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How Sassy Changed My Life

A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time

Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer

Faber & Faber

For a generation of teenage girls, Sassy magazine was nothing short of revolutionary--so much so that its audience, which stretched from tweens to twentysomething women, remains obsessed with it to this day and back issues are sold for hefty sums on the Internet. For its brief but brilliant run from 1988 to 1994, Sassy was the arbiter of all that was hip and cool, inspiring a dogged devotion from its readers while almost single-handedly bringing the idea of girl culture to the mainstream. In the process, Sassy changed the face of teen magazines in the United States, paved the way for the unedited voice of blogs, and influenced the current crop of smart women's zines, such as Bust and Bitch, that currently hold sway.

How Sassy Changed My Life will present for the first time the inside story of the magazine's rise and fall while celebrating its unique vision and lasting impact. Through interviews with the staff, columnists, and favorite personalities we are brought behind the scenes from its launch to its final issue and witness its unique fusion of feminism and femininity, its frank commentary on taboo topics like teen sex and suicide, its battles with advertisers and the religious right, and the ascension of its writers from anonymous staffers to celebrities in their own right.

For a generation of teenage girls, Sassy magazine was nothing short of revolutionary--so much so that its audience, which stretched from tweens to twentysomething women, remains obsessed with it to this day and back issues are sold for hefty sums on the Internet. For its brief but brilliant run from 1988 to 1994, Sassy was the arbiter of all that was hip and cool, inspiring a dogged devotion from its readers while almost single-handedly bringing the idea of girl culture to the mainstream. In the process, Sassy changed the face of teen magazines in the United States, paved the way for the unedited voice of blogs, and influenced the current crop of smart women's zines, such as Bust and Bitch, that currently hold sway.

How Sassy Changed My Life will present for the first time the inside story of the magazine's rise and fall while celebrating its unique vision and lasting impact. Through interviews with the staff, columnists, and favorite personalities we are brought behind the scenes from its launch to its final issue and witness its unique fusion of feminism and femininity, its frank commentary on taboo topics like teen sex and suicide, its battles with advertisers and the religious right, and the ascension of its writers from anonymous staffers to celebrities in their own right.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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HOW SASSY CHANGED MY LIFE
chapter 1The Riseb.s., or before sassyLater, there would be the infamous Kurt and Courtney cover. There would be the R.E.M. flexidisc. There would be the seminal junk food taste-off and the first-person sex stories. There would be Jane and Karen and Catherine and Mike and Neill and Margie and Kim, and there would be Christina Kelly, regaling the world with stories of the menstrual cramps she endured while interviewing future talk-show hostess Rikki Lake. But before that, there was Seventeen magazine, and it regularly ran cover stories like "Bridal Sweet." "This was
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REVIEWS

Praise for How Sassy Changed My Life

"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
"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

In the Press

How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love letter To The Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time
Sassy was a rare breed of teen magazine. Albeit glossy and often gushy about cute bands, it broke the mold by speaking candidly about issues verboten in mid-90s magazine media: drugs, sexuality and ...,Books
- Willamette Week
Bookslut | A Love Letter to Sassy
Book reviews, interviews, columns, and musings.
- Bookslut
n+1: How Sassy (Should Have) Changed My Life
Sassy was riot grrrl without the total opposition to self-adornment and mass media. Its editors would admit to possibly delusional moments in which they swore Matt Dillon was giving them the eye at CBGB. Every teen magazine of that era swooned over Matt Dillon; only Sassy assumed that you, a teenage girl, knew what CBGB was.
- n + 1

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer

  • Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer are New York-based writers. They have written and edited for publications such as The New York Times, Teen Vogue, Elle Girl, Bitch, Jane, Spin, Entertainment Weekly, Nylon,Nerve, and Elle.
  • Marisa Meltzer © Shayla Hason
    Marisa Meltzer
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Available Formats and Book Details

How Sassy Changed My Life

A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time

Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Faber & Faber

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