“These stories are told for a reason.”
What are the stories?
“Other Ever Afters: New Queer Fairy Tales” by Melanie Gillman is a collection of queer fairy tales that is meant to bring increased representation in the genre. And it does! First, though, I want to let you know that I went into this book thinking it was going to be gender-bent fairy tales where Prince Charming charms another man, or Belle decides she’s not so interested in an emotionally abusive Beast. Nope, these are whole new tales told in a fairy tale style, which I appreciate because it means that the stories aren’t stuck following the same patterns as older tales and are free to make up something new that can feel old. A lot of the stories contain a fair mix of peril, romance, mystery, and morals. The stories don’t always have a conclusive ending, but traditional tales weren’t always as clear-cut as they have become today and there’s a lot of variation in early versions of now-familiar tales. The art is very soft and pleasant and serves the stories well. It’s a sort of watercolor-type look in my unprofessional assessment. I think it might have been interesting for the different stories to have varied artists to better differentiate the moods, but even this minor quibble means it’s all the more impressive that the sizeable book is essentially the work of one individual.
Who do we see in this book?
Everybody! Or at least it feels that way. Skin tones, gender presentations and orientations of all kinds are represented, because that’s pretty much the whole point of the book. The cultures themselves are all a little loosey-goosey so none of the characters could be identified as Irish, Mexican, Ugandan, or any other national identity. But at this point, most fairy tales that have survived to modern times don’t really have a specific country of origin, like who knows where Cinderella originated from anymore? It’s Greece, but that doesn’t matter.
How are the thinks?
5 out of 5 mermaids. It took me a minute to figure out what scale to rate this on, but then it hit me, we’ve got this book in the YA section for a reason. It’s not for children. Could you read these stories to a child? Absolutely, some people probably already have. But while the book is explicitly not derived from other fairy tales it consciously exists in the same space as them. This book is intended for people who know fairy tales and will encourage those readers to think critically about the role that fairy tales play in our lives and culture. These stories are an opportunity to reframe our perspective on who and what stories should be about. So, if “Other Ever Afters” is trying to make you think about its subject matter, then I believe it succeeds with flying colors.