An Excerpt from PROTECTRESS by Kendra Preston Leonard


Medusa was raped.

Medusa was not raped.

Medusa was given rohypnol.

Medusa lured Poseidon from the sea with a bed of seaweed soaked

in salt water.

She became pregnant.

She did not become pregnant.

She became pregnant and used her knowledge of the medicinal arts to end

her pregnancy.

She became pregnant and gave the resulting child to Poseidon to raise.

She gave the child to her own parents, Phorcys and Ceto.

She and her sisters raised the child, who then became a sculptor,

a psychoanalyst, a designer of prosthetics.

Her body after death produced a winged horse and a golden giant.

Her body after death wept from its palms and the tears mixed with earth to

create a golem.

Her body after death was dressed by Versace and laid in a bronze tomb

in Buenos Aires.

Medusa angered Athena.

Athena was jealous.

Athena was not a feminist.

Athena was a prude.

It did not matter to Athena what actually happened to Medusa.

Athena was required to take action by a committee.

Athena was wise but had already had to deal with mansplaining

gods that night.

Athena was a slut-shaming bitch.

Medusa was made an example of through the great wrath of a

goddess warrior.

In the long nights, a mortal woman made immortal because of her story ran

from a temple, from a cave, from Kisthene’s dreadful plain

seeking blindness, baldness, rebirth

with her sisters.

So many stories. Let us begin anew.

Protectress is a hybrid poetry-prose novella offering a risky take on the legend of Medusa. With stunning economy of words and a delicate hand, Protectress provokes us to think about the feminist identity and the power of compassion. Readers who fell deeply for Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey, Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, Madeleine Miller’s Circe, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, Maria Dahvana Headley’s translation of Beowulf, and Toby Barlow’s Sharp Teeth will find themselves enamoured with Protectress.

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