YAY! A TYRANNY OF PETTICOATS is finally here (it came out yesterday!). And Jessica Spotswood is here today to tell you all about it.
About Jessica Spotswood:
Jessica Spotswood grew up in a tiny, one-stoplight town in Pennsylvania, where she could be found swimming, playing clarinet, memorizing lines for the school play, or—most often—with her nose in a book. Now she lives in Washington, DC where she can be found working as a children’s library associate for the DC Public Library, seeing theatre with her playwright husband, or—most often—with her nose in a book. Some things never change.
When I asked each of the fourteen contributors to A TYRANNY OF PETTICOATS to write me a story about a clever, interesting girl at some point in American history, a story in which setting was so important that it couldn’t take place anywhere or any-when else, I had no idea what to expect. I mean – knowing the authors, I expected fantastic stories, and they didn’t disappoint me! But I didn’t know what they’d be about. Not really. They each sent me a brief, paragraph-length pitch, but it’s hard to capture the heart of the story – what drives the heroine – in just a paragraph.
One of my favorite things about the finished stories is that they have such different focuses. A few of them involve romance – both f/m and f/f – but in many, if not most, the heroine’s driving relationship is not romantic.
Want a story about family? In J. Anderson Coats’ “Mother Carey’s table,” a runaway slave girl poses as a sailor boy aboard a pirate ship off the coast of the Carolinas. The story opens with, “My father says he’s saved my life nine times.” Joe’s father wants a big enough treasure that he can retire and live in a nice Boston townhouse, but Joe can’t imagine leaving life at sea to become a proper girl again. When the Golden Vanity encounters a Spanish warship, Joe risks her life to try to make her father’s dreams come true – with devastating consequences that I guarantee will make readers’ hearts ache. Family responsibilities come up again in Caroline Richmond’s “The Red Raven Ball,” set in 1862 in Washington, DC. A young bluestocking is tasked by her uncle, a Colonel in the Union Army, with finding the Confederate spy at her grandmother’s annual ball. Lizzie’s blocked at every turn by her formidable grandmama, who’s more concerned with finding Lizzie a rich suitor. Inspired by her abolitionist mother and Quaker schooling, though, Lizzie is determined to thwart her grandmama and find the spy – with surprising results!
Are you – like me – a sucker for stories about sisters? In Leslye Walton’s “El Destinos,” the Three Fates are reborn as a trio of Mexican American sisters. They form very human bonds with their new parents, neighbors, and even lovers – but they can’t escape their terrible responsibilities to weave the threads of life and death. This story, set in Southwest Texas in 1848, is beautiful and haunting. And in Y.S. Lee’s “The Legendary Garrett Girls,” two fierce sisters fight back against an unscrupulous con man who tries to take over their frontier saloon. Lily Garrett is comfortable wielding a bullwhip to control drunks, and her sister Clara can charm any other man in town, but they must call upon all their smarts to beat Soapy Smith at his own game. I guarantee the end to this story will leave readers cheering for the Garrett girls!
Love stories about loyal – or not-so-loyal – best friends? In Andrea Cremer’s “High Stakes,” a supernatural assassin is hired to guard a player in the poker game that will determine the outcome of the Civil War. Klio isn’t a soft, likable creature, but she’s fiercely loyal to her driver, Whitby, a djinn. The two supernaturals share a platonic bond, that of being the last of their kinds. And when Whitby is attacked, Klio will have her revenge. In my own story, “Madeleine’s Choice,” a free girl of color in 1826 New Orleans must choose between a respectable longtime family friend and a white planter who can offer her romance and riches, but not marriage. There’s definitely romance here, but to me the heart of the story centers around Maddie’s tangled friendship with her best friend, Eugenie. Both girls are jealous of one another – Maddie of Eugenie’s wealth and luxury, Eugenie of Maddie’s respectability – which ultimately leads to a life-altering betrayal.
Who inspires us? Beth Revis’s story “Pearls” explores the relationship between teacher and student (and not the forbidden romantic kind). Helen flees a forced marriage and a comfortable life in Chicago to become a schoolteacher in the Wyoming Territory. The one-room schoolhouse and ragtag bunch of students require some adjustment, but even as she inspires them to learn, they inspire her courage and independence. And in Elizabeth Wein’s “The Color of the Sky,” Antonia meets her idol, aviatrix Bessie Coleman – then bears witness to Bessie’s tragic death in a flying accident. Antonia finds herself in possession of the flight journal and, filled with questions about the way Bessie died (and the ways the death of a famous black woman is covered by the newspapers), she sets out for Dallas and Bessie’s home airfield to find answers.
Love stories that show history’s resonance to today’s politics? In Kekla Magoon’s “Pulse of the Panthers,” Sandy’s worldview is changed when the Black Panthers hold a meeting at her family’s farm. And in Robin Talley’s “The Whole World Was Watching,” Jill, a Black college student, finds herself at odds with her girlfriend over coming out as a lesbian – during the riots of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Both of these stories feel relevant to the Black Lives Matter movement and highlight their heroines’ growing political awareness.
It’s impossible to do justice to each story in just a sentence or two – and there are five other stories in the anthology! – but I hope this gives you some sense of the variety. I truly believe there will be something in the anthology for every reader, whether you love stories about romance, families, complicated friendships, or politics!
A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls edited by Jessica Spotswood
From an impressive sisterhood of YA writers comes an edge-of-your-seat anthology of historical fiction and fantasy featuring a diverse array of daring heroines.
Criss-cross America — on dogsleds and ships, stagecoaches and trains — from pirate ships off the coast of the Carolinas to the peace, love, and protests of 1960s Chicago. Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They’re making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell.
With stories by:
J. Anderson Coats, Andrea Cremer, Y. S. Lee, Katherine Longshore, Marie Lu, Kekla Magoon, Marissa Meyer, Saundra Mitchell, Beth Revis, Caroline Richmond, Lindsay Smith, Jessica Spotswood, Robin Talley, Leslye Walton, and Elizabeth Wein
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