The best fairy tale adaptations with verve and edge

Who am I?

Long before I became a “fairy tale scholar,” I was keenly aware of the ways that fairy tales saturate our cultural landscape. Given their ubiquity, who isn’t? But my awareness was always a discomfiting one, an unnerving at the fairy tale’s insistent cheeriness; it was this unnerving that made me fall deeply in love with The Bloody Chamber, the collection that so beautifully flays the fairy tale to reveal its dark and sordid heart. In researching The Bloody Chamber, I saw ever more clearly that the fairy tale’s grim underbelly involves not only twisted ideas about gender and desire and love but also about race, and this discovery has motivated my research over the past decade.


I wrote...

Erotic Infidelities: Love and Enchantment in Angela Carter's the Bloody Chamber

By Kimberly J. Lau,

Book cover of Erotic Infidelities: Love and Enchantment in Angela Carter's the Bloody Chamber

What is my book about?

Since the publication of The Bloody Chamber in 1979, Angela Carter’s reimagined fairy tales have inspired an impressive body of criticism. Yet none has addressed the ways her fairy tales grapple with and seek to overcome the near impossibility of heterosexual love and desire under patriarchy. In Erotic Infidelities, author Kimberly J. Lau argues that the strangeness of Carter’s fairy-tale enchantments—the moments when love or erotic desire escape the deeply familiar, habitual structures and ideologies that contain them—show the momentary, fleeting possibilities for heterosexual love and desire. Foregrounding Carter’s relationship to psychoanalytic theory and issues of language and desire, Lau argues that Carter’s "erotic infidelities" work against our culturally determined expectations and longings and usher us into welcoming new enchantments.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories

Kimberly J. Lau Why did I love this book?

Groundbreaking and now canonical, Angela Carter’s Bloody Chamber stories are provocative and daring, tender and enchanting, as often unsettling as unexpected. The ten tales in Carter’s collection reconsider traditional fairy-tale themes—love, romance, transformation, taboo—with feminist wit and bite, taking readers on a complicated, dizzying, at times thorny, journey through her particular labyrinth of European fairy tales, British folklore, and western literary canons.

By Angela Carter,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Bloody Chamber as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an introduction by Helen Simpson. From familiar fairy tales and legends - Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss in Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires and werewolves - Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.


Book cover of Mr. Fox

Kimberly J. Lau Why did I love this book?

Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr. Fox is a complex, enthralling pastiche of a novel. Interweaving adaptations of Bluebeard, Fitcher’s Bird, Mr. Fox, and the ballad of Reynardine, Mr. Fox invites readers into a vertiginous wonderland where Oyeyemi’s adaptations interrogate the workings of gender and race, romance and desire, imperialism and geopolitics. Moving slipstream-style across the twentieth century, Mr. Fox offers a transnational circuit of stories and characters that connect gendered and raced cultural conventions with the misogyny and violence of the Bluebeard tradition, ultimately challenging readers to consider (and reconsider) European literary and artistic traditions as well as their underlying ideological structures.

By Helen Oyeyemi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mr. Fox as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Fiction
One of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists

From the prizewinning young writer of What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, Gingerbread, and Peaces comes a brilliant and inventive story of love, lies, and inspiration.

Fairy-tale romances end with a wedding, and the fairy tales don't get complicated. In this book, the celebrated writer Mr. Fox can't stop himself from killing off the heroines of his novels, and neither can his wife, Daphne. It's not until Mary, his muse, comes to life and transforms him from author into subject that his story begins…


Book cover of White Is for Witching

Kimberly J. Lau Why did I love this book?

White Is for Witching is, on the surface, a story about a gothic haunted house, but it opens with a reference to “Snow White”—“Her throat is blocked with a slice of apple / (to stop her speaking words that may betray her)”—and conjures that tale throughout the novel. Collapsing witching, whiteness, and outright racism, White is for Witching suggests that the same racial superiority undergirds “Snow White,” where the eponymous character is celebrated for her whiteness, implicitly naturalized as beauty when she is identified as “fairest in the land.” White is for Witching, like Oyeyemi’s other fairy-tale novels, rewrites European fairy tale conventions to make strange the familiar and to normalize the unexpected, thereby disrupting genre expectations to expose the European fairy tale's underlying racial logics.

By Helen Oyeyemi,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked White Is for Witching as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Haunting in every sense, White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi is a spine-tingling tribute to the power of magic, myth and memory.

High on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the loss of Lily, mother of twins Eliot and Miranda, and beloved wife of Luc. Miranda misses her with particular intensity. Their mazy, capricious house belonged to her mother's ancestors, and to Miranda, newly attuned to spirits, newly hungry for chalk, it seems they have never left. Forcing apples to grow in winter, revealing and concealing secret floors, the house is fiercely possessive of young…


Book cover of Six-Gun Snow White

Kimberly J. Lau Why did I love this book?

Valente’s novella stages “Snow White” in the Wild West against an evocative backdrop of settler colonialism, the sexual commodification of women, the specter of Indian orphanages, and feminist/feminine enclaves. Here, where the European fairy-tale tradition meets Indigenous folklore and mythology, Six-Gun Snow White challenges the dominant, implicitly racialized understandings of beauty and femininity at the heart of “Snow White.”

By Catherynne M. Valente, Charlie Bowater (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Six-Gun Snow White as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestselling author offers a brilliant reinvention of one of the best-known fairy tales of all time with Snow White as a gunslinger in the mythical Wild West.

Forget the dark, enchanted forest. Picture instead a masterfully evoked Old West where you are more likely to find coyotes as the seven dwarves. Insert into this scene a plain-spoken, appealing narrator who relates the history of our heroine’s parents—a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. Although her mother’s life ended…


Book cover of Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold

Kimberly J. Lau Why did I love this book?

Bolu Babalola’s Love in Color is, technically, more a collection of reimagined myths than a collection of retold fairy tales, but the stories are so richly and wonderfully rendered, so smart and edgy and beguiling, that it seems silly to privilege a strict genre definition over a powerful collection. Babalola is shameless in her embrace of love—indeed, she confesses that she loves love—and yet her contemporary takes on global myths trouble any easy ideas about love the reader might bring to the collection. Love, here, is messy, tangled, frightening, and—according to Babalola—worth the tribulations it inspires.

By Bolu Babalola,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Love in Color as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

"Love stories by and about marginalized women . . . The heroines are strong and sure . . . Babalola’s writing shines.” — New York Times Book Review

"Absolutely intoxicating." — Casey McQuiston, New York Times bestselling author of Red, White, and Royal Blue and One Last Stop

A vibrant debut collection of love stories from the bestselling author of Honey and Spice, retelling myths, folktales, and histories from around the world.

A high-born Nigerian goddess, who has been beaten down and unappreciated by her gregarious lover, longs to be truly seen. A young businesswoman attempts a great…


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The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

By Susan Rowland,

Book cover of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

Susan Rowland Author Of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

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Who am I?

Author Part-time celt Modern alchemist Myth hunter Jungian

Susan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A traditional mystery with a touch of cozy, The Alchemy Fire Murder is for those who like feisty women sleuths, Oxford Colleges, alchemy, strong characters, and real concerns like trafficking, wildfires, racism, and climate change. This book especially works for those fascinated by myth and witches in history. Read for a seventeenth-century alchemist in Connecticut, a lost alchemy scroll stuck in a California Museum, and a blizzard in Los Angeles.

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The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

By Susan Rowland,

What is this book about?

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Mary agrees to get the real scroll back as part of a commission for her three-person Enquiry Agency. However, tragedy strikes in Los Angeles. Before Mary can legally obtain the scroll, a young…


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