Book review: Fairy Tales for Modern Queers, by Emily Reed

Reed Fairy Tales for Modern QueersReed, Emily. Fairy Tales for Modern Queers. Harmony Ink Press. January 2015. $6.99(ebk)/$15.95(pbk). 180 pages. eBook. 9781632167224.

Fairy tale retellings seem to be a dime a dozen lately, but the genre is still popular and widely read. I personally love retellings myself, and am always on the lookout for a good set. Fairy Tales for Modern Queers, however, kind of snuck up on me and I’m glad it did.

The book contains several short stories, each with one or several QUILTBAG protagonists that must face a problem or a challenge. The plot for each narrative is fairly straightforward, but the details are unique for each one. Reed explores different settings and atmospheres for each of the stories — some take place in the modern day, such as “Exercise Two: Write a Fairy Tale”. Others take place in the traditional fairy tale, medieval-fantasy setting, such as “The Wolf and the Ward”. The pace for each is fairly quick, and without realizing it I was onto the next story.

However, what is most refreshing about this series of stories is that the main plot point isn’t about their sexuality or gender. In most cases, sexuality/gender might play a small part, but it does not concern the entire story. The stories Reed writes concern characters that are overcoming another obstacle: adolescence, acceptance of a curse or trait, being a predestined savior, or something else entirely. And let’s not forget the most important thing: each of the stories contains elements of our favorite tales. These are not regurgitations of Red Riding Hood or the Little Mermaid, but inventive reimaginings that shed light on the struggles of a QUILTBAG adolescence. One of my favorites is “Granny’s House”, where a bisexual girl named Sienna visits her Granny and ends up getting stalked by a neighbor. He insists that she is a “tease” and doesn’t understand “what’s [her] problem” when she says she’s not interested; I think this story in particular brings real-world issues to light and brings humor to them. While Sienna’s response is pretty funny, stalking is an issue that everyone should take seriously. The story is a good transition piece for teens to talk about with someone they trust.

I would recommend this novel for young adult collections, especially in high schools and areas where LGBTQ+ books are present. The stories within are quick to read, and the fairy tale elements will draw readers in. The structure of the book, e.g. with its short concise stories, will appeal to those who are probably not regular readers.

Judi Tichacek, Reference Librarian
Palos Hills, IL

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