By Leslie Lindsay
A sublime genre-bending tale of teen mom Ariel Gore caught betwixt the 1990s family values or home and family, along with the hopes of redeeming herself through education, WE WERE WITCHES casts a spell like no other.
~WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS~
ALWAYS WITH A BOOK
Featured Spotlight: WE WERE WITCHES by Ariel Gore
Ariel Gore is the founding editor & publisher of the Alternative Press Award-winning magazine Hip Mama and the author of ten books of fiction and nonfiction. I was alerted to this book after reading and attending an online class with Laraine Herring. Her book, A CONSTELLATION OF GHOSTS: A Speculative Memoir was featured earlier this month.
ABOUT WE WERE WITCHES:
We Were Witches is a 2017 novel by Ariel Gore. It is a first-person narrative of a fictionalized version of the author, of her life as a teen mom and budding feminist, from the birth of her daughter when she was 18 years old, to her graduation from Mills College. This book is a little different than most, and perhaps a misnomer. The cover calls it is ‘novel,’ but once you get started reading, you immediately think it’s a memoir. That’s because the main character’s name is Ariel Gore. See the confusion?
According to Gore, she wanted to transcend the limitations of truth in this text. It’s about her, yes, but also speculative in nature, a fiction of actual events. WE WERE WITCHES begins in rural Italy when Gore is eighteen and giving birth to her daughter, where she endures a traumatic, dated obstetric experience.
You know that feeling when you crack open a brand new book and just by reading the first paragraph you can tell you’re about to go on a transformative journey?
The kind of book that grabs you by the hand and says, hold on, we’ve got important work to do? A story that, at the risk of sounding very cliche because the word “witches” is, after all, in the title — leaves you spellbound? We Were Witches by Ariel Gore is that book. Released in September 2017 by Feminist Press, it is everything you didn’t know you were allowed to want in a narrative.”
I am so taken with the titles Ariel read to her daughter, titles that were part of her education at Mills College, or those she read on her own, checked out from the public library. So here’s Ariel Gore, a teen mother reading aloud to her young preschool daughter, things like Ariel by Sylvia Plath, The Heart of A Woman by Maya Angelou, The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. In fact, there are many titles throughout this manuscript (and a reading list at the end).
Would you read these books to your child? In what way does reading with and to your child benefit you? Benefit you both? Even if her daughter is too young to fully comprehend and apply the meanings behind these texts, does she absorb them all the same?
Much of WE WERE WITCHES wrestles with the idea of becoming a writer. Ariel is at first in school for economics. She hates it. She says she’d rather, ‘you know…write creatively.’ Her advisor says, “Good luck with that.”
Can a women be a writer and a mother? At what point does it become selfish? Is it selfish to want to be both? Can one marry art and motherhood?
Gore writes of space and home obliquely in WE WERE WITCHES. She stays in an apartment with an old girl friend. But in a closet. With a window. She talks about ‘being in the closet,’ but also how closets contain disarray, disorder, and impart order on the rest of the home. She references Poetics of Space and the idea of a book being a closet with a door (cover) and inside, are the secrets (pages, words, the text). Can you dissect or diagram this concept? What might it look like if you were draw a closet, the stories it contains?
Let me know if you try any of these ideas!
For more information, to connect with Ariel Gore, or to purchase a copy of WE WERE WITCHES, please visit:
- Support your local in-person bookstore or order through Bookshop.org
- This title may also be available through other online sellers.
- Further reading about WE WERE WITCHES in this Craft Literary Interview with Ariel Gore
You might also like:
I was reminded of the work of Carmen Maria Machado, particularly IN THE DREAM HOUSE, with the gender and sexuality issues, and strong feminist leanings, with touches of Lily King’s WRITERS & LOVERS, especially with the drive to be a published writer, with echoes of IN THE HOUSE OF THE DARK OF THE WOODS by Laird Hunt.
C.J. Cooke talks about her fiction, THE LIGHTHOUSE WITCHES, plus Memoir Monday features Kat Chow’s SEEING GHOSTS, the poetry of Maggie Smith, A GHOST IN THE THROAT by Doireann Ní Ghríofa, and in November: PURE FLAME by Michelle Orange, THE BOOK OF MOTHER by Violaine Hussman, more.
Browse all books featured on Always with a Book since 2018 on Bookshop.org. Browse all books featured in just October 2021.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ariel Gore makes books, zines, coloring books, and tarot cards. She is the founding editor & publisher of the Alternative Press Award-winning magazine Hip Mama and the author of ten books of fiction and nonfiction. Her latest, Hexing the Patriarchy, is out from from Seal Press. Her shameless novel/memoir, We Were Witches, was published by The Feminist Press. Her memoir, The End of Eve, has been called “Terms of Endearment meets Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? She teaches writing online a Ariel’s Gore’s School for Wayward Writers at the Literary Kitchen. Find her coloring books & tarot at Ariel Gore Studio on Etsy.
ABOUT YOUR HOST:
Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series, “Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Shari Lapena to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online, including Psychology Today, Mud Season Review, A Door = Jar, Mutha, Literary Mama, The Manifest-Station, among others. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, an audiobook narrated by Leslie from Penguin Random House. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.