Pride Month Blogathon: Day 8 – Introduction to Pride Month Blogathon
by Anna-Marie McLemore
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. But my third book, Wild Beauty (October 3), may be the story I’ve written so far that looks, from the outside, most like a fairy tale. It’s a book of secrets, pretty dresses, and magical gardens. 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 are mysterious to their mothers and grandmothers but very clear to them.
When I wrote Wild Beauty, it was with the nervous effort of wondering if I might be doing something wrong. My agent and editor were, as always, supportive of me writing queer girls of color. So why did I keep checking over my shoulder as though I might get caught? It was like I thought someone might take my notebook and pen out of my hand and remind me that Latina girls did not belong in ball gowns and enchanted gardens.
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 there were two things that made me ready to let my queer Latina fairy tale out into the world. The first was the people I get to work with and know in the book world; their enthusiasm gave me courage to write the kind of girl I am into spaces I thought I wasn’t allowed. That’s the strength of having supportive and encouraging people around you. They tell you that you are allowed. I wish I didn’t need that sometimes. But I think a lot of us do, maybe more than we ever admit.
The second thing was Wild Beauty’s cover, designed by the brilliant Danielle Mazzella di Bosco. Danielle gave the Nomeolvides girls the kind of full-out fairy tale cover I didn’t think stories about queer Latina girls got. Every time I see her beautiful work on this book, I feel a little more like a girl who might belong in the magic places my stories draw me to.
(A fellow queer girl friend also pointed out that the flower colors that stand out most on the cover match the bi pride flag. I will never unsee that and I don’t want to.)
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.
This is the thing that has been so hard for me to learn, and that I’ve been so slow to believe: That even in worlds where we don’t yet have places, we are making them.
We are writing our way in.
And this is what I most want to tell those who fear the very idea of girls like me: We don’t want to deny anyone their stories. We don’t want to take your stories. We don’t want to take anything away from you.
We just want a chance to be where you’ve been. We want a place in the enchanted worlds we’ve stood outside watching for so long.
Because that’s the thing about fairy tales. They 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. By making space for all communities and all identities in our fairy tales, we make our real world more inclusive.
Our fairy tales so often declare who is and is not welcome. So often, our stories 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.
Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, raised in the same town as the world’s largest wisteria vine, and taught by her family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. She is the author of Morris Award Finalist The Weight of Feathers and Stonewall Honor Book When the Moon Was Ours, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature. Wild Beauty will be released on October 3, 2017, and Blanca & Roja is forthcoming in 2018. You can find Anna-Marie at annamariemclemore.com or on Twitter @LaAnnaMarie.