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Debut novel gives voice to the silenced sisters of Medusa

Image of the cover of the book "Medusa's Sister", and a photograph of the author, Lauren A.J. Bear
Heidi Leonard
Penguin Random House
Lauren A.J. Bear, author of Medusa's Sisters.

Lauren J.A. Bear’s debut is “a vivid and moving reimagining of the myth of Medusa and the sisters who loved her.”

This is not a spoiler: writer Lauren J.A. Bear’s debut novel Medusa’s Sisters begins with Perseus beheading the monster Medusa — a well-known event in Greek mythology.

Medusa, a gorgon with snakes for hair and whose gaze could turn people into stone, was made iconic through the centuries, overshadowing her sisters Stheno and Eurayle. Bear sought to give voice to the sisters in her new novel.

"For these old stories to come with us, they have to change."
Writer Lauren A.J. Bear

Bear is a teaching fellow for the Holocaust Center for Humanity and taught middle-school humanities for over a decade. In a recent What We’re Reading interview, she explained how the sisters’ story is all but lost because children get only a watered-down version of ancient world studies in school, or as Bear called it, “the Disney treatment.”

Bear said the adult version of the myth is “problematic with so much assault, so much abuse of power.”

Bear also noted our typical vision of Medusa is either a wrathful, terrifying female, or one who has been overly sexualized.

“I wanted my Medusa to be neither of these things,” she said. “ … For these old stories to come with us, they have to change.”

Writing Medusa’s Sisters was Bear’s way of transferring power away from the traditional storytellers. She explained we get the closest to the truth when we hear as many points of view as possible.

Medusa’s Sisters focuses on Stheno and Euryale and their stories and who they came to be after Medusa’s death. Bear explained, “I really couldn’t put it out of my mind that these sisters — who are fictional monsters — but even so, are just being written off as appendages to someone who mattered more.”

Learn more about author Lauren J.A. Bear on her website.

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Tammy works at Bemidji State University's library, and she hosts "What We're Reading," a show about books and authors.