November book club: A Tyranny of Petticoats

I’ve read plenty of short story compilations in my time from fairy tales to horror stories. But none have quite taken me through the emotional rollercoaster t22020592hat was this book. When I initially read this title, I was expecting some of kind of legendary stories with heroines that kicked ass without being too realistic. Like many fantasy stories. I was taken aback by how human – and how real – these stories seemed.

The first story kind of threw me for a spin – I couldn’t tell if the main character was male or female. According to the book title she should be a female but the descriptions all made her sound like she was male. Turns out she was a female dressed a male because women weren’t allowed aboard ships in the olden times.

Many of the tales left me wanting to keep reading the stories to find out what happened: for example, the story with the woman who traveled to the rural countryside to get away from a rapist and started teaching young kids who really wanted the education but were often overlooked by the government since they lived in such a rural area. I wanted to hear more stories about her little school and the little students!

The story about the Southern woman who found out a family member was a traitor was an especially thrilling tale. I would have loved to have read more about her life after she had run away from home and how she survived.

I also wanted to read more about the supernatural story with the female (SPOILER: possible Medusa) and her friend, the djinn. It sounded like the opening chapter of an amazing novel! It was in this story that I learned that there was an especially horrific law during times of slavery in the US that allowed escaped slaves to be captured and returned to their slave owners. What was even more horrifying was that sometimes freed slaves were captured and sold, and since they had no rights they couldn’t defend themselves against such heinous acts. And to think that the Northern States actually agreed to this law (despite grudgingly) that the Southern States insisted on.

The most haunting tale for me was probably the story of the three fates as 3 sisters set in, what I assumed was, a Mexican town. This was another story that I wanted expanded. I wanted to read about how the sisters came to be there, how they grew up there, how they came to love the people around them, who told them which lives needed to be shortened, and the dynamics of dealing with their feelings versus their duties. At first, when I read this story, I thought they were meant to be metaphoric monsters with really poor self esteem. Slowly the revelation dawned on me who these three sisters were meant to represent. And with it, the horror of the duty they were required to commit.

The final story was set in far more recent reality of a demonstration against the Vietnam War. The horror of police brutality against peaceful demonstrators can be easily visualized and its impact on the war was especially apparent considering it was one of the first instances of media affecting national opinion (turned the American people’s support against the war). That these issues seem to be repeating themselves in modern history is horrifying and saddening and such stories are important to bring to light again to remind Americans and humanity of the devastation of war. The chilling protest called “Battle of Michigan Ave” can be viewed on YouTube:

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