Inspired by this Vogue piece on the amazing Florence Welch’s home, I decided that my own rooms were due for a good cleaning and re-organzing. In the middle of this I realized that I had promised pictures of my space here in Ohio and had never delivered so I am doing so now! There are a bunch more pictures on my Facebook page but here is a taste :). -
Again, many more on Facebook (with commentary too!)
End of semester. Things are crazy. Here are some cool things from the Internetz -
The new issue of Red Rose Review should be up any moment now and has two poems from me in it :).
P: Poetry Editor – lovely post by Rhonda Parrish of Niteblade about the awesome Alexandra Seidel (that just happens to mention the poem that Sara Cleto and I published there last year as one of her favorites! Sara’s “The Maiden-Harp” also gets a shout out!)
Hello! I apologize for not really being around, PhD studies have taken over my life for the present, but I wanted to use this brief Thanksgiving break to make a quick hello post at the very least :). It looks like things may be sorting themselves out into a more manageable routine next semester, so I am hopeful that I will get a little more free time to write creatively, blog, read non-school related things, etc. in the future. Coming to Ohio has been a big adjustment but it’s been a worthwhile and exciting time as well!
A few notes -
* First – reunited and it feels so good…
:D! It’s really wonderful to be home for a bit. My birthday was on Monday and I got to celebrate with my family yesterday :).
* I meant to post more about my amazing time at the After Grimm conference but, sadly, I just haven’t had the spare time to do so. I met several lovely people, including more than a few inspirations of mine, and it was completely wonderful in all ways. One of the people I met was Janet Daniels who runs the FairyTaleTastic blog – check out her post about the conference for a few more details too! While we were there I was also lucky enough to get to see two incredible exhibitions, the Writing Britain exhibition at the British Library and the Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde exhibition at the Tate Britain, buy a fabulous Gothic coat in Camden Town, and visit a few of my friend Sara’s favorite haunts in Oxford.
* I also attended the American Folklore Society’s Annual Meeting in October in New Orleans (which is now absolutely among my favorite cities in the world!)… I was going to write about that as well but, again, did not get the chance :(. Just know that I had a great panel with several other fairy tale scholars and it was a really fun time! I went on a witches and vampires and voodoo walking tour, saw a few of the gorgeous original paintings of Kelly Louise Judd in person for the first time in a random awesome gallery we just happened to wander into, ate many beignets, attended the book launch of Transgressive Tales: Queering the Grimms in which my former professor at GMU, Margaret Yocom, and my friend Jeana Jorgensen each have a fantastic essay, spoke with a bunch of prospective OSU students and hopefully made a good impression, and saw a bunch of excellent papers.
* I’ve had a paper accepted for presentation at The International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts this coming March – huzzah! I attended this conference for the first time last year and it’s awesome, just full of people doing exactly the kind of work that I love. I’m really happy I get to go again this year!
* I set up my classes for the Spring semester and am really excited about them! I’ll be taking a Children’s/YA Lit. class on the “Roots of Fantasy” (aka the folklore, etc. that frequently inspires fantasy literature!) which is just so perfectly up my alley I’m kind of shocked it’s real, an independent study reading course on the 19th Century British Gothic (awesome texts and great dissertation prep), and a teaching apprenticeship class where I shadow a senior professor teaching an introduction to folklore class, a prerequisite before I can teach my own introductory folklore classes. I’m completely psyched about all of these things :P.
* Speaking of “Sleeping Beauty,” the wonderful Bryony recently made me aware of this production of Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” ballet – a gothic version!! It’s like my MA thesis in ballet form, crazy. There is a slim chance I may be in the UK during its run next year so please keep your fingers crossed that I can make it happen!
Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US and there will hopefully be more posts from me soon!
For balance, a “so-so” review (actually by the writer who liked the short story tie in so much and pointed me to the novel in the first place.) Shara links to my original post there, and refers to me as someone more qualified to speak about misappropriation, but that’s certainly not true. I think my particular background prompted me to ask questions more than anything else. People with more knowledge have been upset with things that I didn’t pick up on at all, which appears to simply be my not knowing where/how to look. I feel that I have learned a great deal since my first post, thanks to wonderful people like Rose.
I still think that in many ways Shadow and Bone is a good YA novel. As I said before, it’s engaging, different, a fast read where the teenagers seemed real and the standard love “triangle” was subverted in a way I really liked. Purely on these levels, it is a well done young adult book in the newly established tradition of young adult books. This said, I don’t think my opinion of it will ever be the same as when I first finished it. I have learned a lot in the interim and the appropriation issues of the book that at first seemed mildly disconcerting things to wonder about now seem far more important and upsetting. I am grateful for all the pages I have linked in this post and the last one for helping me see these issues for what they really are.
My last post led to many enlightening, fascinating comments (sadly not here, mostly on Livejournal and Facebook!) and I thought I would share some of the links people pointed out to me (and links that I found from those websites) that I thought were particularly interesting to explore when considering the concept of cultural appropriation, especially with regard to folklore and speculative literature. I still feel that there is a lot of merit in Shadow and Bone, and I certainly enjoyed it as a novel, but many good points were raised in the discussion and I wanted to share some of the things that I found or were brought to my attention. Please note that I may or may not agree with *everything* on the following sites but it’s all very good to think about –
Expanded Horizons, a magazine of speculative fiction, whose mission is to “increase diversity in the field of speculative fiction, both in the authors who contribute and in the perspectives presented.”
On this note, I also want to mention the amazing Stone Telling, a magazine for speculative poetry that is “especially interested in seeing work that is multi-cultural and boundary-crossing, work that deals with othering and Others, work that considers race, gender, sexuality, identity, and disability issues in nontrivial and evocative ways.”
Silver Goggles by Jaymee Goh, a blog on steampunk and postcolonialism, race, diversity, and representation. Her review of The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee (recommended to me as a novel that deals with these issues well) also led me to the next item.
Last but absolutely not least, a wonderful, inspiring talk about “the danger of a single story” by the novelist Chimamanda Adichie –
I am still learning, always, but these are important issues to think about and engage with. I’d love more links to peruse if you have any favorites!
I feel compelled to post my review of this book here, rather than just on Goodreads, because I can’t stop thinking about it.
I read Bardugo’s short story set in the same world as Shadow and Bone on tor.com a few days ago and was intrigued. She is an excellent writer and her world seemed to be incredibly detailed and well formed. I loved that she wrote a folktale companion piece for her novel, and such a good one at that, which made me interested enough to pick up Shadow and Bone for my Kindle. This was obviously Tor’s intention but I’m so glad that I did!
This is an excellent YA novel. I was completely fascinated by this world and its characters. Everyone in this book is grey… there is no black and white at all. Everything is complex and fully imagined. I love the setting, I love the magical system, and the writing (like the short story) is fantastic. I believed in these characters – they seemed like real young adults to me in so many ways. The plot kept me guessing and I found myself actually giddy with the expertly done twists that Bardugo executed.
All that said, I feel that I must address that amongst the many 5 and 4 star reviews for this book are a few 1 or 2 star reviews that are upset with what they see as cultural appropriation. Yes, the world of the novel is absolutely modeled after Russia but, as someone who doesn’t know a lot about Russia at all, I found it far more fascinating than nefarious. Like the thousands of authors who have drawn from, say, Celtic mythology and culture to create their own fantasy worlds, Bardugo uses bits and pieces of Russia to make an entirely new world. I confess that I did not really feel uncomfortable with what she did. Like some of the best authors who use folklore in their work, she changed it into something completely different. I don’t see that as “failing to research” the culture but rather as simply a way of retelling similar to what so many others do. Ravka is very specifically *not* Russia, despite the sources the author drew from. The other two main cultures of the book, one fairly clearly modeled after Mongolia, were a bit more problematic but I got the impression that both of them would be explored more deeply in the future books of the trilogy.
The discomfort some people have felt has, however, made me think a lot about folklore in creative writing and the concept of cultural appropriation. I love folklore from all over the world and enjoy incorporating it into my creative writing in a variety of different ways. I have always been a champion of using folklore creatively – it’s what I write, it’s what I study. I have never felt like this was misusing the culture of another group of people but I also have never thought of it that way. Cobbling together bits of the world and reshaping them seems to be a cornerstone of what fantastic literature is all about and I don’t feel that anyone should be limited creatively to the culture they happened to be born in, particularly if what is used is used with respect (this said, I don’t actually know what Leigh Bardugo’s ancestry is, I have seen several people comment that she is not Russian but she may well be.) I’m also uncomfortable with the fact that this doesn’t seem to even come up when talking about the numerous fantasy novels that draw from Celtic culture, as I mentioned above. Are the hundreds of YA fairy novels that are structured around Celtic stories somehow misusing that culture? I have never seen anyone say that. Because Bardugo’s book is based around a culture that is less familiar to American audiences, however, it seems to call more attention to itself. I don’t really have any answers for this but I’m interested to hear how others feel.
* Leigh Bardugo’s Blog – Includes her “blog tour” with a lot of information about the book and the rest of the trilogy.
* An interesting interview with the author, in which she states quite emphatically that Ravka is not Russia but rather a fantasy world that draws on Russian cultural touchstones and shares some other interesting thoughts as well – Author Interview
There are of course always things that must be done but sometimes one earns a day off. I have added a background image to the BW.com journal, I’m quite taken with it! It’s by Elegia’s Background Garden, I love the images she chose to include. I feel like my journal has become a cabinet of curiosity!
The lovely Theodora Goss, one of my biggest inspirations and favorite writers, is having a great contest right now to win a copy of her new novella The Thorn and the Blossom (which I am SO excited for!) In order to have a chance at winning you must describe your dream imaginary garden. Here’s what I submitted -
If you go down a certain lonely alleyway off the busy streets of a certain city, you’ll come to a gate of twisted iron set between the walls of two unremarkable gray buildings. If you look closely, the iron forms swirls of roses, crescent moons, and strange words from a language you don’t know but that seems somehow familiar. Behind these forms you can make out wild brambles, perhaps a flower or two, but the alley is dark and you wish you could see more but the gate is locked. You can’t resist teasing out the sounds of the words however, and as you do the gate swings open unexpectedly. You tentatively take a step inside and find a tangle of flowers, particularly wild roses and ivy, crawling all over the sides of the buildings. You recognize the smells of a few of the herbs you notice growing at your feet, each carefully labeled in a swirling hand. In the center of the small square of space there is a cracked fountain and a bench with a few battered books and a chipped tea cup, as if someone was just here but left in a hurry. You look around quickly, expecting someone to be watching you, but only catch the silent swish of a tail out of the corner of your eye.
Ah, I wish I could go there right now. Go and enter, I’d love to hear about your imaginary gardens!
Hi and thanks for visiting! My name is Brittany Warman and I am a PhD student in English and Folklore at The Ohio State University. My main interests are fairy tale, folktale, and myth retellings in literature, fairy tales generally, speculative literature (particularly the Gothic and Fantastic), supernatural folklore (especially conceptions of magic and fairylore/witch lore), feminist theory, experimental literature, and digital media. I also do a bit of creative writing :).