Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Short Story Wednesday - Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales From Around the World edited by Kathleen Ragan Part 5

One hundred great folk tales and fairy tales from all over the world about strong, smart, brave heroines. A definitive sourcebook of folktales and fairytales and the first of its kind to feature a variety of multicultural heroines. Dismayed by the predominance of male protagonists in her daughters' books, Kathleen Ragan set out to collect the stories of our forgotten heroines: courageous mothers, clever young girls, and warrior women who save villages from monsters, rule wisely over kingdoms, and outwit judges, kings, and tigers. Gathered from around the world, from regions as diverse as sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe, from North and South American Indian cultures and New World settlers, from Asia and the Middle East, these 100 folktales celebrate strong female heroines. In "The Mirror of Matsuyama," we see the power of a mother's love overcome even the silence imposed by death. In "Moremi and the Egunguns," a fearless girl faces messengers from the land of the dead. Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters is for all women who are searching to define who they are, to redefine the world and shape their collective sensibility. It is for men who want to know more about what it means to be a woman. It is for our daughters and our sons, so that they can learn to value all kinds of courage, courage in battle and the courage of love. It is for all of us to help build a more just vision of woman. Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters breaks new ground by reexamining our notions about heroism. This book will appeal to parents who want to foster positive role models for their children. An invaluable resource of multicultural heroines for any school library.
Okay, I will admit it... This book is starting to drag for me. We live in a depressing world because this is the best of examples for empowering women! I keep hoping for better and it is not happening. If it wasn't for the buddy read I probably would have given up, but I do hope that things will improve as we move around the world. You can read Amy's thoughts on this questions on her blog.

Stories Read This Week:
‘The Tiger and the Coal Peddler’s Wife’ (Korea)
‘The Plucky Maiden’ (Korea)
‘The Phoenix and Her City’ (Hui People, China)
‘Sailimai’s Four Precious Things’ (Hui People, China)
‘A Woman’s Love’ (Uighur People, China)
‘Maiden Liu, the Songster’ (Yao People, China)
‘The Festival of Pouring Water’ (Yunnan, China)
‘A Polite Idiosyncrasy’ (Kwangtung, China)
‘The Young Head of the Family’ (Kwangtung, China)
‘Altyn-Aryg’ (Altaian People, Siberia)
‘The Wife Who Stole a Heart’ (Kalmuck People, Siberia)

1. We both were getting frustrated with the stories recently because they are starting to fall into certain stereotypes. Do you feel they got better or worse this week and why?
There was only one story that I found myself skimming through, but I am still just sad. There is no other way to look at it. If this is all we can come up with then we need to do better folks! The stories are better than the 'typical' stories, but they are still disappointing for me. The stories have smart women, but I think I was just expecting more. It is hard to really put it in word.

2. In 'The Plucky Maiden' the plucky maiden really just looks out for herself - what did you think of this in terms of an empowering tale? Do you think it is truly feminist?
I think the problem I have with these stories is that they are not feminist. They are making the women smarter, braver, etc, but at the sake of their integrity. I guess I would like to see women that don't have to be underhanded or selfish in order to fit into this book.

3. Starting with 'The Phoenix and Her City' and then again in a few more of the stories Ragan specifically compares the events of the story to a 'Western' feminist, what did you think of this? Why do you think it only came up now in this section and do you think this is a good thing?
Oh, man, 'The Phoenix and Her City' just dragged! I hardly even remember it! Her notes are a problem, though. I don't think these stories should necessarily be compared to other sections because it is like she is saying one place is better than another. Honestly, seeing these representations I am not really seeing much difference...

4. Following on the answer above, in 'Maiden Liu, the Songster' Ragan in the note area compares Liu to people like Jane Goodall who also studied and worked with 'another group'. What did you think of this message and comparison?
Did this comparison make sense to you? She was talking about monkeys and chimpanzees and things. I didn't get how she was even making these comparisons... It seemed random!

5. Did you like the way relationships were portrayed in 'A Polite Idiosyncrasy'? Do you see this as a fairy tale?
This story made me smile, actually. It was almost a comedy and that was refreshing, but yes, it was a good portrayal of relationships. I am not so sure it is a fairy tale, though. It could easily happen in real life.

6. In 'The Young Head of the Family' Ragan points out how stereotypical behavior can hurt women, what do you think of this? Did you see the tale as subversive in that sense?
hm, I don't think I paid as close attention to the notes as you! I do think that stereotypical behaviour can hurt women, but I didn't think this story was as bad as some. At least the head of the family was a woman and she was portrayed well. That being said, the other women were not so much. It is hard to really say.

7. What did you think of the way 'The Wife Who Stole a Heart' begins? Do you think this story is really feminist and helps women or does the women against woman aspect of it hurt?
This was a strange story. I didn't really like it at all. I hate stories where women are pitted against other women. It is not empowering when writers have to resort to that.

Previous Weeks:


  1. I'm sorry it's dragging for you--I think 100 stories in the same vein is rather a lot to read straight through...but I'm still intrigued enough to want to give it a try myself!

  2. **Charlotte: I want to love this, but I am not... We have missed a few weeks here and there, but yes, I think in retrospect I should have given myself more time between readings!

  3. Very interesting answers as always :) I've definitely been reading the notes more I think and they made me SO ANGRY this week. heh. You are so right about their integrity being compromised. It's sad!

  4. **Amy: This book has been on my TBR pile forever! Maybe it should have stayed there... Now that I have started, though, I want to finish because I keep hoping it will get better!

  5. hah! nah I'll be happy to get it off the tbr pile!

  6. **Amy: And probably out the door... It's not something I can picture myself rereading...

  7. Heh yeah possibly that too. Though I dunno... if I can't find other stories with women I might save it for with my new niece or nephew, at least could generate some good discussions with it... and it combats a little bit the damn Disney stories... I can't decide :S


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