“So Are You Helpless, Tragic, or Stupid?”


You may remember, from when it was featured on Longform.org, Vanessa Veselka’s GQ essay “The Truck Stop Killer,” about her life as a teenage hitchhiker and her narrow escape from a man who might have been a serial killer.

Now, for the American Reader, Veselka pulls back for a more analytical take on the subject of road narratives for women—or rather, the truly dangerous lack thereof.

But there is no female counterpart in our culture to Ishmael or Huck Finn. There is no Dean Moriarty, Sal, or even a Fuckhead. It sounds like a doctoral crisis, but it’s not. As a fifteen-year-old hitchhiker, my survival depended upon other people’s ability to envision a possible future for me.

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →