Feminism & Jewish Culture: Author Shira Glassman

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the-second-mango-shira-glassmanIf you’re looking for a fantasy novel with feminist beliefs and Jewish roots, Shira Glassman’s Mangoverse novels are for you.

The series begins with The Second Mango. At 20 years old, the newly crowned Queen Shulamit inherited the throne to the tropical land of Perach. She’s not only heart broken over the unexpected departure of her partner, she’s coping with the loss of her father as well. When she meets Rivka, Shulamit finds the strength and friendship she needed. The pair then embarks on a mission to find Shulamit’s girlfriend but things quickly take a turn and the pair find themselves on a rescue mission.

The world that Glassman has crafted is modeled after the South Florida “of her childhood” and the culture of the country of Perach is influenced most by Middle Eastern Jewish traditions.

“The most popular fantasy lit is somehow Christian without involving Christianity – Harry Potter celebrates Christmas, vampires are defeated by crosses even when there are no practicing Christian characters in the story at all. As a complete outsider, I often wondered what it would look like if we could do that with [Jewish] holidays, if they could just be background and accepted and part of the default.”

While Judaism is a large part of her books, Glassman knows “there are many ways to be Jewish.” Though this seems like it would be common sense, more often than not, minorities in the Western world who share a cultural or religious background are often lumped together and believed to share the same experience when that isn’t the reality.

climbing-the-date-palm-shira-glassman“I think many Americans may forget the existence of Jews of color, so my stories’ population being dominated by brown Jews surprise some people,” said Glassman. “The Ashkenazi – my own corner of Jewish ethnicity, as well as my warrior woman and wizard characters, who are expats in my main setting – is just one facet of a rich, multicolored family with many variations.”

But Jewish culture isn’t the only thing integral to the stories Glassman tells in the Mangoverse. Feminism plays a large role and is often further compounded by the Jewishness of her female characters. Take, for instance, Shulamit and her food allergies.

“What happens to Shulamit is basically a microcosm of what women face in the world when they make a declaration about themselves,” said Glassman. “There is an epidemic of not listening to women – especially young women – about their medical concerns.”

There’s also the epidemic of the woman vs. woman mentality portrayed in the media. Unfortunately, this line of thinking is so pervasive that girls learn to see each other as competition at a young age.

“I wanted to drive home to the audience my frustration with the way our modern media often likes to paint prominent women in competition with each other even when there’s no reason for it. Whether they be pop stars on the radio or superheroes in the movies, there can be more than one amazing woman at once, and one woman’s light does not snuff out another’s.”

Though it seems that the way women are portrayed is slowly changing, there’s still a lot of work to be done on that front. Glassman believes in pushing back against the common portrayal of sidelining and belittling other women.

“It’s vital to me to show that romantic relationships between women can coexist with female friendship, and that female characters can have complex relationships with each other – friends, wives, sisters, mothers/daughters, a-harvest-of-ripe-figs-shira-glassmanmentors/students, boss/employee, even adversarial roles that aren’t related to the approval of male characters.”

Through all that Glassman aims to achieve in her writing, her focus can be narrowed down to this:

“I want to give fairy tales to the girls who often get left out of them. I don’t like a world where we have to abandon our Jewishness or our queerness or our chronic illnesses in order to be make-believe queens and have adventures with warriors and dragons.”

The first three novels in the Mangoverse series are available now. For more on Glassman, visit her website or check out her Tumblr.

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About Author

Tara Hackley

Tara is a twenty-something with a love of writing, animals, and life. She's usually reading or writing but if she's not, she's out finding her next great adventure.

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