The furies Women, vengeance, and justice

Elizabeth Flock

Book - 2023

"Renowned journalist Elizabeth Flock investigates what few dare to confront, or even imagine: the role and necessity of female-led violence in response to systems built against women. In The Furies, Elizabeth Flock examines how three real-life women have used violence to fight back, and how views of women who defend their lives are often distorted by their depictions in media and pop culture. These three immersive narratives follow Brittany Smith, a young woman from Stevenson, Alabama, who killed a man she said raped her but was denied the protection of the Stand-Your-Ground law; Angoori Dahariya, leader of a gang in Uttar Pradesh, India, dedicated to avenging victims of domestic abuse; and Cicek Mustafa Zibo, a fighter in a thousands-...strong all-female militia that battled ISIS in Syria. Each woman chose to use lethal force to gain power, safety, and freedom when the institutions meant to protect them--government, police, courts--utterly failed to do so. Each woman has been criticized for their actions by those who believe that violence is never the answer. Through Flock's propulsive prose and remarkable research on the ground--embedded with families, communities, and organizations in America, India, and Syria--The Furies examines, with exquisite nuance, whether the fight for women's safety is fully possible without force. Do these women's acts of vengeance help or hurt them, and ultimately, all women? Did they create lasting change in entrenched misogynistic and paternalistic systems? And ultimately, what would societies in which women have real power look like? Across mythologies and throughout history, the stories of women's lives frequently end with their bodies as sites of violence. But there are also celebrated tales of women, real and fictional, who have fought back. The novelistic accounts of these three women provoke questions about how to achieve true gender equality, and offer profound insights in the quest for answers"--

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New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers [2023]
Main Author
Elizabeth Flock (author)
First edition
Physical Description
293 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 289-293).
  • Preface
  • Prelude
  • Book I. Brittany
  • Gunpowder
  • A Fly on Flypaper
  • Hysteria
  • State of Alabama v. Brittany Smith
  • Protection
  • Book II. Angoori
  • Vendetta
  • Sticks and Stones
  • We Are Bad, and We Can Be Worse
  • Long Live the Green Gang
  • Book III. Cicek
  • Sleeping Lions
  • Pictures on the Wall
  • The Wrath of Olives
  • We Are a People
  • 10,000 Leagues
  • Epilogue
  • Acknowledgments
  • References
Review by Booklist Review

Three women pursue justice in this powerful account of what happens when institutions do not protect them. Journalist Flock (The Heart Is a Shifting Sea, 2018) brings the gripping stories of Brittany Smith, Angoori Dahariya, and Cicek Mustafa Zibo to life with vivid detail and in-depth research. Each of these "vigilante women" turned to violence when police, courts, and politicians failed them. Brittany killed a man in self-defense after he raped her. Angoori founded a gang of low-caste women who fought against corruption, domestic violence, and caste discrimination. Cicek joined an all-female Kurdish militia to battle ISIS and claim a homeland for her people. Flock argues that these women, living in societies that embrace toxic forms of masculinity and cultures of honor, turned their pain into power, fighting for dignity and autonomy. She explores whether their choice of violence helped or hurt their cause and whether their actions led to systematic changes in their communities. Her compelling narrative will resonate with those who seek to live in a more feminist, egalitarian society.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Flock (The Heart Is a Shifting Sea) considers in this captivating examination of violence and power the lives of three women who "defended themselves in places where institutions failed to protect them." Each woman, Flock writes, grew up in regions with "cultures of honor," faced violence themselves, and "wielded violence" for survival. The first section follows Brittany Smith, who in 2018 faced trial after she shot and killed her rapist in Stevenson, Ala. The case leads Flock to investigate gender bias in America's Stand Your Ground laws. The second section investigates India's history of female bandits, focusing on Angoori Dahariya's 2010s leadership of the Green Gang, a bamboo cane--wielding group of low-caste women who had suffered "domestic violence, dowry harassment, beating by in-laws, land-grabbing, police abuse, abandonment by husbands, molestation, rape, and more." Flock's third and final subject is Cicek Mustafa Zibo, who was 17 years old in 2013 when she joined an all-female Kurdish militia in northern Syria. Flock has a novelist's knack for creating suspense, her reporting is thorough, and her prose is moving: "Whatever will happen, will happen, here or there.... I do what is true to me. Wherever there is war, I should be there," she writes when representing Zibo's perspective. This one will stick with readers. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, WME. (Jan.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Why three women became vigilantes. Drawing on in-depth interviews over many years, Emmy Award--winning journalist Flock, author of The Heart Is a Shifting Sea, creates vivid profiles of three women who responded to abuse with violence and vengeance. "Like alchemists," writes the author, they "took their stories of pain and transmuted them into power." In Alabama, Brittany Smith shot a man who had raped and nearly killed her. Angoori Dahariya, a lower-caste wife and mother, emulated India's legendary Bandit Queen to become a leader of a gang of women who avenged crimes against the poor. Cicek Mustafa Zibo, at 17, joined an all-female militia, the Women's Protection Units, that operated in concert with men's units to fight against the Islamic State group in Syria. Flock portrays these women as tireless fighters against forces trying to silence them. Dahariya amassed a large following: From just a dozen at the start, her Green Gang swelled to more than 1,000 women, who shared stories "of domestic violence, dowry harassment, beating by in-laws, land-grabbing, police abuse, abandonment by husbands, molestation, rape, and more." While her successes inspired other gangs to spring up across India, Smith faced repeated frustrations in defending herself against a murder charge, first claiming self-defense, then invoking the stand-your-ground law. Her case dragged on for years, during which she sometimes relapsed into drug use. Zibo was shot and seriously wounded, but she rejoined the fighting. Yet after nearly a decade of war, she often felt hopeless and embittered. These women, writes Flock, "sought to change the status quo, yet never fully escaped the oppressive systems they grew up in and continue to live under." Nevertheless, they found, and inspired in others, "agency, a voice, and an identity beyond how the men in their towns saw them," even though, in their own lives, "they got no perfect, happy endings." Stirring narratives of defiance. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.