Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Real Reason the Queen Hated Snow by Annette Marie Hyder

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

· Paperback: 168 pages
· Publisher: Twilight Times Books, 2007
· Price: $16.95
· ISBN-10: 1933353872
· ISBN-13: 978-1933353876

The Real Reason the Queen Hated Snow by Annette Marie Hyder is a collection of short stories, poems, recipes and essays. For the most part, all are built on and around the feminine (and feminist) experience, and the structure is reminiscent of fairy tales and fables, folklore and mythology. At the end of many of these pieces are citations, short explanations, recommended reading.

Hyder is knowledgeable about her sources and about the ideals of feminism. As a feminist myself, I appreciate the message and, quite often, the delivery in this collection. We see the strength that is uniquely a woman’s; we see the comfort and nurturing she offers; we see the feminine spirit and why it keeps the world turning. We also see glimpses of the pain Woman has endured through the ages, and the survival skills she has learned in order to evade, as Hyder calls that force in various pieces, “the predator.” And we also have recipes, like grandmother’s challah bread, and Big Mama’s recipe for “moon pie,” for we are spirit and mind, but body, too.

Sharing many of Hyder’s views, I found here much to enjoy, and I also identifying with many of the experiences explored and described. There are the broken hearts, but also the rising up again, the limitless ability to love and with it, hand in hand, the struggle to forgive the unforgivable. While perhaps the fairy tales moved me least, the essays describing such heroines as Mukhtaran Mai, in “The Strength of Stones,” left an indelible impression. The latter is a true story about a Pakistani woman whose people attempted to stone her to death in atonement for, not her own, but her brother’s sins, and later gang raped her, for the same reason. The woman’s response is one of awe-inspiring survival, but also a rising up from such injustice to build the village’s first school for girls, creating great good from great evil. Because knowledge is power, and Mukhtaran understood that revenge is short-lived, but to provide education to her sisters was a long-term and much more effective solution.

“She has become polished obsidian for other women to see themselves within. And her name has become a stone in the hands of women far and wide and around this world—Mukhtaran Mai. Her name has become a stone in the collective fist of resistance raised against silence and humiliation. And her name has become the rush and sound of water—running its course to freedom.”

So Hyder inspires her readers, sometimes with stories of global reach, other times with a personal poem that is hers alone, yet reflects and mirrors similar facets in all women. The mix is ever changing, and this may indeed by the collection’s only weak spot … yet one I would hope the author might consider carefully, should there be any reprint forthcoming of the book. There is so much value here, and good writing, and strong stories, yet the overall effect tends to get lost for lack of a solid framework. The overall effect is, instead, one of disorganization, and at times it can be jarring. The reader moves from a poem to a recipe to a fairy tale to an essay, and each one may have a very different tone and voice and message. The very same pieces, arranged within a more logical flow (the life stages of a woman’s life? the rooms in a woman’s home and what each contains? the various roles a woman plays? international lines?) Any number of themes might work to give the collection a sense of connection, moving the reader along.

This collection, however flawed or missing its framework, holds much treasure for the reader willing to wander. I appreciate the extra notes, the recommended reading, the links and information about several very worthy causes addressed in the stories, should one wish to do more than simply turn a page and read.

Annette Marie Hyder is the literature editor for InTheFray Magazine. Her poetry has been translated into German, Italian, Dutch and Spanish, included in numerous anthologies and published in book form. Her articles appear in print throughout the United States and internationally, and she is the founder and curator of the international feminist project Facing Feminism: Feminists I Know. Cover artwork of this book is by Kurt Ozinga.

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