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How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time Paperback – April 17, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
In the late '80s and '90s, when teen fare was homogeneous, Sassy magazine,a teen cult favorite,was the cool new kid on the block, speaking to girls on their level, giving them an in to alternative pop culture while acting as confidant and wise dispenser of advice. New York–based writers Jesella and Meltzer were part of the Sassy demographic and decided that a "love letter" to the publication was in order. The result is a behind-the-scenes, warts-and-all look at the magazine's office culture, including sections on the glossy's coverage of feminism, celebrity and girl culture. Struggles with advertisers, publishers, religious conservatives and other detractors are described in detail (in a very us-against-them tone), allowing insight into how editorial content was developed. Much of the book is written in a cooler-than-thou tone, often at the expense of every other teen magazine on the market and of the typical American girls who read them. This attitude arguably contributed to Sassy's demise in 1996. In the end, the book—written in a style reminiscent of the magazine itself—is a testament to a publication that changed the face of teen media. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“Around the time you read that a publicist for Tiffani Amber-Thiessen once accused Sassy magazine of 'terrorist tactics,' you realize that this book isn't simply a smart and funny ode to a smart and funny magazine; it's the record of a short-lived insurrection against a powerful social code, one that tells young women what they're supposed to think and how they're supposed to act.” ―Alex Ross
“There are people--and I'm one of them--who define their adolescence as pre-Sassy and post-Sassy, who found a respite from the dominant culture of proms and mall-crawling in its pages, and who mourned its death like it was that of a best friend. For us, Jesella and Meltzer offer up some much-needed closure, as well as an engaging snapshot of a time when teen culture was full of vivid, inspired, yet-to-be-co-opted cool.” ―Andi Ziesler, editorial/creative director of Bitch magazine
“A page-turning romp through the secretive and cut-throat world of teen journalism. Sassy was the one magazine that attempted to subvert the usual diet of mind control and hypnosis employed by its establishment peers. And while she may have destroyed herself in a fit of confused self criticism, she left a generation of precocious women in her wake.” ―Ian Svenonius, The Original "Sassiest Boy in America" (not to mention former front man of Nation of Ulysses and author of The Psychic Soviet)
“In its brief life, Sassy offered teenage girls a new way of seeing themselves--and their parents, perhaps, a new way of understanding them. It was very much a product of its historical moment and, as this insightful narrative suggests, Sassy, like all truly significant magazines, clearly helped shape the social realities of its time.” ―David Abrahamson, Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University
“Sassy really did change my life. If I hadn't read the magazine as a confused pre-teen, I doubt I'd be the person I am today and I doubt I'd have started Venus Zine. I always wanted to know what really happened behind the scenes at Sassy and now I do. This book provides the inside scoop on the rise and fall of one of America's most important publications.” ―Amy Schroeder, editor and publisher Venus Zine
“It's a rise-and-fall narrative of a departed magazine that tapped into the zeitgeist, a tale of a particular cultural moment, and of daring that has since become commonplace. Its progenitors have gone on to more prominent planets of the media universe, and yet they long for those halcyon days. No, it's not Spy: The Funny Years, but rather next season's media self-obsession: Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer's How Sassy Changed My Life.” ―Women's Wear Daily
“Sassy was always more than just a teen magazine--it was a beacon for outcasts, feminists, and the rest of the people who went on to create the early 90s indie culture. How Sassy Changed My Life is just as interesting, opinionated, and funny as its subject. Read it and weep again for a magazine that, for many of us, is a long lost friend.” ―Jennifer Baumgardner, co-author of Manifesta and author of Look Both Ways
“An entertaining and thought-provoking look at one of the most influential magazines of the 90s. I felt like I was back in those cramped offices, surrounded by the funniest, sharpest women in New York.” ―Blake Nelson, author of Girl and Paranoid Park
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On another note, I was very happy to see that they added a bit about how many girls felt alienated by the ultra- underground and alternative aspects of Sassy. Towards the end of the magazine, it seemed to me (and after reading, I'm glad I'm not the only one) that if you liked any song that managed to get on the radio, any show that had appeared in TV Guide, or wanted to dye your hair with Clairol instead of funky Kool Aid colours, then you were deemed terminally uphip (I remember as if it were yesterday how they trashed my then favourite band Roxette). I think that that exclusiveness, rather than any boycotts about the sex columns, were the cause of Sassy's demise. Still, it was an amazing magazine and so uplift and often soulsearching for its readers and sadly no magazine has come close to filling that void for today's young women (although B*tch is great. Check it out if you can).
Times unfortunately changed and advertisers balked, as they're wont to do and Sassy tried to become more of a Stepford Teen Mag. Then it folded.
"How Sassy Changed My Life" is a great chronicle of the rise, fall and legacy of this one of a kind magazine. It's a fun walk down memory lane, as well as a rather sobering look at how the advertisers would loves us all to live in a world where we all wear rose-colored glasses. Sassy refused to pander and sadly went away, but it's never been forgotten. This book is a wonderful love letter not only to the magazine, but a bygone era. I wish there had been photographs or excerpts from the magazine itself besides just the cover photo. Perhaps this will spur a best of Sassy compendium. That would be very welcome.
I'd love to think that if enough people read this book, or seek out back issues on eBay, that somebody will try to make their own cool magazine. In these days of more advertising control than ever as well as the electronic age, it may not even happen but I'm glad this book will show a younger generation what they missed out on and what they could, in one form or another, have again.
PS If you are unaware of the control advertisers have on media, please look for a copy of Gloria Steinem's eye-opening essay "Sex, Lies and Advertising" which is collected in her book "Moving Beyond Words." That will add some context to why magazines can struggle with including "controversial" content and will put Sassy's demise into perspective.