What sets major historical figures, such as Queen Elizabeth, Mother Theresa, Harriet Tubman, and others apart from the rest of the world? Circumstances, personality, the people around these leaders? Author and speaker Susy Flory grapples with these questions in her new nonfiction genre-crossing high concept memoir So Long, Status Quo: What I Learned from Women who Changed the World. Each chapter incorporates a short biography of one of Flory’s female role models, including specific, lesser-known facts and anecdotes which enable the author to find a personal connection.
The well-researched history could easily become the heart of this piece, as many educated readers find themselves learning much they did not know about the spotlighted women. However, Flory carries her identification one step further by taking one small step of action inspired by each memorable heroine. She fasts for a day to practice self-denial in the spirit of Mother Teresa, pawns some jewelry and gives the money to dig wells in Africa in honor of Harriet Tubman’s donating the jacket off her back to secure lodging for escaped slaves, and shares food and friendly conversation with neighborhood homeless people after reading of Elizabeth Fry’s outreach to women prisoners, many incarcerated for nonpayment of debts.
This concept, and Flory’s well-paced, engaging writing gives the piece an overall flow and rhythm, keeping So Long, Status Quo organized and readable. She is a master storyteller, using varied sentence lengths and creative descriptions: rather than feeling ‘hungry,’ she notices ‘lightheadedness, as if a tiny bit of helium has reached the top of her head and is trying to escape.’ In another section, where she writes to stand up for her values as Jane Austen had throughout her novels, Flory describes her reaction to a childhood favorite book where cruel trainers break the spirit of a horse: ‘Just words on a page. But I had inhaled them, and they had skipped around in my synapses and serpentined down around my heart and taken hold.’
These descriptions begin with Susy’s various couches, where she remembers relaxing in comfort before beginning her series of mini-adventures. An acknowledgement, especially with today’s economic downturn, that many Western women, including stay-at-home mothers, do not have the chance to rest on plush couches (yet can still – and are – making a difference through their lives) would enhance So Long, Status Quo by reaching out to a larger audience.
Also, the inclusion of more modern women in each chapter who currently follow in the footsteps of each of Flory’s heroines would be fascinating. The ‘first-step’ concept, where Susy gets inspired to begin with one initial action along the lines of her heroines’ lives, comes across as unique, realistic, and accessible to readers. Some readers (or perhaps Flory herself?) may wish to carry the journey further with greater life changes, and more information on how to carry that out could prove useful. (Susy Flory does plan a blog/spinoffs designed along these lines.)
One of the greatest strengths of So Long, Status Quo, along with the lively writing, is how Flory includes role models of varying historical eras, nationalities, and personality types. Tireless, outspoken Harriet Tubman may not have naturally identified with aristocratic, diplomatic Queen Elizabeth, while neither might have chosen humble, forthright Mother Theresa as a childhood friend. Yet all of these women and many others, including Susy Flory herself, found ways to use their unique circumstances, gifts, and resources (or lack of them) to improve world conditions. So Long, Status Quo has the potential to reach and challenge wide varieties of readers with its upbeat, engaging tone, which inspires without pressure or guilt. Each one of us truly carries within us the seeds of some worthwhile accomplishment, and this intelligently written memoir/guidebook will help them germinate.
Susy Flory is a Northern California speaker, writer, and blogger. Her book is available online and in many bookstores, and she can be reached at www.solongstatusquo.com