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Nine Sirens Scholarships Funded for 2017

Sirens has a mission: to provide a welcoming space for our attendees to discuss the remarkable women of fantasy literature. As part of that mission, we specifically craft Sirens to include and amplify all of the brilliant voices creating those discussions. Our greatest hope is that those voices will represent both a wide array of perspectives and experiences—reader, scholar, educator, librarian, author—and individuals of different genders, sexualities, races, religions, and abilities. As we approach our ninth year of Sirens, we find that topics related to women in fantasy literature are as limitless as ever, and that our opportunity to learn from our community’s discussion, analysis, and debate of those topics is equally limitless.

This year, because of the generosity of the Sirens community, we raised the funds necessary to provide nine scholarships in only 16 days! To everyone who donated, thank you. Thank you for your financial commitment to our community and for helping make Sirens possible for certain individuals who are both critical to our conversations and who sometimes find it difficult to attend without additional support.

Each scholarship includes both a Sirens registration and a Sirens Shuttle ticket. The nine scholarships will be allocated as follows: three to fans of color/non-white fans, three to those submitting exemplary programming proposals, and three to those with financial hardships.

If you need assistance, we hope you’ll consider applying for a scholarship. We designed this program specifically to help additional voices join our conference and our community—and your voice counts. Please visit our Scholarships page for more information on how to apply.

 

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Seven Feminist Fantasy Buddy Novels

By Catherine Lundoff (@clundoff)

The earliest female buddy stories in fantasy were often, but not always, portrayed the pairing of a warrior and a sorceress. This pairing was fairly common in 1980s fantasy novels well before Xena first aired in 1995 with its own spin on the trope. These novels, the Sword and Sorceress anthologies and related works, broke some new story telling ground by portraying female protagonists as colleagues, comrades in arms, BFFS and sometimes, as lovers. Some of them were very definitely products of their time (biological essentialism tends to turn up a lot, for one thing, as do rape and revenge plots), but here’s a few that I remember fondly and occasionally reread.

 

 FrostflowerAndThorn
1. Frostflower and Thorn by Phyllis Ann Karr (originally published in 1980), begins with the titular characters making a bargain wherein the celibate sorceress Frostflower magically accelerates warrior Thorn’s unwanted pregnancy so that she can have the child. Wacky hijinks ensue and they go on the run from evil priests and sundry villains out to thwart their efforts to build their alternative not-quite family. The two are never a couple in the romantic sense but they do go on to have several more books worth of adventures.
TheOathbound
2. Vows and Honor series by Mercedes Lackey. (Published between 1988-1989. The series that launched a thousand ships. Kethry the sorceress has a sword that compels her to come to the aid of women in need. It drives her to find and help the warrior Tarma and they become allies. And together, they fight crime! Or more specifically, crimes against women! They become platonic soulmates (remember that it was late 1980s) as well as comrades in arms and adventure. This was the most popular female buddy series of its time and a lot of later stories were modeled on it. If you read and liked Lackey’s other Valdemar books, you’ll probably like these too. If you haven’t read the others, you might give these a try as a starting point and see if they speak to you.
 Silverglass
3. The Silverglass novels by J.F. Rivkin were a four volume series (remember that books were shorter in those days so we’re not talking doorstops here), published between 1986 and 1991. Rivkin was a pseudonym for several authors writing together and separately – their identity has never been revealed. The books themselves are lively sword and sorcery tales featuring the mighty warrior Corson brenn Torisk and her employer, the sorceress Lady Nyctasia. They engage in a fast-paced series of adventures in which they are comrades, occasionally lovers and occasionally foes. I remember loving them when I originally ran across them because they were the first fantasies that I had encountered with bisexual women protagonists and they’re a fast and jolly read, by and large, though they bog down a bit on plot coherence in the later books.
 TheCage
4. The Cage by S.M. Stirling and Shirley Meier (1991) is one of the Fifth Millenium series by the same authors and others. I know I read the others, but this was the one that I reread and recommended to others. Megan and Shkai’ra are comrades and lovers caught up in a complex plot to extract revenge on Megan’s erstwhile subordinate and rapist, Habiku, who has also stolen her trading empire. This book originally stood out for me because both women are bi and they create a polyamorous family as the series moves along. But it was also memorable because the story is an interesting and relatively sympathetic take on one character’s (understandable) obsession with vengeance following extreme trauma and the effect it has on her and her loved ones. Bit of a tip of the hat to Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.
 TheSteerswoman
5. The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein. 1989-present (new book coming soonish). Maps, cartography, walking (so much walking!), friendship and the fantasy equivalent of cultural ethnography! Also, fighting evil magicians while doing all the other stuff! Rowan the cartographer and Bel, the warrior from the Outskirts, travel their fantasy land making maps, finding new groups of people to talk to and discovering what may or may not be magical or alien artifacts. If you need to shut this world off for a while and get lost in a different one, I heartily recommend this series. I heartily recommend it anyway because it’s pretty good and it’s kind of unique in the genre.
 GossamerAxe
6. Gossamer Axe by Gail Baudino (1990). Because sometimes the only possible answer is to form a magical heavy metal band with your gal pals to break your girlfriend and One True Love out of Faery. This is definitely a music-lover’s book and it has some lovely scenes in it. It can also be quite…preachy and has some issues. But I really enjoyed it the first few times I read it, and you might too. Plus, it’s kind of a classic of queer fantasy and will give you stuff to talk about at potlucks, once those make a comeback.
 DancingJack
7. Dancing Jack by Laurie Marks. I pretty much just love this novel and therefore everyone should read it. Ash is a magic user and recovering revolutionary who joins forces with a female riverboat captain on a quest to stop a civil war. They become friends and partners, then lovers, and the writing is up to Mark’s usual standard. Damned good fantasy that should be better known.

Catherine Lundoff is a Minneapolis-based award-winning writer and editor. Her stories and articles have appeared in such venues as Respectable Horror, The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Professor Moriarty, The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper Stories, The Cainite Conspiracies: A Vampire the Masquerade V20 Anthology, Callisto: A Queer Fiction Journal, Tales of the Unanticipated, Nightmare Magazine: Queers Destroy Horror and SF Signal. Her books include Silver Moon, A Day at the Inn, A Night at the Palace and Other Stories, and Out of This World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories. Website: www.catherinelundoff.com
 

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Book Club: The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston

The Witch's Daughter

Each year, Sirens chair Amy Tenbrink posts monthly reviews of new-to-her books from the annual Sirens reading list. You can find all of her Sirens Book Club reviews at the Sirens Goodreads Group. We invite you to read along and discuss!

A decade ago, I read the entire Twilight series. The whole thing: the creepy sleep-watching, the blank chapters, the suicide attempts, the imprinting, the popsicle sex. Not because I loved it, because I didn’t. No, I read Twilight because they were zeitgeist books. Millions of women read those books. Millions of girls loved those books. Millions of men (and other women) judged them for it. There were Twi-hards and Twilight conventions and, unlike a lot of series, the entire Twilight series made it into theatrically released movies.

I didn’t really get it. And I don’t really get it now. And while I don’t care so much about not getting it – not everyone loves everything – I often want to understand why, if you will, the zeitgeist. So every year I pick up books that maybe I otherwise wouldn’t read simply because the general public – the not-necessarily-fantasy-loving general public – seems to like them a lot.

Which is why The Witch’s Daughter, by Paula Brackston, made the Sirens Book Club this year. You’ve all seen it. You probably recognize the cover. It’s a New York Times bestseller. It made the tables at the big bookstores. It’s the first in a series. This is one of those books – like Big Little Lies, maybe, or Gone Girl – that was the right book at the right time to capture a lot of readers’ attention. But why?

The Witch’s Daughter is one of those sweeping historical novels: We start in modern-day England, more or less, but then jump back to several periods in England’s history: the witch-burning period, Jack the Ripper, a world war. Those of you looking for historical accuracy, however, should look elsewhere. While Brackston makes some attempt at differences in dialogue in different periods, this isn’t going to make even an armchair historian happy.

The crux of The Witch’s Daughter isn’t history, however; it’s fantasy. We’re in a world where magic is something between a skill and a talent: it’s somewhat unclear, but it seems that a powerful witch can turn anyone with the slightest propensity into a witch, though perhaps not an especially powerful witch, and then if that witch practices, they become more powerful. One of my greatest frustrations with this book is actually that lack of clarity. I couldn’t tell what the criteria are for becoming a witch, why some witches are more powerful than others, or how much more powerful you could become with practice. Which is to say that I spent a lot of this book thinking, “Why don’t you just…?” And, “But what about…?”

Our protagonist, Elizabeth, is both the titular witch’s daughter and a witch herself. She wasn’t born a witch, but we learn relatively early on in the book how she became a witch. SPOILER Back in witch-burning England, the plague came. After losing two children and her husband, Elizabeth’s mother traded God-knows-what to Gideon, an arrogant, power-mad male witch (trigger warning: rape), in exchange for the power to heal Elizabeth. Facing execution for witchcraft and knowing that the hysteria will call for her daughter’s death next, her mother tells Elizabeth to seek out Gideon for protection. Following her mother’s death, Elizabeth does. Gideon teaches Elizabeth magic and, thinking she’ll be his immortal soulmate, makes a deal with the devil to grant Elizabeth great power. (Only in a certain type of book does procuring great magic for your soulmate involve having a threesome with two other women.) Elizabeth witnesses the ritual and, terrified, horrified, she flees.

And spends the next few centuries continuing to flee. The Witch’s Daughter jumps back and forth between modern-day, as Elizabeth meets and then trains local-girl Tegan in witchcraft (or Wiccan; the book doesn’t seem to differentiate between fantastic witchcraft and real-world Wicca, which is obnoxious), and history, as she changes her name and occasionally encounters Gideon (who is, of course, Jack the Ripper). BIGGER SPOILER Eventually, you learn than Tegan’s older boyfriend is also Gideon and that we’re going to have a showdown. A showdown that, ultimately, I found unsatisfying.

Should you read it? I think that ultimately comes down to a couple questions: Do you like reluctant, even passive heroines? Do you love the witch oeuvre so much that you’ll happily read even flawed books? Is it going to drive you insane when Elizabeth doesn’t seem to try very hard to evade or defeat Gideon? Are you going to be mad when Elizabeth reconciles herself to being less powerful than Gideon, even though she’s made very little effort to develop her skill?

I wouldn’t recommend this book to myself. I like my heroines to drive the action, not react to it, and what interests me most about women who work magic is their embrace of power, their ambition, and their willingness to put in the work to augment that power in service of that ambition. Elizabeth isn’t that woman. But there are many, many aspects of women who work magic, and she might be your woman.

Amy
 


 
Amy Tenbrink spends her days handling content distribution and intellectual property transactions for an entertainment company. Her nights and weekends over the last twenty years have involved managing a wide variety of events, including theatrical productions, marching band shows, sporting events, and interdisciplinary conferences. Most recently, she has organized three Harry Potter conferences (The Witching Hour, in Salem, Massachusetts; Phoenix Rising, in the French Quarter of New Orleans; and Terminus, in downtown Chicago) and seven years of Sirens. Her experience includes all aspects of event planning, from logistics and marketing to legal consulting and budget management, and she holds degrees with honors from both the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and the Georgetown University Law Center. She likes nothing so much as monster girls, Weasleys, and a well-planned revolution.

 

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March New Fantasy Releases

We’re excited to bring you a roundup of March book releases of fantasy by and about women. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments.

As always, we’d love to hear from you. If you’ve sold a fantasy work, read a great recently-released story, discovered a fantastic link that we missed, or if you’ve got a book or story review to share, please get in touch. Send news to (social at sirensconference.org).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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February New Fantasy Releases

We’re excited to bring you a roundup of February book releases of fantasy by and about women. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments.

As always, we’d love to hear from you. If you’ve sold a fantasy work, read a great recently-released story, discovered a fantastic link that we missed, or if you’ve got a book or story review to share, please get in touch. Send news to (social at sirensconference.org).

 

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January New Fantasy Releases

We’re excited to bring you a roundup of January book releases of fantasy by and about women. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments.

As always, we’d love to hear from you. If you’ve sold a fantasy work, read a great recently-released story, discovered a fantastic link that we missed, or if you’ve got a book or story review to share, please get in touch. Send news to (social at sirensconference.org).

 

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Sirens Scholarship Fundraising

Thank you to everyone who donated generously to fund our scholarships this year. Our fundraising for our 2017 scholarships is complete, but if you’d like to donate to Sirens itself, please visit our donation page to see the types of support we can most use.

In 2017, because of the generosity of the Sirens community, we are pleased to offer nine scholarships across three categories: people of color, those submitting exemplary programming proposals, and those with financial hardships. Please see our scholarships page for more information and how to apply.

 

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Sirens has a mission: to provide a welcoming space for our attendees to discuss the remarkable women of fantasy literature.

As part of that mission, we specifically craft Sirens to include and amplify all of the brilliant voices creating those discussions. Our greatest hope is that those voices will represent both a wide array of perspectives and experiences—reader, scholar, educator, librarian, author—and individuals of different genders, sexualities, races, religions, and abilities. As we approach our ninth year of Sirens, we find that topics related to women in fantasy literature are as limitless as ever, and that our opportunity to learn from our community’s discussion, analysis, and debate of those topics is equally limitless.

For several years now, we have invited the Sirens community, as part of that mission, to help make attendance at Sirens possible for three groups: people of color, those submitting exemplary programming proposals, and those with financial hardships. These individuals are critical to our conversations, and they sometimes find it difficult to attend without additional support.

So in 2017, we are again asking for your help! We want to provide nine Sirens scholarships this year: three for people of color, three for those submitting exemplary programming proposals, and three for those with financial hardships. To do so, we need to raise nearly $2,800, and we know that, just like in previous years, our community can make Sirens possible for others.

To learn more, please keep reading. If you’ve already decided to donate, though, please just scroll down to our donation fields—and thank you for your support!

 

Can you help us reach our goal of including more voices in Sirens?

 

Why doesn’t Sirens fund the scholarships?

Sirens endeavors to keep the cost of Sirens as low as possible for everyone. Each year, we raise thousands of dollars in donations and other fundraising to cover the cost of presenting Sirens—costs that include not only overhead items like audiovisual equipment and insurance, but also a portion of individual attendee costs like food and registration t-shirts.

We could raise our registration prices to cover the incremental costs that we incur each time someone registers. But instead, we suppress our registration prices—and then ask those who can pay more to donate, to purchase auction items, to buy books, and to fund scholarships. We hope that, if you can, you’ll help us raise these funds!

 

What kinds of scholarships will be available?

Scholarships will cover both a Sirens registration and a Sirens Shuttle ticket for each recipient. We’re hoping to receive enough funds to cover the following proposed scholarships, designed to serve a multitude of potential attendees. But in the event that we don’t, we will fund scholarships in the following order:

  • Con or Bust
    Con or Bust helps people of color/non-white people attend science fiction and fantasy conventions. This year, Sirens would like to provide Con or Bust with three Sirens registrations and Sirens Shuttle tickets in order to help people of color/non-white people attend Sirens. Con or Bust will allocate these registrations according to its rules.
     
  • Programming Presenters
    Every voice at Sirens is vital to the vibrancy and diversity of our conversations, but we always appreciate the skill, talent, and expertise that our accepted programming presenters have volunteered to share with our community. This year, we’d again like to recognize three exemplary programming proposals with a Sirens registration and Shuttle ticket. (Selected presentations with co-presenters who have opted in for scholarship eligibility may share the funds across applicable presenters, where the proposal is made jointly.) These are merit-based scholarships, and will be selected by a committee.
     
  • Financial Hardship
    People sometimes say that money makes the world go round; we’d like to counter with the idea that generosity makes the world go round. Not all individuals who wish to attend Sirens can afford to do so, and you can help make Sirens a possibility for those who can’t. Sirens would like to award three selected recipients with a Sirens registration and Sirens Shuttle ticket, in the hopes that this will enable them to attend Sirens in the fall. Recipients will be chosen randomly from those who seek assistance.

 

Scholarship Donors

Nathan Ameye and Darla Upchurch
Anonymous (3)
Edith Hope Bishop
The Blount Girls
Sabrina Chin
Cora and Pava
Erynn
Francesca Forrest
Joy
Ellen Kushner
Catherine Lundoff
Kay Myers
Rook Riley
Simon
Amy Tenbrink
Hallie Tibbetts
Emma Whitney

 

Please help our scholarship campaign by sharing news of your support!



Help Sirens reach its goal of including more voices!
 

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Sirens Newsletter – Volume 9, Issue 3 (February 2017)

In this issue:

 

SIRENS STUDIO FACULTY ANNOUNCED

We have been thrilled this month to announce the faculty and the topics for the Sirens Studio! Each faculty member will teach a two-hour intensive on reading, writing, or career development. The Sirens Studio will take place on October 24–25, the Tuesday and Wednesday before Sirens begins, and will require an additional ticket. For full descriptions of the intensives and short bios of the faculty, please visit our Studio page.

  • Reading
    • Kate Elliott, Rewriting Rogue One: Narratives That Explore Complex Relationships Between Women
    • Suzanne Rogers Gruber, Everything and the Kitchen Sink: Tracing Lineages of Fantasy Literature
    • Justina Ireland, Reading Past the White Veil: Identifying Issues of Race in Fantasy and Science Fiction
    • Victoria Schwab, Writer as Reader
       
  • Writing
    • Kiini Ibura Salaam, Writing What Scares You
    • B R Sanders, Making Magic
       
  • Career Development
    • Mette Ivie Harrison, Taking Time and Finding Purpose in Your Busy Life—What’s Holding You Back?
    • Joy Kim, Know Your Next Step: Navigating Career Pathways and the Leadership Pipeline

 

SIRENS PROGRAMMING

And speaking of programming, you probably already know that it’s time to start thinking about conference programming proposals. Programming at Sirens is crafted, proposed, and presented by attendees, and we hope you’ll lend your knowledge and perspective. Also, all voices are welcome to propose programming: you needn’t be a published author or an accomplished academic; all attendees—readers, scholars, writers, illustrators, publishing professionals, educators, librarians, farriers, knitters, secret-keepers, and heroines—have something valuable to say.

It isn’t too early to start planning a proposal—proposals are due May 8, 2017. Even if you’ve presented before, we encourage you to explore the programming pages on the Sirens site so you’ll be familiar with what we ask you to present to the vetting board.

 

NARRATE CONFERENCES BOOT CAMP

Way back in January 2006—both a lifetime ago and somehow only the blink of an eye—many of the people that you know from Sirens founded Narrate Conferences. As some of you already know, Narrate, the presenting entity behind Sirens, is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to creating interdisciplinary educational events that bring together people with many different perspectives to discuss and debate a given topic. Beginning in 2009, the event has been Sirens and the topic has been the remarkable women of fantasy literature. But before that, Narrate spent several years presenting giant Harry Potter conferences, complete with Quidditch tournaments, midnight movies, and 150 hours of academic programming.

Over the years, we’ve gone from very ad hoc methods of developing new team members—all hands on deck for Quidditch tournaments!—to something more considered, if you will: boot camp. Which we’re betting sounds amazing and…just a bit intimidating.

A few years ago, Narrate created boot camp, a combination online conference-planning course and development opportunity for people who were interested in spending more time volunteering for our events. Our goal is to give participants the foundational information you need to jump into a more active role with our team—and to help you decide what kind of role you think that might be. As you might expect, some people have used boot camp to learn that conference planning isn’t really their thing—while others fell in love, joined our team, and have been making Sirens awesome ever since. For more information, please check out the post here.

 

AMY’S BOOK CLUB

The Graces

This month, Sirens co-founder Amy Tenbrink read Laure Eve’s The Graces for her book club: a “deliberately slippery” book with an unreliable narrator, shifting truth, and a girl chasing her own power. Check out her review on the blog and Goodreads.

 

READ ALONG WITH FAYE

Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen

Sometimes, Faye has found, a Reading Challenge totally surprises you. She found Marilyn Chin’s The Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen “inspired by Buddhist and Taoist texts and Chinese ghost stories and folklore, mixed with a dollop of hilarious satire…a brilliant and irreverent musing on the Chinese first-generation immigrant experience.” Check out her review on the blog and Goodreads.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

 


Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

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Sirens Studio

If you’d like to extend your Sirens experience, we hope you’ll join us for the Sirens Studio! While Sirens is terrific, it can be hectic: so many people to see, so many conversations to have, not nearly enough time to grab a seat by the fire and just read. Sirens Studio, however, gives you both what you love about Sirens and that down time that we all need: small-group workshop intensives led by exceptional faculty in the morning; flexible time to read, write, or relax in the afternoon; and a film screening at night.

The 2017 Studio will feature eight intensives, all led by extraordinary faculty on topics related to reading, writing, and career development. Studio participants will be able to attend half of those intensives—assuming, of course, that you aren’t sleeping in, lingering over breakfast in bed, or stuck in a book you can’t put down.

The cost of the Studio is $50 for the full two days of the Studio, and we are limiting attendance to 50 participants. If you think you’d might like to join us, please check out our schedule, workshop intensives, and faculty—and then go here to purchase your ticket. Please note that, if you attend both the Sirens Studio and the Sirens Supper, you’ll receive a $10 discount.

Please note that the Sirens Studio is an optional, pre-Sirens event that requires a separate ticket. While you must be a Sirens attendee to join us for the Studio, Sirens attendees will not have access to the Studio intensives or other programs without that separate ticket. The Sirens Shuttle will be available on the evening of Monday, October 23, to facilitate attendees’ transportation to the Hotel Talisa in time for the Studio.

 

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Book Club: The Graces by Laure Eve

The Graces

Each year, Sirens chair Amy Tenbrink posts monthly reviews of new-to-her books from the annual Sirens reading list. You can find all of her Sirens Book Club reviews at the Sirens Goodreads Group. We invite you to read along and discuss!

I love a good mean girls story.

You know the ones: they’re usually set in high school or college, featuring a queen bee and some sidekicks, boys who are largely props, and a girl who wants so badly to be part of the clique – so badly, in fact, that she inevitably does something catastrophically stupid, or betrays her friends, or reinvents herself into something shallow and vile, wrapped in the ultimate evil of female trappings: hairspray, glitter eyeshadow and miniskirts. You know, something a girl can redeem herself from.

These are stories born of female power, and they almost always evidence our discomfort with that same power: after all, almost all of these stories start by casting the powerful girls – hot girls with dangerous tongues and relentless ambitions – as villains, and then end with the outside girl – that same girl who wanted all that desire and access and dominance – rejecting all of those things in favor of being a good girl with a heart of gold. It’s a uniquely female story – and, I think, a uniquely hateful story that requires that a woman forego her power in order to achieve redemption. And redeemed from what? Why, her desire for that power in the first place. Of course.

So why do I love these stories? Because they are, fundamentally, inexorably, about women’s power. About inimitably feminine forms of power – the monstrous feminine, if you will, at its most potent – and our profoundly complicated relationship with that power. About how, in trying to be skinny and pretty and sexy and desired, what we’re really seeking is not only acceptance, freedom from our society-bred insecurities, but power, formidable, earth-shaking power. The power to walk down a school hallway – or a quad or a street or a corporate corridor – and have so much power and confidence and swagger that you know you’re indestructible. These stories, even when they’re ultimately dissatisfying, address a form of feminine power that almost all of us have wanted at one point in time or another. And much like I read “Bluebeard” over and over and over trying to find a feminist ending that doesn’t make me rage, I read mean girls stories over and over, seeking one where the outside girl, in the end, takes all that power that she’s busted her ass for – that she’s so often recreated her ass for — and revels in it. Because that’s what I want for her.

And that? That is how The Graces ended up on the 2017 Sirens Book Club list.

The Graces is cast just a bit differently: There’s no queen bee here, at least not one with a female hive of friends. Instead, we have the Graces, a nuclear family that is so mysterious and so aloof and so amazing that local lore says they’re witches. (As you do? I suppose in a fantasy book you must.) Thalia, Fenrin and Summer are the hive in The Graces, without a clear leader, but with all the sway and pull of a mean girls pack. Everyone in school wants them: to be their confidante, their friend, their lover.

River wants that, too. She and her mom have just moved to town – dad is not in the picture, and there’s some bitterness around that – and River’s in need of new friends. Like everyone else, River wants in with the Graces: in awe of Thalia, crushing on Fenrin, and ultimately, becoming uneasy best friends with Summer. But unlike everyone else, who has presumptively simple motives revolving around popularity and physical desire, River wants something else too: for the Graces to teach her magic.

The Graces is a dark book and a deliberately slippery one. River is an unreliable narrator, so wrapped up in what she wants to be true that it clouds the truth for the reader as well – and most of the book is spent in an uneasy will they-won’t they seesaw: Are the Graces really witches? Are the spells they’re doing actually magic? If it really is magic, can it be taught? Will they teach River? Or will River get too close to the Grace family secrets, causing them to cast her from their circle?

And ultimately, for me, a reader who badly wants the outside girl to do or be or want something other than a heart of gold in the end, this book satisfies. Because there’s a twist, a twist you might guess, but a twist that nevertheless has something to say about female power. (And a twist that, were there not so many other books to read, might make you want to read this book again for all the clues it surely contains.)

I don’t usually do read-alikes for books in this book club, but The Graces has some very similar literary sisters, in terms of the dark tone, the shifting truth, the unreliable narrator, the unclear magical elements, the strong desire to be something or someone else: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Imaginary Girls, The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers, The Accident Season. If any of those were in your wheelhouse, The Graces might be, too.

Why read it? If you, like me, are a sucker for an unreliable narrator. If you, like me, like your plot and your world to be a bit unknowable. If you, like me, like stories of girls chasing their power.

Amy
 


 
Amy Tenbrink spends her days handling content distribution and intellectual property transactions for an entertainment company. Her nights and weekends over the last twenty years have involved managing a wide variety of events, including theatrical productions, marching band shows, sporting events, and interdisciplinary conferences. Most recently, she has organized three Harry Potter conferences (The Witching Hour, in Salem, Massachusetts; Phoenix Rising, in the French Quarter of New Orleans; and Terminus, in downtown Chicago) and seven years of Sirens. Her experience includes all aspects of event planning, from logistics and marketing to legal consulting and budget management, and she holds degrees with honors from both the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and the Georgetown University Law Center. She likes nothing so much as monster girls, Weasleys, and a well-planned revolution.

 

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