Friday, March 19, 2010

Women in Folklore Month: Kate Bernheimer

Kate Bernheimer first came to my attention during the heydey of SurLaLune's Discussion Boards, another boon of the early days of SurLaLune. Her career has taken off in the intervening years, including several books and the launching of Fairy Tale Review.

Here's a short bio from the Fairy Tale Review website:

Kate Bernheimer is the author of two novels, The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold (FC2) and The Complete Tales of Merry Gold (FC2), Her first story collection is forthcoming from Coffee House in 2010, and called Horse, Flower, Bird. It will be illustrated by Rikki Ducornet. She has just edited a collection of contemporary fairy tales for Penguin (forthcoming Fall 2010) and is also editor of two essay collections, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales (Anchor/Vintage) and Brothers and Beasts: An Anthology of Men on Fairy Tales (Wayne State University Press). Bernheimer’s first children’s book, The Girl in The Castle inside The Museum (Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House), was illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli, and was named a Best Book of 2008 by Publisher’s Weekly. Her second children’s book, The Lonely Book, is being illustrated by Chris Sheban (forthcoming Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House). She is currently Writer in Residence and Associate Professor at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, living in the Ernest Gaines House and teaching a workshop each spring semester. She spends the rest of the year elsewhere. Kate Bernheimer also serves on the Board of FC2, one of the country’s oldest independent publishers of innovative fiction. She welcomes your invitations to give fiction readings or lectures on contemporary fairy tales.

Here's a description of Fairy Tale Review from Amazon:

Each issue of "Fairy Tale Review" contains poetry, fiction, and nonfiction that either address the abiding influence of fairy tales on contemporary literature and culture, or are themselves contemporary fairy tales in prose or verse. It is, according to editor Kate Bernheimer, 'a venue for all writers working with the aesthetics and motifs of fairy tales'. "Fairy Tale Review's" first four issues ("The Blue Issue, 2005"; "The Green Issue, 2006"; "The Violet Issue, 2007"; and "The White Issue, 2008") contain contributions from nationally recognized authors such as Donna Tartt, Francine Prose, Lydia Millet, Marina Warner, Jack Zipes, Aimee Bender, and Rikki Ducornet. Stories from the first three issues have been noted or chosen for republication in Best New American Writers and Best American Short Stories. Seven stories and seven poems in all have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. This fifth volume, "The Aquamarine Issue", contains work by Kim Addonizio, Naoko Awa, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Angela Fountas, Annie Guthrie, Sam Martone, Joyelle McSweeney, Edgar Allan Poe, Terese Svoboda, and Steve Tomasula, among many others.

Currently, there are five issues of Fairy Tale Review, all available through Amazon (use individual links below or cover links in this post) or the FTR website:

Fairy Tale Review, The Blue Issue
Fairy Tale Review, The Green Issue
Fairy Tale Review, The Violet Issue
Fairy Tale Review, The White Issue
Fairy Tale Review, The Aquamarine Issue

I have to admit that my favorite work of Bernheimer's--for completely personal and emotional reasons--are Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales and Brothers and Beasts: An Anthology of Men on Fairy Tales. Both are collections of essays by various individuals ruminating on fairy tales.

Here's a description for Mirror, Mirror:

Fairy tales are one of the most enduring forms of literature, their plots retold and characters reimagined for centuries. In this elegant and thought-provoking collection of original essays, Kate Bernheimer brings together twenty-eight leading women writers to discuss how these stories helped shape their imaginations, their craft, and our culture. In poetic narratives, personal histories, and penetrating commentary, the assembled authors bare their soul and challenge received wisdom. Eclectic and wide-ranging, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall is essential reading for anyone who has ever been bewitched by the strange and fanciful realm of fairy tales.

Contributors include: Alice Adams, Julia Alvarez, Margaret Atwood, Ann Beattie, Rosellen Brown, A. S. Byatt, Kathryn Davis, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Deborah Eisenberg, Maria Flook, Patricia Foster, Vivian Gornick, Lucy Grealy, bell hooks, Fanny Howe, Fern Kupfer, Ursula K. Le Guin, Carole Maso, Jane Miller, Lydia Millet, Joyce Carol Oates, Connie Porter, Francine Prose, Linda Gray Sexton, Midori Snyder, Fay Weldon, Joy Williams, Terri Windling.

Brothers and Beasts does the same except with men writing their experiences.

This September we will also see My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me by Kate Bernheimer and Gregory Maguire. I don't know much about it yet--I haven't asked Kate!--but I will be sure to highlight it here closer to publication date.

Needless to say, Bernheimer's work has already made a great contribution to the field of reading and studying fairy tales and she will remain a person to watch in the years to come.

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