Book Review: Fearless Girls, Wise Women, & Beloved Sisters

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Author: Kathleen Ragan

Genre: Folktale Anthology

Summary: 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. 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 110 folktales celebrate strong female heroines.

My Opinion: A friend of mine gave this book to me which is the start of my anthology collection I’m happy to say. This book is diverse, entertaining, thought provoking and enlightening. My biggest issues with the book was the formatting and the commentary on some of the stories. Overall I gave it 4 stars.

There’s over 100 stories in this book and they come from all over the world. The book is divided into regions, and under each story title is the culture of origin.  I think what delighted me most, is that in reading stories directly from other cultures, I learned so much about them. This book really was eye opening and incredibly enjoyable in that respect.

To stay true to the core of the stories, Ragan chose to leave the formatting as originally found. This meant that from culture to culture, story to story, the narration style changed. So did the formatting. There were a couple of stories where there were no quotation marks and hardly any paragraph breaks. It made those stories harder to read and understand which put a damper on my enjoyment. I understand the editor’s choice but part of me wishes that she chose to tweak the stories format wise, which she could have done without changing the wording of the story.

Speaking of wording…Romani is the appropriate name. G***y is a racial slur. I was shocked and disappointed that stories coming from the Romani culture were categorized as the slur, and not by the actual name. Although that’s not apart of my heritage, one of my dear friends and her family is Romani, so this is an issue that’s close to my heart. As an editor who extensively studied the stories and cultures she pulled from, I’m wondering how on earth Ragan missed something so important.

After each story was a brief (usually) comment/analysis. Ragan was really in her element here, lending her knowledge to the stories. This was pretty spiffy most of the time. Other times I was left scratching my head because what Ragan got from the story was something I didn’t get at all. It wouldn’t have bothered me so much if some of the comments weren’t so…bossy. That’s the best word I can think of to describe it. I felt like in some cases Ragan was telling the reader that her translation was the only way to translate the story.

Which defeats the whole idea behind the anthology because it really does cover an incredibly diverse range of women. Pretty women, ugly women, single ladies, married gals, brave girls, frightened girls…the list goes on! That’s the beauty of this anthology and means that each story will speak to the reader in different ways.

TL;DR: No matter the gender you identify as, there’s a story in here for everyone. The wide range of cultures and heroines is wonderful. This anthology helped me see the kind of woman I could be in a whole new light. I found inspiration and encouragement in the stories and enjoyed not only learning about myself, but other cultures too. Despite the funky formatting in places and some story analyses coming off as bossy and “my way is the only way”, this was a really strong collection and has so much to offer.

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