A few years ago, before I decided to self-publish and was still working with Wysewomen Publishing, the subject of a companion piece for The Silver Moon Storybook came up.
Something that I wasn't expecting whilst marketing Silver Moon was the assumption among quite a lot of readers that that these "feminist fairy tales" would be re-tellings of traditional stories - Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty with a feminist twist; where the heroines unexpectedly turn round and rescue the Prince.
I do love that style*, but that's not what I set out to do with Silver Moon; I wanted my book to do more than simply turn patriarchal norms on their head and swap roles between men and women. Silver Moon coincided with a dramatic move away from "black and white" thinking on my part, and I wanted to write about the shades of grey that were emerging in my life - where there are very few clear-cut "goodies and baddies"; where we can rely on empathy to understand how peoples' own internal struggles will inevitably influence their outward behaviours.
So the stories in Silver Moon are original, and as much as I enjoy the catchiness of branding them #FeministFairyTales, the truth is that the book is probably more of a lay-person's examination of generational trauma than anything else. You can do a lot with symbolism and metaphor when it comes to discussing tricky issues, and after all - hasn't the traditional darkness of the fairy tale world always been rooted in childhood trauma?
I have for some time now, held the belief that the reason we need feminism is because growing up under Capitalist Patriarchy is basically jam-packed with trauma for everybody concerned. Under its rules, there is simply no room for real live people with emotions, needs, passions and creativity - there are only providers (traditionally men) and enablers (traditionally women).
The "feminism-by-numbers" approach to this would be to simply gender switch providers and enablers, "Look! The Princess can rescue the Prince, hooray for equality!" But to me that doesn't address the root of the problem, which is our unwillingness as a society to understand that whether you've been labelled a provider or an enabler, you are still a living, breathing human being who has been placed in a restrictive box that can feel anything from comfortable and familiar, to mildly annoying, to excrutiating. And here's the worst part - even those who find it comfortable and familiar may still be suffering deeply; they're just not really aware of it because those roles are so very "normal".
The point is that we are - all of us - full of trauma. We can't avoid it, because our society is absolutely dripping with it. We grow up on trauma, drawing it into ourselves from the world around us, as unknowingly as a tree might soak up poison spilled around its roots. The more traumatised a family we are born into, the more we inherit. And trauma informs our behaviours - to ourselves and towards each other.
So what does all this have to do with a companion volume for The Silver Moon Storybook?
Well, if Silver Moon is an examination of generational trauma through the "safe" lenses of children's fairy tales, symbolism and metaphor, it makes sense to me to provide a guide to all the subtext for parents who may be reading these stories to their children and wondering how to answer their questions. I have been heard to say more than once that I often feel caught between a generation of people who discuss nothing, and a generation who expect to discuss everything - trying to parent one with the tools given to me by the other. I certainly won't be unique in my struggles with that scenario!
But we know how important it is to talk to our children about "tricky" stuff - we know, for instance, that better sex education leads to better sexual health and delays pregnancy in young people. We know that teaching all children about menstruation reduces the stigma of having periods. We know that teaching children about sexual abuse makes them more likely to speak up if someone makes them feel uncomfortable. And although these conversations may be hard for those of us who have been strongly conditioned to the "discuss nothing" way of being, that doesn't give us a get out of jail free card not to have them.
So that's what the companion volume to Silver Moon is going to be; a handbook of sorts for anybody who's interested in the underlying themes in the fairy tales themselves, and what their significance are for the world we live in. It will all live on this blog for now, but who knows - perhaps The Silver Moon Handbook will be a tangible thing in years to come?
Keep an eye on this blog throughout March, as I have plenty of work in the diary.
In the meantime, if you are already feeling Silver-Moon-curious, please head over to my online shop to pick up your copy.
*I can highly recommend Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan if you are interested in a thoughtful and nuanced re-telling of traditional fairy tales.