Review: Fierce FairyTales by Nikita Gill

Fierce FairyTales by Nikita Gill

One of the highlights of the month (for the past three months) has been getting the Feminist Book Club Subscription Box! For the month of July there was a theme of poetry and Fierce FairyTales was the book chosen for the box. This book is by Nikita Gill, a writer and poet who has become pretty popular online with her thought-inducing posts about fairy tales, mythology, and how it all relates to what it means to be human.

I thoroughly enjoyed her work in Fierce FairyTales! I don’t normally read poetry so it was a breath of fresh air to slow down a bit and experience these poems that encapsulated an idea about a particular fairy tale. Each one took one character or idea from a fairy tale and flipped it in order to show how messed up each story truly is.

Take Rapunzel, she’s trapped by her mother in a tower in a completely toxic relationship and she has to wait for a prince to come and save her. To top it all, the only way he can get to her is to climb on her hair. Gill tells a story where perhaps, Rapunzel cuts her own hair and uses it to get down!

Growing up I saw these fairy tales as ideals, the princess waits in her castle/tower/cell for a prince to come and save her and then they marry and they are happily ever after. The princess doesn’t really need to think or accomplish anything except wait and go with the prince who comes save her. Of course that’s not true, but it definitely left me with some subconscious feelings about feeling shame about being an independent and strong woman.

Another cool thing about this book is that Gill illustrates it too. She has beautiful drawings with some of the poems that really helped me add that other dimension to the poem. Some of the poems were very uplifting and inspiring while others are heartbreaking and just touched those tender bits in my heart. One such poem was The Giant’s Daughter, which I will share here so you can have a sample of what to expect if you choose to read this wonderful book:

The Giant’s Daughter

Teaching yourself to take up space
is like trying to love someone
who is violently resisting your love.

It is walking into a room
and trying not to make yourself scarce.
It is to be mindful of your own shrinking.

It is to become comfortable with
being uncomfortably aware that you,
like Houdini, have mastered the art
of escaping whilst being watched.

It is learning how not to do it
even when every bone in your body
has been taught to go into hiding.

Fierce FairyTales by Nikita Gill, pg. 119

Do you enjoy poetry? Even if you don’t read it much, like me, if you like fairy tales and re-tellings, definitely check this out!

Book Review — Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

“It was a house that turned from the world and cast its gaze inward, a house whose women believed the very walls listened for sin, a house where we whispered the truth or didn’t speak at all” — Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik.

Jasmin Darznik is an author who tells us the story of Forugh Farrokhzad, a woman who lived from 1934 to 1967 in Iran, a place where women didn’t have the freedom to pursue a life outside of marriage and who had to comply to what their culture and society deemed right. Forugh’s life was hard from the beginning as she grew up in a very strict household and which only got harder as she began to discover her love of writing. Forugh was a poet who expressed feelings that women had about their sexuality, their feelings, and their way of life. She broke barriers and eventually became a filmmaker who mixed her poetry with film and created a powerful message about people who had been cast aside without a second thought.

Darznik manages to tell us Forugh’s story through this novel that, although it is not 100% faithful to truth, it does tell us what it would have been like to feel what Forugh went through. This story then lets the reader into the world of women in Iran, from Forugh’s youth, to her untimely death.

The writing is beautiful:

“We were driven by forces we didn’t understand, moving toward a destination we couldn’t see”

There are so many messages to inspire, to make one think about our own society, about our own beliefs:

“The Golshiri men were learned aristocrats who spent their days in leisurely contemplation, but it was his mother, a woman unable to write even her name, who’d shaped his education”

Then there’s also the importance of telling our own stories, because our own stories can inspire others to break barriers and inspiring others in turn:

“And yet I’d never heard of a woman surviving away from her family, without a father or husband to protect her. It wasn’t just beyond hoping; it was beyond imagining.”

How important is it to view yourself in the stories you read? Do you identify with the main characters in your favorite books? Is your story told within the pages of books?

Forugh’s story inspires me to tell my story, to inspire others, and to become at least a bit like Forugh by standing up for what I believe in, and not allowing people’s expectations to keep me from doing what I love.

Needless to say, Jasmin Darznik touched me in ways I couldn’t have imagined through Forugh’s life story. I hope to read more of Darznik’s writing and also to read Forugh’s own poetry and watch her film to see what she saw, if only for a few minutes.