When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes
What story would Eve have told about picking the apple? Why is Pandora blamed for opening the box? And what about the fate of Cassandra who was blessed with knowing the future but cursed so that no one believed her? What if women had been the storytellers?
Elizabeth Lesser believes that if women’s voices had been equally heard and respected throughout history, humankind would have followed different hero myths and guiding stories—stories that value caretaking, champion compassion, and elevate communication over vengeance and violence.
Cassandra Speaks is about the stories we tell and how those stories become the culture. It’s about the stories we still blindly cling to, and the ones that cling to us: the origin tales, the guiding myths, the religious parables, the literature and films and fairy tales passed down through the centuries about women and men, power and war, sex and love, and the values we live by. Stories written mostly by men with lessons and laws for all of humanity. We have outgrown so many of them, and still they endure. This book is about what happens when women are the storytellers too—when we speak from our authentic voices, when we flex our values, when we become protagonists in the tales we tell about what it means to be human.
Lesser has walked two main paths in her life—the spiritual path and the feminist one—paths that sometimes cross but sometimes feel at cross-purposes. Cassandra Speaks is her extraordinary merging of the two. The bestselling author of Broken Open and Marrow, Lesser is a beloved spiritual writer, as well as a leading feminist thinker. In this book she gives equal voice to the cool water of her meditative self and the fire of her feminist self. With her trademark gifts of both humor and insight, she offers a vision that transcends the either/or ideologies on both sides of the gender debate.
Brilliantly structured into three distinct parts, Part One explores how history is carried forward through the stories a culture tells and values, and what we can do to balance the scales. Part Two looks at women and power and expands what it means to be courageous, daring, and strong. And Part Three offers “A Toolbox for Inner Strength.” Lesser argues that change in the culture starts with inner change, and that no one—woman or man—is immune to the corrupting influence of power. She provides inner tools to help us be both strong-willed and kind-hearted.
Cassandra Speaks is a beautifully balanced synthesis of storytelling, memoir, and cultural observation. Women, men and all people will find themselves in the pages of this book, and will come away strengthened, opened, and ready to work together to create a better world for all people.
Praise For Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes…
— Sally Field, Academy-award winning actor, bestselling author of In Pieces
"A book that will change women’s lives—and therefore, everyone’s lives—by calling out the stories that have held us back for millennia. Cassandra Speaks delivers an urgent message to women to listen within, follow their instincts, and do power differently."
— Alyssa Milano, actor and activist
“When did we as women start trying so desperately to tame our feelings, our bodies, our ambition? In this powerful and beautiful book, Elizabeth Lesser brings us back to the earliest stories that convinced us to silence our voices, and then forward to a place where we trust ourselves to lead our lives—and the world.”
— Glennon Doyle, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Untamed and founder of Together Rising
“Cassandra Speaks is about the power of love instead of the love of power. Elizabeth Lesser speaks to the value of finding your voice in the wilderness of these times and, of taking a new kind of hero’s journey—one that replaces violence and domination with deep feeling and courageous communication. What a blessing!”
— Iyanla Vanzant, author and host of Iyanla: Fix My Life (OWN)
“Blessed are the truthtellers, and Elizabeth Lesser is one of them. Cassandra Speaks is astute and witty, tender and soulful. It’s a tapestry of memoir, cultural commentary, and spiritual fuel that inspires women—and all people left out of history’s storytelling—to reclaim our lineage, to become prophetic alchemists in a world in grave need of healing.”
— Jamia Wilson, executive director and publisher of the Feminist Press
“Cassandra Speaks is a nod to the power of storytelling in our journey to build a truly equitable society. It lays bare the relationship between gender and power, and makes a compelling case for deepening our connections and embracing our collective humanity.”
— Tony Porter, CEO of A Call to Men
“Elizabeth is a wise and powerful storyteller. Cassandra Speaks helps us understand the roots of women’s shame and guilt and offers a path forward—by changing our stories, we change our lives."
— Eileen Fisher, founder of Eileen Fisher, Inc.
Harper Wave, 9780062887184, 304pp.
Publication Date: September 15, 2020
About the Author
Elizabeth Lesser is the cofounder of Omega Institute and the author of Marrow; The Seeker’s Guide; and the New York Times bestseller Broken Open. She has given two popular TED talks and is one of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul 100, a collection of one hundred leaders who are using their voices and talents to elevate humanity. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her family.