Today, I’m taking a break from blogging boobs, bras, and body image to discuss another topic that I love: books. And something I love more than just books? Queer, feminist, fantasy books.
So, color me surprised when the lovely Shira Glassman dropped a line in my inbox, informing me that she had written just that. Would I like to feature her book on my blog? Hell yes! Would she, in return, be willing to answer a few “Ask The Author” questions for me? Another resounding “yes!” and this post was born.
Now, you’re probably wondering. A queer, feminist, fantasy book? Does such a thing exist? Enter: The Second Mango.
“Queen Shulamit never expected to inherit the throne of the tropical land of Perach so young. At twenty, grief-stricken and fatherless, she’s also coping with being the only lesbian she knows after her sweetheart ran off for an unknown reason. Not to mention, she’s the victim of severe digestive problems that everybody think she’s faking. When she meets Rivka, an athletic and assertive warrior from the north who wears a mask and pretends to be a man, she finds the source of strength she needs so desperately. Unfortunately for her, Rivka is straight, but that’s okay — Shulamit needs a surrogate big sister just as much as she needs a girlfriend. Especially if the warrior’s willing to take her around the kingdom on the back of her dragon in search of other women who might be open to same-sex romance. The real world outside the palace is full of adventure, however, and the search for a royal girlfriend quickly turns into a rescue mission when they discover a temple full of women turned to stone by an evil sorcerer.“
I had the opportunity to have a virtual sit-down with Ms. Glassman, who happily answered a few questions for me.
1. As a writer myself, I always want to get to know the brains behind the characters! Tell me about yourself! What made you want to start writing and what (this one I find is my most common problem) keeps you at it?
The simplest answer is that I write when I love something with all my heart and it still leaves me wanting and feeling a little hungry. If I didn’t love it so much, it wouldn’t matter that it doesn’t satisfy all my wishes. I guess that’s the way I felt about fairy tales and fantasy/adventure stories–I love the magic and wonder, I love the dragons and the fancy clothing and fabulous buildings and messages about conquering adversity and finding love–but I don’t love being left out completely. There were no fairy tales with LGBTQ+ characters when I was growing up, and so for years I longed to write a fairy tale with a lesbian princess. I also grew up around a million stories of knights fighting dragons to rescue princesses, and I wanted, instead, for the dragon to be the good guy. In my story the knight and her dragon team up to rescue the “princess” (really a young queen who hasn’t stepped properly into her role yet) from herself.
My mind is an overactive storyteller, and that’s what keeps me writing. I’m happiest when I’m making up new things, fussing over details, figuring out what happens next. Writing scenes with characters I already love, such as those I’ve created for The Second Mango, is like getting to hang out with them, or getting to “play with my dolls”. That’s why there’s a sequel, Climbing the Date Palm, due out next July — and a third book that’s only six chapters in. I just really like my characters and didn’t want to leave them be!
2. Your book is definitely one of a kind! Feminist literature, with varying sexual orientations and a fantasy byline. What inspired you to write this particular tale?
I think it was a way of playing dress-up with real life–I’m bisexual and Jewish, and my spouse has a gluten problem. All these things are a constant presence in our lives, so I wanted to write my feelings about same-sex romance and culturally Jewish themes and “not having one’s allergies taken seriously”, but I wanted to write them against the background of swordfighting and wizards and magic potions (and, of course, the dragon) that doesn’t usually include people whose problems and hopes and dreams and joys are just like ours. We’re worthy of those adventures, too!
As for the feminist angle — that was also very important to me. I believe very firmly in women supporting each other and all standing up for each other. Often, the feminist answer to fairy tales is that the damsel in distress should rescue herself. In my version, I show a woman being rescued by another woman. It’s not unfeminist to need to be rescued from time to time, and rescuing someone else is a very cool sign of empowerment, if you ask me. I also just really wanted to write about relationships between women in general–not just romance, but also friendship, or just any interaction that doesn’t involve fighting over a male character. The sci-fi and fantasy and superhero epics central to our culture have a tendency to feature one amazing female character mixed with a troupe of men. It leaves her unable to have significant on-screen interactions with other women.
3. From what I can tell, your first book is having some pretty positive successes. Any plans on writing more? (This is the part where I say “Please, please, please do! The world needs more queer feminist reading material!) If so, is there anything you can share about your next project?
The sequel, Climbing the Date Palm, is due out in July 2014, also from Prizm Books. The summary:
Queen Shulamit is eager to help Kaveh, the youngest prince of a neighboring country, when his father throws his engineer boyfriend in jail for leading his workers in protest over underpaid wages. But if she can’t find a peaceful solution that will keep everybody happy, the two countries could wind up at war.
Where the first book is very much a friendship story focused on personal growth, the second book is a bit political in that it takes a stand in favor of worker’s rights. My spouse is a labor activist and I’ve been jokingly referring to the second book as “Occupy Fairyland.” I also get more into bisexual visibility in the second book, which has two bisexual characters front and center, including Prince Kaveh.
I love it. I love, love, love it. Feminism? Bisexual visibility?! Be still my beating heart! Ms. Glassman is truly touching on topics that are either glazed over or ignored altogether in the modern literary world. If the storyline sneak-peek doesn’t grab you, the lovely woman that we’ve had the opportunity to get to know should. Shira Glassman is a passionate author, with a keen understanding of her subject matter, and an obvious love for the characters she has created. She is a new voice in writing–a voice that has something to say, and a voice we should take the time to listen to. Still not convinced? Take a look at the first few pages, available on Amazon. There, you can pick up your own copy for Kindle, or grab it directly from the publisher here! Want to know more about the brains behind the book,? Check out Shira Glassman’s blog!
I'd say I was your average 26 year old, but how many feminist, lingerie loving, pin-up girl enthusiast, tattooed lesbian, writer-slash-nannies do you have on your friends list? Not many, I reckon.
Loud mouth. Swear like a sailor. Lady when necessary. High heels. Femme-bot. Jack Daniel's girl. I have opinions. Maybe you'll like them, cool. Maybe you won't, also cool. Just don't be a jerk about it, or else shove off.
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