We Were Witches
We Were Witches
Magick spells and inverted fairy tales combat queer scapegoating, domestic violence, and high-interest student loans.
Cashing into the dream that education is the road out of poverty, a teen mom takes a chance on bettering herself, gets on welfare rolls, and talks her way into college. But once she’s there, the phallocratic story of “overcoming” permeates every subject. Creative writing professors depend heavily on Freytag’s pyramid to analyze life. So Ariel turns to a rich subcultural canon of resistance and failure, populated by writers like Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Gloria Anzaldúa, Tillie Olsen, and Kathy Acker.
Wryly riffing on feminist literary tropes, We Were Witches documents the survival of a demonized single mother. She’s beset by custody disputes, homophobia, and America’s ever-present obsession with shaming odd women into passive citizenship. But even as the narrator struggles to graduate—often the triumphant climax of a dramatic narrative—the question lingers uncomfortably. If you’re dealing with precarious parenthood, queer identity, and debt: What is the true narrative shape of your experience?
"Gore's magic-infused narrative. . . .is a moving account of a young writer and mother striving to claim her own agency and find her voice." —Publishers Weekly
"This book mimics the messy, discursive texture of memory—of life. . . . Inventive and affecting." —Kirkus Reviews
"A scathing indictment of a system that works again people who are poor and female as well as a piercing and wise look at one woman's struggle to overcome it." —Booklist
"Told with whimsy and dignity. . . . This “memoirist’s novel” is a beguiling mash-up of feminist quotations, literary critique, real life predicaments, and plenty of magic." —The Riveter
"Gore tells her story with such verve and wit I missed my train stop reading it." —Lambda Literary Review
"Ariel. . . .calculates and acts impulsively and makes strange and strong choices. And we are right there with her." —Santa Fe Reporter
"A re-writing of every helpless princess fairy tale and a reclamation of every Scarlet Letter. . . .We Were Witches is an absolute must read." —Ms. magazine blog
“The voice of this book is striking. It’s authoritative, incantatory, and yet also naïve, in the sense that it lets the reader experience events with the immediacy the young protagonist does.” —The Rumpus
“We Were Witches is a novel that reads more like a magic spell/memoir/memory/body…it is everything you didn’t know you were allowed to want in a narrative.” —Autostraddle
"Like a talisman, Gore’s prose works its magic with authoritative subtlety. Reading it will leave you changed for the better." — Signature Reads
“Ariel Gore’s We Were Witches is one woman’s body refusing to become property, refusing to be overwritten by law or traditions, one woman’s body cutting open a hole in culture so that actual bodies might emerge. A triumphant body story. A singularly spectacular siren song.” —Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Small Backs of Children
“We Were Witches seizes the shame and hurt internalized by young women and turns it into magic art and poetry. Ariel Gore’s writing is a diamond pentacle carved into a living heart, transforming singular experience into universal knowledge.” —Susie Bright, author of Big Sex Little Death
“Forget Freytag's Pyramid (of Predictable Male Prose)—behold Gore’s Upside Down Triangle (of Fierce Feminist Narrative)! Drawing from myth, fairy tale, the wisdom of third wave literary icons, and the singular experiences of a queer single mama artist trying to survive the nineties, We Were Witches is its own genre, in its own canon. It moves with punk rock grace and confidence, and I totally loved it.” —Kate Schatz, author of Rad American Women A-Z
“We Were Witches is raw and truthful, painfully funny, inspiring of outrage, and alive with the wonder and magic of a feminist awakening. One single mom becoming woke, struggling, and triumphing on her own outsider terms, We Were Witches is a new feminist classic, penned by one the culture’s strongest authors at her most experimental and personal.” —Michelle Tea, author of Black Wave
“Ariel Gore’s We Were Witches is both magical and punk rock—the way it takes traditional values and traditional story structure to task, the way Gore’s protagonist, Ariel, uses witchy intelligence to resist a system totally against her.” —Michelle Cruz Gonzales, author of The Spitboy Rule
”We Were Witches is compelling and alarming and sexy and hopeful and aggravating and terrifying and complicated and confident and uncertain and beautiful—just like life.” —Esme
“If magic is one of the ways that the historically marginalized have found voice and power, then here is narrative at its most primal: communicating the story of the self, an intimate communication binding the reader and the writer—the craft of writing as a magical, alchemical tool.” —CraftLiterary
Interested in reading this book with a group? Download group discussion questions here!