Boston Book Festival 2020 Boston Book Festival 2020

Fiction: Witches and Other Bad Heroines

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Quan Barry
We Ride Upon Sticks

Quan Barry is an award-winning Vietnamese poet and novelist raised on Boston’s North Shore. She is the author of four poetry books and two novels, and her writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Ploughshares, the Kenyon Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. Barry is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her latest work is the “touching, hilarious, and deeply satisfying” (Kirkus Reviews, starred) We Ride Upon Sticks: A Novel.

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Emily M. Danforth
Plain Bad Heroines

Emily M. Danforth is the author of the highly acclaimed young adult novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post. She has an MFA in fiction from the University of Montana, a PhD in English from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and is an Associate Professor of English at Rhode Island College. Literary Hub called her first adult novel, Plain Bad Heroines, “funny and haunting,” while Joe Hill said it was simply one of the best books he’s read in the last decade. Plain Bad Heroines was selected as one of the "Buzz Panel" picks at BookExpo 2020.

Layne Fargo
They Never Learn

Layne Fargo is the author of the thrillers Temper and, most recently, They Never Learn, called a "fiercely feminist twist on serial killer fiction" by Publishers Weekly. She’s a Pitch Wars mentor, Vice President of the Chicagoland chapter of Sisters in Crime, and the cocreator of the podcast Unlikeable Female Characters. Fargo lives in Chicago with her partner and their pets.

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Alix E. Harrow
The Once and Future Witches

Alix E. Harrow is a science fiction and fantasy writer and novelist. She’s famous for her short works, including A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies, which won her a Hugo Award in 2019. Harrow’s first novel, Ten Thousand Doors of January, received high praise. Christina Henry called it, “A gorgeous, aching love letter to stories, storytellers and the doors they lead us through . . . absolutely enchanting.” Her 2020 novel The Once and Future Witches follows the story of three sisters who join the 1893 Salem suffragette movement and rediscover the forgotten ways of witchcraft. Publishers Weekly calls it “a love letter to folklore and the rebellious women of history.”

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Bridget Marshall is a professor at UMass Lowell. Her research and teaching focus on the Gothic, nineteenth-century American literature, witchcraft trials, disability in literature, and law and literature. Marshall is co-editor of the collection Transnational Gothic: Literary and Social Exchanges in the Long Nineteenth Century and author of The Transatlantic Gothic Novel and the Law, 1790–1860. She has published articles on gambling addictions in Gothic novels, witchcraft trials in western Massachusetts, phrenology and physiognomy in the Gothic novel, comic books in the classroom and plagiarism in popular culture.


In this can’t-miss fiction session, we’ll meet indelible characters, young women whose ambition, desires, or thirst for revenge lead them outside society’s norms—which is just fine with them. In Alix E. Harrow’s historical fantasy The Once and Future Witches, the four Eastwood sisters rediscover the lost art of witchcraft in 1893 and aim to turn the nascent suffragist movement in New Salem into a witches’ movement. Witches also populate the pages of Quan Barry’s We Ride Upon Sticks—in this case, the “sticks” of the title aren't brooms but field hockey sticks, as the Danvers girls’ field hockey team makes a dark bargain to ensure a winning season. Emily M. Danforth (author of YA favorite The Miseducation of Cameron Post) makes her adult fiction debut with Plain Bad Heroines, an expansive ghost story of sorts, about a shuttered girls’ school and the century-old lesbian memoir that supposedly cursed it. Layne Fargo’s thriller They Never Learn also has an academic setting, profiling both a female professor/serial killer and a pair of first-year college students on a quest for revenge. Bridget Marshall of UMass–Lowell will host this lively hour devoted to fearlessly feminist fiction.