WAKING THE WITCH by Pam Grossman


Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power
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Assorted musings from a modern witch.

Witches are having a moment, and Grossman has played no small role in making this happen. A practicing witch herself, she is the founder of the Occult Humanities Conference at NYU, and she has been published in a variety of publications. Her personal Instagram account has 8,000 followers, and the account for her podcast, The Witch Wave, has nearly 14,000. One might expect her book to be an accessible guide to witchcraft and its most recent renaissance. It is not that, and, indeed, it’s difficult to say what this book is or for whom it was written. The chapter called “Body Monsters” includes some intriguing observations about women and motherhood. However, in trying to establish a connection between historic and modern ideas about female sexuality and reproductive rights, Grossman includes much more detail about contemporary politics than is necessary to make her point. The extended exploration of witch-inspired fashion also feels like a bad fit for this section. The author’s treatment of witches in recent pop culture is especially frustrating. It reads as if Grossman is unaware of the incredible wealth of material—from the scholarly essays to fan sites—devoted to subjects like Sabrina Spellman and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Willow Rosenberg. An author writing for a general audience can be forgiven for not taking a deep dive into the academic literature, but Grossman doesn’t offer any insight into these characters that wouldn’t be obvious to a casual viewer. Overall, the text feels more like notes toward a full-length study than a finished product, and the long passages of autobiographical material reinforce this sense. Most readers will come away from the book with an understanding of why it is so appealing to Grossman but little else.

An odd, uneven mix of history, cultural criticism, and memoir.

Pub Date: June 4th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-982100-70-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2019


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