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Witches are at the forefront of the Suffragette movement in Alix E. Harrow’s “The Once and Future Witches”

Why have regular activists when you can have activist witches? I found the perfect combination of the two in Alix E. Harrow’s new novel The Once and Future Witches.

We’ve all heard the witch tales told to us as little girls – the Wicked Witch of the West was a popular one in my childhood. She is so widely hated by people because of the inconvenience she causes Dorothy, but I secretly liked her better. She made the story. Why are we taught that the witches are always the villains of the story?

Author Alix E. Harrow recalls tales told in her childhood, “There are witches in so many of our stories,” she says in an exclusive interview with The Tempest, “creeping along the margins, waiting at crossroads and hexing babies; I guess it was only a matter of time before we started dragging them out into the light.” And drag to the light she did.

The Once and Future Witches is a novel that centers around injustices that, sadly, are still all too familiar to modern-day society, legal, economic, social and racial. The story is set in 1893, during the time of the suffragette movement, and did I mention that the main characters are activist witches?

Harrow admits that the idea wasn’t entirely hers: “I wish I could say it came to me in a dream, but the honest truth is that I was trying really hard to come up with a new novel idea, and my husband said, ‘you should do witches, but like, activists.'” And from there, The Once and Future Witches was born; a story combining the modern understanding of witchery with the age-old movement of the Suffragettes.

The protagonists of the book, the three Eastwood sisters, display a sense of morality that isn’t heard of from witches in the tales stemming from centuries ago; they are activists fighting for their rights as women. But can they balance witchery and activism? 

There are so many characters that you come to love in this book; my favorite happens to be James Juniper, the youngest of all the Eastwood sisters, on a journey to leave her traumatic past behind. She also happens to be the most dedicated to her roots and a proud witch – something that is consistently frowned upon within the pages of this book and is a trait that makes her incredibly appealing in the new age of activism.

Juniper is the first to become involved with the women’s suffrage movement, later involving her sisters. However, the movement itself is not just for the rights of women, it also serves as a coverup for the Eastwood sisters’ own growing power throughout the city of New Salem; a force that reconciled the sisterhood of these three and brought forward a new sisterhood between the women of New Salem.

Agnes Amaranth is the middle sister and a solitary individual, and Alix Harrow’s favorite: “I had a newborn and a two-year-old while I was writing this book, and the idea of a character who found strength in motherhood, rather than sentimentality or weakness or softness is one that mattered a great deal to me.” 

Last but certainly not least, we have Beatrice Belladonna, the eldest of the sisters and the insatiable bookworm of the trio. Beatrice is bursting at the seams for knowledge of her ancestors and finds herself digging deeper and deeper into her emotions and knowledge about witchcraft with the aid of her new friend. Beatrice’s love of books resonates with many readers and although on the surface Beatrice has less going on in her life than her sisters, it is truly a wonderful experience to watch such an introverted character bloom into a powerful presence. 

My favorite thing about The Once and Future Witches happens to be how starkly different each of the Eastwood sisters are: there’s a part of everyone in each of these sisters, making them relatable to any reader. It is also quite refreshing to see the characters find pride in being women in a time where it was shunned.

But, throughout History, where there are women, there are injustices and at its very core, The Once and Future Witches is a story about all of these struggles whilst being a disliked member of society. As Harrow so wonderfully puts it,  “All of us grew up on stories of wicked witches. The villages they cursed, the plagues they brewed. We need to show people what else we have to offer, give them better stories.”

Witchery is an essential part of history and literature. From the tales in the literary canon and children’s books to the ones in crime history and newspapers, it’s fair to say that witches haven’t always been depicted as the most just beings. The author of The Once and Future Witches dives deep into the set of fears surrounding the inversions of the natural order. Witches are often portrayed as promiscuous rather than chaste housewives; they prey on children rather than bear them and they curse houses rather than keep them. The nineteenth-century nailed in the gender roles of our society with witches being the feminine form of evil – but not the protagonists of this book. 

The Eastwood sisters alongside many of the other characters find themselves facing an age-old battle that women appear to be destined to fight for the longevity of their time. “I wouldn’t necessarily want to declare that it’s some sort of grand allegory for the #MeToo movement, which involves real women in the real world.” Harrows says, “But all the injustices my characters deal with – legal, economic, social, racial, are absolutely still with us.”

Whether it’s an issue of classism or the economical stance of women in society, Harrow taps into our innermost subconscious, allowing us to see an age-old story with modern eyes in the best way; through the lives of witches. “I think the thing that fantasy can do better than any other genre is literalize experiences that are metaphorical – it can make the invisible suddenly visible. Women’s sociopolitical power is an invisible, uncertain quantity that shifts according to class, race, sexuality, ability, and identity. But with witchcraft–I could make it visible.”

The Once and Future Witches was a great read for me personally: though I’ve never villainized the witches, I’ve never thought to put them in the position of the heroes either. I was surprised just how much I connected with the main character James Juniper – her wit and charm as well as her pride had me rooting for her the entire way through. And although witches have never been traditionally written as humane, this was the most human I’ve read them to be and definitely the most I’ve connected with them.

This book is eloquently crafted and depicts the long-lasting journey that women have been on since the beginning of time and fills you with a sense of righteousness. Remnants of beautiful yet powerful messages are hidden in the charming words you’d come to expect from an Alix E. Harrow’s story. “With my first book (the take away) was a sense of wonder and nostalgia. With this one, it’s righteous anger, and the thing underneath righteous anger, which is almost always hope.”

We are hosting a giveaway of the book on our Instagram, stay tuned! Or, if you absolutely can’t wait to read “The Once and Future Witches”, get it now on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores here or on Amazon here.

Love Advice

My partner didn’t care about politics or social justice – until I did these 5 things

I’m just not that into politics. 

I had heard it so many times before, and it always made me roll my eyes. “I’m just not that into politics” often means “I have so much privilege that politics don’t affect my day-to-day life, so I don’t care.” Even more usually, it means “I have no clue how much politics affect everything about my existence.”

Photo by Audrey Jackson on UnsplashUnfortunately, this kind of thinking is extremely common, particularly in the US. Most people who do realize that politics are important still only care how it affects their jobs, taxes, and healthcare. Even then, they often don’t care enough. As someone well-versed in political and social issues, I often end up looking like a deranged conspiracy theorist. Still, I’ve had plenty of close friends and family who couldn’t care less. Just because I’m a political junkie, doesn’t mean everyone else has to be.

I come from a long line of political thinkers and activists on my father’s side. My great-grandfather was Joint Secretary, Lucknow District of the All-India Muslim League—he helped create Pakistan.

So when I heard the love of my life say “I’m just not that into politics,” I took it personally.

I had a couple people try to tell me it’s alright, that you can’t expect your partner to share all your interests. But this isn’t about a common interest. As a Pakistani Muslim woman, my very existence is political and I’m aware of it. My political and social beliefs have helped shape my identity, so when my partner dismissed them, I felt like he was dismissing who I was.

All the things I always loved about my partner—his compassion, his integrity, his sense of justice—were the very reasons why I didn’t understand how he could be so apathetic. I knew that if I could just show him why it’s important, he’d be right there with me in wanting to take apart classism and white supremacy. So I did. And so can you.

In the Age of Trump, here’s how you can get your beloved to wake up and smell the revolution.

1. Bring up issues relevant to their life and their interests.


When my fiancé complained about student loans, I sympathized, but I also talked about student debt policies and free education. When we saw some of our loved ones struggle financially due to exorbitant medical bills, I casually brought up the Affordable Care Act and universal healthcare. I made sure he knew that his dealings with school, work, taxes, healthcare, and more are completely at the mercy of policymakers and lobbyists. I wasn’t forceful about it, though. I just let it come up organically.

This also applies to social justice issues. When my fiancé once got pulled over by a cop for no reason and was made to go through his laundry basket to prove he didn’t have a bomb, he was indignant as hell. After he cooled down a bit, I took the chance to remind him—while still validating his frustrations— that this sort of treatment is par for the course for Black Americans. Matters of politics and social justice come up constantly in our everyday lives.

You just need to point them out as they do.

2. Use humor! Introduce them to political comedy.


Humor has a way of getting through to people in a way that news reports or statistics just can’t. That’s why The Daily Show has gained such a big following over the past two decades, giving rise to a whole genre of political comedy talk shows by TDS alums, such as Last Week Tonight with John OliverFull Frontal with Samantha BeeThe Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, and The Colbert Report. Through humor, you can make a point with style and sheer cheek.

My fiancé loves hearing Trevor Noah’s take on current events, and it’s a great way of getting him involved without boring him to death. There are also plenty of comics whose standup routines address political and social issues, such as Lewis Black, D.L. Hughley, Hari Kondabolu, and Janeane Garafalo, for you to introduce to your other half.

Just not Bill Maher. Fuck that guy.

3. Watch films and TV shows about politics with them.


I am forever indebted to Kevin Spacey for getting my partner so interested in matters of state. After watching House of Cards, my fiancé was convinced he’d be a fantastic Majority Whip and finally understood my contempt for lobbying. If you don’t have a Netflix subscription, you can also sit your sweetheart down for a marathon of The West WingVeep, or The Good Wife. Movies do a great job of covering social and political issues too—particularly those based on true stories, such as MilkGame ChangeSelma, and Charlie Wilson’s War.

Don’t discount documentaries either. When I got the feeling that my fiancé thought I was being hyperbolic about the legality of slavery in prisons, I sat him down for Ava DuVernay’s 13th. Documentaries are a great way to get an in-depth look at a political, cultural, or social topic, especially when you don’t have any previous knowledge.

4. Get them engaged in debates with other people.


Bring up politics around friends and family that are interested too. It’s the immersion technique of learning. Just like watching telenovelas helps you improve your Spanish game, debating issues with other people is a great way of learning how to talk politics.

My fiancé has an irritating habit of playing devil’s advocate, so I thought I wasn’t getting through to him until I heard him taking the same position as me when debating someone else!

5. Hook them up with some great news apps.


Most people these days get their news from Facebook and Twitter. Despite my best efforts, however, my fiancé’s intense sociability stops at, well, social media. His career isn’t exactly conducive to sitting down to read the newspaper or watch the evening broadcast either. As a journalist, however, I couldn’t in good conscience let him go on without a clue of what’s going on in the world.

With his permission, I customized the News app on his phone. Now he has stories on subjects of interest to him from sources he trusts all in one place. He also has breaking news alerts set up so that he can stay informed without having to check throughout the day.

With the world’s affairs at your fingertips, there’s no reason not to take a few minutes to scroll through your news feed while taking the train or sitting on your porcelain throne.

My goal was honestly just to get my partner to give a damn. I wasn’t expecting us to become a social justice power couple, and we still aren’t. But through patience and encouragement, I now have a partner who is totally down for the whole let’s-smash-the-patriarchy-and-take-down-capitalism-with-a-megaphone-in-Union-Square lifestyle I’ve been gearing towards.

But the biggest factor that helped was my partner’s willingness to explore something that mattered to me. Relationships aren’t about finding someone with all the same hobbies and interests as you— imagine how boring that would be. If you didn’t have differences to bring to the table, you wouldn’t be able to enrich each other’s lives with new ideas, thoughts, and perspectives.

I’m grateful that my fiancé saw how important these issues are to me and that he made the effort to understand why. While your significant other may not ever join you at a protest or pay as much attention to White House press briefings, they shouldn’t be dismissing something that’s close to your heart.

However, if you try all of these things and still find they’re not as interested as you’d like them to be, it’s okay for that to be a deal-breaker. The political is now personal, and it’s nice to have someone right by your side as you take on the chaos around you.

Gender & Identity BRB Gone Viral Life

Here’s what Grace Lee taught us all

After giving the world 100 years of wisdom and power, the incredible human rights activist Grace Lee Boggs passed away today in Detroit.

Known for her strength and charisma, Boggs spent her life standing up for what is right. An avid supporter of the feminist, Black Power, labor, and environmental movements, Boggs was challenging the status quo for the last seven decades.

President Barack Obama released a statement earlier expressing his sadness at her passing. “Her ideas challenged us all to lead meaningful lives,” he said.

Boggs was born to Chinese immigrants in Rhode Island. After graduate school, she struggled as both a woman and minority to find employment. This struggle was the impetus for her activism.

On top of being an inspiration, Boggs was an author and community organization founder. She, alongside her husband, founded several Detroit-based organizations aiming to strengthen the community. Among these include the Gardening Angels and Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice.

Grace Lee Boggs was – and always will be – an inspiration and a teacher to us all.

Here’s what Grace Lee taught the world.


























Alice Jennings and Shay Howell said in a statement released Monday, October 5th: “She left this life as she lived it: surrounded by books, politics, people, and ideas.”

Rest in power, Grace Lee Boggs.