Saturday, August 12, 2023

Dear Medusa, by Olivia A Cole

Alicia has given up caring what her classmates say about her.  And she's given up feeling anything for the random older men with whom she hooks up.  She's quit running and is no longer friends with her born-again BFF Sarah.  And it can all be traced back to the Colonel, her science teacher.  He's well loved and known for his welcoming open door policy, but no one else seems to know that secretly he's a "wolf" when the door closes.  And Alicia is a sheep.

Jaded by the banal commonality of inappropriately older men propositioning her and other girls, Alicia finds inspiration in the story of Medusa -- punished for sex and ultimately slain by men (with the connivance of women) for what she was turned into against her will.  Medusa was maligned (just as Alicia is) and she is determined to emerge victorious and rise above the rumors and prejudice.

Also tackling racial profiling, slut shaming, agency, and a variety of other topic, this densely-packed novel in verse is brutal reading.  I might question its bleak outlook, but it's hard to dispute that these things do happen and Cole's uncompromising writing says what needs to be said.  This is hardly the first feminist call-to-arms in verse, but it is one of the better ones.  I'll warn you that the story never reaches resolution, which one really wants simply to get relief at the end and so doesn't really prove very satisfying.  However, you'll read some beautifully written verse in this incendiary call to arms against statutory rape. 

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