I. Love. This. Book.
I know, reviews are typically written with a tone of professional detachment, occasionally sprinkled with a dash of wry wit. To heck with that! Misha Magdalene has written a fantastic book on the subjects of gender and sexual identity and how these relate to the world of (my words not theirs) pagan spirituality. Not only is the book great, it comes at a critical time as the very notion of intersectionality is starting to take hold; the existence of "Outside the Charmed Cirlce" needs to be shouted from the rooftops.
Magdalene's approach to their material has a polish to it that will immediately draw you in. They have done the hard work of learning more than just their own opinions; it's not just that they consistently cite the work of others, it's that they give nuanced explanations that are clearly the result of digesting a lot of other people's work. In Chapter 2 alone they refer to or cite Neal Stephenson, Gerald Gardner, Laura Zakroff and the Vatican, among others. In Chapter 4, "Gender in Theory and Practice," their intellectual persistence helps illuminate the throughline of gender imbalance beginning with the Greek philosophers, coursing on through early Christianity, and on to Crowley and beyond.
The craftsmanship of "Outside the Charmed Circle" is noteworthy throughout. I am reminded of a line from Stephen King's "On Writing" in which he describes Tabitha's (his wife's) poetry: "Her poem also made me feel that I wasn't alone in my belief that good writing can be simultaneously intoxicating and idea-driven." The reader gets the immediate sense that Magdalene knows what they are doing, you can count on them to get you where you're going. The fact that such refined work is done in service to such a timely and important topic should make this book a priority for your nightstand.
~review by Patricia Mullen
Author: Misha Magdalene
Llewellyn Publications, 2020
pp. 288, $17.99
(Misha specifically lists "they/them" as preferred pronouns.)