Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Armless Maiden Edited by Terri Windling

I haven't read a collection like this in quite some time. Scratch that...I haven't read a book as a whole that I felt this way about in quite some time. Sadly, this book is out of print now which upsets me more than I can even say. Though there are numerous copies out there still for very little money. And I highly suggest scooping it up while you can! Books like this make me want to start a grassroots movement to get it republished. Seriously, if there was anything at all I could do to republish this book, I would do it. The Armless Maiden is subtitled: And Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors and seeing as it's edited by Terri Windling, you can bet that it's centered around fairy tales. It's topic is abuse, rape, molestation, incest, and neglect in childhood. The collection is a series of short stories, essays and poems. Each one filled with absolute beauty. Each one told in the form of a fairy tale. Often as a retelling of a traditional tale. There are several reasons that I fell in love with this collection. One, it's a topic that's close to my heart. A topic that I think needs to be talked about so much more than it is, not swept under the rug. Not something that we need to be ashamed of. I think shame is a natural reaction to abuse. The abused thinks that he or she must have done something to deserve the abuse or if not that, thinks that they had some part of the abuse...which leaves this feeling of shame. And if it's not talked about, that feeling just perpetuates over the years and it's more than unhealthy. It can create more problems than one person can deal with alone. But we're raised in a hush hush society and that's just wrong on SO MANY levels. Terri Windling is a godsend for giving us this collection to open up the lines of communication through storytelling...through relatibility. Through ending the collection with sharing her own story of her own abused childhood. Another reason I loved this collection was for the writing itself and for the variety represented here. There literally wasn't a single story that I didn't love. Everything in this book was amazing. I described this book as beautiful, and it is. Just because something hurts or causes tears doesn't mean it can't be beautiful too and this book is a prime example of that. The list of contributors in this book who gave their essays, poems and stories is amazing. To name a few, Terri Windling herself, Anne Sexton, Emma Bull, Charles de Lint, Ellen Kushner, Tanith Lee, Patricia McKillip, Jane Yolen, Midori Snyder and Ellen Steiber...and that's just naming a few. As I said, these are all takes on traditional fairy tales, or new fairy tales offered by the authors. Fairy tales are anchored in dark times when we look at them in their original form. They are almost something we can look at as children (and as adults as well) and say (as Neil Gaiman said in his intro to Stories) "and then what happened?" They are a wonderful tool for life that we shouldn't forget when we grow up. There's a reason we're drawn to them so much. And I don't think it's for "escape". I think it's more so for the truth that fairy tales tell us. That life is not always pretty. That sometimes the mermaid gives up her fins and doesn't get a happy ending. That sometimes the wolf wins. I think the true "escape" is the blanket that we as a society have put over our eyes...the pretending that the monsters don't exist. That things don't go bump in the night. When in fact they monsters and the bumps are there. And the only way to truly find happiness waken again and be happy and to have the Disney version of the fairy tale is to start talking. Even then, we may not have the Disney version, but it's better than living in a nightmare that we've created ourselves. Thank you Ms. Windling for creating this amazing book. I'm just so sorry it's not readily available anymore. But please search it it...share about it. You should be able to find it at your library. There are used copies all over the internet. Some for just 99 cents. Get it. And experience it.

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