by Elissa Sussman
2016 • 272 pages • Greenwillow Books
I am very weirdly proud of my local library for carrying both Elissa Sussman’s Stray and Burn. I may have mentioned that my local library has the lackadaisical policy of never really circulating books back to their libraries of origin when holds crisscross this fair island, which means that I get to see what my neighbors are reading. (This is how I know that I managed to get somebody else hooked on Ōoku, because they are way ahead of me!) While I’m not as familiar with their young adult selection as I was of the public library I volunteered for in my teens, I am nonetheless very happy to see some feminist-minded fantasy young adult novels mixed in with more traditional fare. The teenagers of Brooklyn deserve Elissa Sussman’s books!
by Elissa Sussman
2014 • 384 pages • Greenwillow Books
As we established in Friday’s interview with author Elissa Sussman, I’ve been following Stray’s journey as a book for a good long time. But in the context of this summer’s Maleficent, which managed to sneak an utterly radical feminist message by cunningly disguising itself as a hot mess of a movie, Stray feels both timely and desperately, gaspingly long-awaited.
Stray is the story of Princess Aislynn. Like all aristocratic girls in her culture, Aislynn is attending school in order to make her a graceful lady for her future husband and keep her firmly on the Path. The Path, a very thorough and strict set of teachings, accepted behaviors, and expectations for women, purports to protect women from their inherent magic, putting them under the protection of their male guardians. Aislynn, however, has trouble controlling her magic, and when her debut is ruined by a burst of magic, she is promptly Redirected: her “loving heart” is removed and she is sent off to become a fairy godmother, a ladies’ servant meant to serve as a living warning to aristocratic girls. Aislynn is assigned to the monarch princess, but the small freedoms she enjoys as a fairy godmother begin to make her realize that the Path may not be the only way to live.
I met Elissa Sussman by breaking the rules.
“I know it’s easy to do a little Googling and find these people, but please don’t contact these authors,” our instructor of the day said on a blazing hot day sometime last summer, as we all riffled through the pages on our tiny fold-out desks.
I peered over my printed out excerpt from what is now Stray, my foot looking for my lost heel somewhere on this stupid row (my big fidget then was popping one of my wedges on and off, thus my predicament), and made a face. Well, I thought, that’s not happening. It’s pretty simple: genre feminists think other genre feminists are pretty groovy. If you put feminist fantasy in front of me, I will seek it back to its source.
Said source turned out to be Elissa Sussman. Continue reading