In the summer of 1991, I was 19 and staying with relatives for a few months. A cousin five years younger than I was a subscriber to "Sassy" and she had several months of back issues on the hall bookshelves. One day at a loss for things to read, I picked up a random issue ... By the end of the summer, my cousin would notify me when she'd received a new issue and I'd rush to read it. I had no idea that I was only one of many males who also read Sassy, nor could I have foreseen that such a great magazine would have such a short life. I have a sister who'd read Seventeen but I never had any interest in that; it was too dull. What I liked about Sassy was why so many others loved it: it treated young women as though they were young women not a demographic, Sassy didn't talk down to its varied readers, it featured more than blondes on the cover, didn't have a "girls only" feel about it, and it was damn funny. The editors weren't a nameless, faceless mass but were people just like us who acknowledged that everybody was in this struggle known as life together, that life sometimes really blew, so once a month, why not just talk about what we could do to make it that much more bearable. I remember thinking Jane Pratt's "Letters from the Editor" were hilarious, and the Sonic Youth story when they went shopping at the downtown flea market being so cool - oh god, they like Sonic Youth too!
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.