Note: I received an ARC in order to write a review. The launch date was the fourth, but some places are having delays.
Content Warnings for the book: Rape (in Sleeping Beauty), murder, ableism, and suicidal ideation.
Once upon a time, a disabled woman wrote a book about disability representation in western fairy-tales...
Part author origin story, part fairy-tale history, and part disability activism—this book does a lot in 235 pages.
Quote: "Fairy tales and fables are never only stories: they are the scaffolding by which we understand crucial things."
Each chapter weaves tropes found in fairy-tales around something in real life, whether it's stereotypes enforced in modern media, filicide, an event in the author's life, or the history surrounding certain countries as fairy-tales came to be. The chapters are broken into chunks to make then easily digestible. The pace of the book is sprightly, though the author's research seems extensive. It's balanced well.
Quote: "Why, in all of these stories about someone who wants to be something or someone else, was it always the individual who needed to change, and never the world?"
The fairy-tales discussed in this book aren't just the cheerful, Disney versions but the dark originals as well (with some being summarized in-depth). There were tales I never heard of before like The Maiden Without Hands, Hans My Hedgehog, and Riquet With the Tuft mixed in with stories including Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Sleeping Beauty. And, it isn't just historical fairy-tales looked at—the author looks at modern tales like Shrek and adjacent stories like Marvel's superheroes.
Quote: "It isn’t a stretch to draw a line from the Grimms’ treatment of stories and storytelling as a nationalistic device through to Nazi Germany and the depiction of the disabled, othered body as something that needs to be extinguished."
This book taught me many things. One of the most interesting/shocking to me was how Nazis glommed on to Grimm fairy-tales as an ultimate ideal because they erase so much diversity. Another fascinating tidbit was that ancient Greeks thought things (or humans) could only have true beauty if they were "useful"—excluding most disabled folks in (I'm sure) many abled people's minds.
The only issue I have with the book is that the writing can be a bit repetitive in spots. Something I read once in chapter two will appear twice more by the time I finish the book. Thankfully, it doesn't happen very often.
Quote: "How much time does the disabled person spend trying to conform to society’s expectation of what it means to be a body in the world, when it would be so much easier to move through life without conforming?"
Disability activists are quoted throughout the text and/or thanked at the end. The names belong to some of the most influential members of our community: Inani Barbarin, Andrew Gurza, Grace Lapointe, Alice Wong, and more. It made the book feel quite inclusive to me.
Current-day narratives are also talked about in the form of our hashtags/movements, projects, and articles. We are shaping the world, and our stories, from the cold clay of the past. Amanda Leduc honors both our past and future in this engrossing read.
Author biography: Amanda Leduc’s essays and stories have appeared in publications across Canada, the US, and the UK. She is the author of the novels The Miracles of Ordinary Men and the forthcoming The Centaur’s Wife. She has cerebral palsy and lives in Hamilton, Ontario, where she works as the Communications Coordinator for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD), Canada’s first festival for diverse authors and stories.