WITCHES by Sam George-Allen


The Transformative Power of Women Working Together
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A quirky, wide-ranging look at women’s lives.

Tasmania-based writer and musician George-Allen makes an engaging book debut with “a memoir of learning, and unlearning,” motivated by her realization that despite being a feminist, she had “internalized misogyny.” In a patriarchal society, writes the author, women are discouraged from banding together because “isolated women are easier to sell things to, easier to control, more easily compressed into the very few ways to acceptably be a woman.” Hoping to counter the assumption that all women are “catty, backstabbing, untrustworthy bitches,” she set out to investigate women whose identities are connected to their senses of community: teenagers banding together to follow fashion trends or protest gun violence; girl bands; beauty vloggers and bloggers who “construct a narrative completely devoid of the male gaze”; sportswomen who find emotional power in training their bodies; dancers; midwives, who provide “the purest expression of care for women, by women, with women”; sex workers; farmers; nuns (“a whole bunch of women hanging out together, doing secret spiritual things”); and witches. “If a witch is a woman on the margins,” writes the author, “then we’re all witches.” Dance, she discovers, serves as more than artistic expression. “The women I spoke to,” she writes, “use dance to preserve culture, tackle body dysmorphia in refugee girls and facilitate discussions about race and intersectionality.” Although ballet has been criticized for insisting that dancers “spend a lifetime whittling their bodies into ethereal objects,” George-Allen finds, instead, that it gives women a chance “to be unapologetically physical, to strive for athletic excellence, and to be rewarded with unadulterated praise.” One of the most interesting chapters focuses on transgender women. As a straight, white, cis woman, the author grappled with the question of what makes a woman, finally concluding that gender is complex and socially constructed, “like money, or manners: imagined, held together by shared belief.” As she talked with a friend who transitioned, the author admits, she felt her own identity transform from “a whole, dull thing” into “a million brilliant bits.”

An uplifting celebration of women’s power through communion.

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-61219-834-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Melville House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2019