young adults at whom her book is targeted,” Collins said.
While in college, the New York Times also published Manta’s creative nonfiction essay “I Can’t Hate My Body if I Love Hers,” where she wrote about love and intimacy from the perspective of a queer college student.
According to an article from Advocate, “The topic of eating disorders was challenging for Manta, who had body image issues for many years.”
When asked about why she settled on the young adult genre when writing her book, Manta explained that as someone who has always loved coming of age stories “it sort of happened naturally.”
Because Manta was still a UCCS student when she started writing her book, she felt that it would be appropriate to target her writing toward a more “youthful audience.”
“I think I try to be really compassionate towards myself in the book because I wanted to demonstrate self-compassion to teen readers,” she said. “I think that’s something that isn’t necessarily modeled in a lot of narratives for teenagers.”
In an interview with Advocate, Manta said that “The litmus test I used for myself while writing was, I’m going to try to think back to my teenage self and only say things that would have helped me.”
During her Visiting Author appearance, Manta read a chapter from her book titled “Cherry ChapStick,” where she talks about the first date she went on with a girl named Malia, which ended with a nervous kiss.
“I was taken aback by the fact that, with my eyes closed and my heart racing, I couldn’t really tell much of a difference between boys lips and girls lips,” Manta writes. “Lips are just lips are just lips…”
When asked about being an author who writes about “queer longing,” Manta explained that a lot of her inspiration comes from being “a little bit in love with all of my friends,” and how this theme comes up again and again throughout her memoir.
“The depiction of queer female relationships that I grew up seeing…was that [they] existed for the male gaze and pop culture,” Manta said. Part of her focus when writing “On Top of Glass” was to dismantle this perspective and reexamine how the media portrays queer female relationships, particularly when it comes to talking about athletes like herself.
UCCS students who are interested in reading “On Top of Glass” can purchase a copy wherever books are sold, including the UCCS bookstore.
The next Visiting Author appearance will be from Aditi Machado, who will do in-person readings on March 14 and 18 at the Heller Center. More information about those events can be found on the English department website.