Fairy tales are incredibly powerful. Many of us grew up hearing and reading them from the time we are children, which only increases their influence. But not all groups and identities are represented in fairy tales, and that’s something that author Anna-Marie McLemore is trying to change. In her new book, Wild Beauty, McLemore tells a story about love and magic that will enchant readers to the end. Here, McLemore talks about her love of fairy tales and the importance of making them more inclusive.
I love fairy tales. I love them so much that even when I don’t mean them to, they find their way into my stories. Wild Beauty may be the book I’ve written so far that looks most like a fairy tale. It’s a book about family secrets that are both wonderful and treacherous. It takes place in gardens that are both beautiful and dangerous. It’s the story of a generation of cousins who are both haunted by their family’s legacy and enchanted by their own fierce hearts.
It’s also a book about bi and queer Latina girls. The princesses of this story are young women of color, and they love in ways that may be mysterious to some of their mothers and grandmothers but are very clear to them.
Fairy tales exist in every tradition because of how they speak to us. They reveal how we are both flawed and miraculous. They make us see each other and ourselves. So often, our fairy tales tell us who we are, and tell us how to look at each other, how to consider each other, how to meet each other in both the world we know and the worlds we imagine.
And our fairy tales so often declare who is and is not welcome. By making space for all communities and all identities in our fairy tales, we make our real world more inclusive.
I was a girl who grew up both loving princess movies and feeling left out of them. Disney princesses did not look like me. Their families did not look like mine. And those princesses did not love like I loved. I still worry about that sometimes, as I write fairy tales where queer girls of color are the story’s princesses, and the princes are not quite like the ones I grew up seeing. I don’t know if that will ever go away. But this is the thing I’ve been slowly learning: That even in worlds where we don’t yet have places, we are making them. We are writing our way in.
Whatever readers hope for when they open my books—magical realism, a novel about family, a love story—I hope they leave knowing that everyone is worthy of their own fairy tales. Everyone—the shy boy at school, the odd girl in the bright-painted house, the family whose history no one knows—has their own story. Characters of color and LGBTQ characters are worthy of being seen in a way that acknowledges and respects their identities without reducing them to it. In my books, I hope readers find love stories that are familiar enough to feel a little like fairy tales, but that open the world of fairy tales a little wider.
Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and grew up in a Mexican-American family. She attended University of Southern California on a Trustee Scholarship. A Lambda Literary Fellow, she has had work featured by the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, CRATE Literary Magazine’s cratelit, Camera Obscura’s Bridge the Gap Series, and The Portland Review. She is the author of The Weight of Feathers, When the Moon Was Ours, and Wild Beauty. She lives in Sacramento, California.