Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fairy Tales, Controversy, and 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader

Tender Morsels Sisters Red

Well, the blogosphere is lit up tonight with the controversy over Bitch Magazine's removal of titles from their 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader. First, let me make clear that I'm not posting here to jump onto any bandwagon. This isn't the forum for that although I welcome your comments if you want to comment on that aspect. I'm approaching this post from the SurLaLune viewpoint which is, wow, two of the three removed titles are fairy tale retellings. And they weren't removed for that reason either. I'm just, well, I don't know the emotion, but fascinated is the overwhelming feeling at this point. From the images above you can see that the removed titles are Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce and Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. Yes, our January SurLaLune Book Club Pick was removed from the list.

Here's the reasons for their removals by Ashley McAllister:

A couple of us at the office read and re-read Sisters Red, Tender Morsels and Living Dead Girl this weekend. We’ve decided to remove these books from the list— Sisters Red because of the victim-blaming scene that was discussed earlier in this post, Tender Morsels because of the way that the book validates (by failing to critique or discuss) characters who use rape as an act of vengeance, and Living Dead Girl because of its triggering nature. We still feel that these books have merit and would not hesitate to recommend them in certain instances, but we don’t feel comfortable keeping them on this particular list.

We’ve replaced these books with Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley and Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. Thanks to several commenters who pointed out the need to include these excellent books on our list. I’m excited to add a few more rad girls to our list and I can’t say how happy I am to know that there are WAY more than 100 young adult books out there that tackle sexism, racism, homophobia, etc… while presenting us with amazing young adult characters. Young adult lit has come a long way. We’re really excited to keep talking about feminist-friendly YA books on the blog.
Count me fascinated that fairy tales once again have found a way to be in the middle of a controversy. They are lovely, malleable creatures aren't they?

And, no, they weren't the only fairy tale retellings or at least fairy tale influenced novels on the original list either. (I say original because it may change more as authors request their titles to be removed out of protest of the changes.) Here were the other three on the list, some rather surprising. So there were five, now there are three.

Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You

Ella Enchanted


And I was fascinated that The Blue Sword was used to replace the removed titles and not McKinley's Deerskin instead. (Which would have at least replaced a fairy tale with a fairy tale, smile.) Deerskin seems a better fit for the original list either way. There is even a comment on the page supporting Deerskin so I wasn't the only one to think this.

And, yikes, there was a comment on the Bitch Magazine page that called LRRH a sexist fairy tale. Ouch. I would love to argue with that, but will simply end this post for now.


  1. I honestly can't read this post because of the highly distracting flashing of products in the side bar. You may want to consider having the images change slowly with maybe a smooth transition.
    Just a friendly tip. Hope it's helpful.

  2. They do flow slowly in Firefox. Maybe it's a browser issue.