A Lesbian Cinderella
This month’s book club selection was Ash by Malinda Lo, a darkly romantic fantasy version of Cinderella with an added coming out twist. The first question of this month’s discussion: what was your favorite fairy tale as a kid? If your answer is “I never really liked fairy tales, but I thought Jungle Book was cool” – Sylvia, or “I guess, Little Women” – Kim, don’t even bother picking this one up. Ash is not a realistic based on true events kind of story. If you’re like Veronica and loved the misadventures of Pinocchio as he tried to become a real boy, Ash may be more appealing but be warned: this is not a fast-paced action story; it does not have trolls or other monsters waiting to snatch anyone from behind a tree. The danger is more subtle and hidden behind mesmerizingly attractive faces and musical voices. Ash has village greenwitches, fairies, and magical walks through the Wood where strange, mysterious and dangerous things happen to ordinary mortals. Fortunately and sometimes unfortunately for the title character of the story, Ash is not an ordinary girl.
If Cinderella was a childhood favorite of yours Ash has recognizable similarities to the original story and enough new spins to keep you interested. While she does get stuck with the cooking, cleaning, sooty clothes, wicked stepmother and awful stepsisters like the original Cinderella, Ash has the added advantage of having been raised by a mother who kept to the old (magical) ways. She is “not like other humans” according to the beautiful but seemingly evil fairy Sidhean. After her mother’s death Ash survives a frightening visit from the fairy hunt as a child; unusual in a place that is filled with stories of people stolen by fairies, maidens wasting away to their deaths from fairy contact or lack thereof and children replaced with fairy changelings. Unlike Cinderella, Ash develops an attraction to the King’s green-eyed, dark haired huntress, Kaisa and finds herself caught between her life-long obsession for Sidhean’s mystical and deathly world of faerie and the real world which promises a new but ordinary life and love with Kaisa.
The coming out part of the story held no drama of its own; it seems that the King’s huntresses had always been lesbians and the worst anyone ever said about them was that they move on. Kaisa publicly flirts with a woman and when Ash is teased about her feelings for Kaisa by the apprentice huntress she blushes in embarrassment but doesn’t blanch in shame. While the book group was excited to find a gay themed young adult title in our public library and I am very looking forward to her April 2011 release: Huntress, we were not at all pleased with the tit for tat between Ash and Sidhean- a nice meal and fancy clothes do not equal sex!
The Richmond Lesbian Book Group meets the second Monday of every month at the Gay Community Center of Richmond to discuss books written by or about lesbians. To learn more and join us checkout our new Yahoo group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/richmondbookgroup/. The November 8th book is “An Emergence of Green” by Katherine V. Fowler and we’re doing a classic for December 8th: “Six of One” by Rita Mae Brown.
April Brown is a voracious reader for whom writing reviews provides an excellent cover story for the tower of books leaning toward her chaise lounge. She is currently working on two books and slacking off on her blog, http://fearlessspirituality.blogspot.com. April works as a corporate trainer with almost twenty years of experience training everything from HIV/AIDS prevention programs for incarcerated youth in Virginia to health insurance continuing education.
Richmond Lesbian Book Group Discusses “An Emergence of Green.” Originally published in 1986, it’s still telling the coming out story for many of us.November 22, 2010
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