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Book Review: No Man of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll

I downloaded this book off NetGalley for review purposes. But why did I pick this book out of everything I found on there?

That’s fairly simple. My friend R. Jean Bell clued me in to its existence.  When I read the blurb, I almost squealed with joy. Books like this need to exist and they need more allies spreading the word.

I would love for nothing more than to see stories like this published in mainstream venues. On a regular basis.

For a straight white girl like me, heroes to identify with are everywhere. But I’m not the only reader out there, am I?

I have to admit I didn’t read the preface. I rarely do. Always too impatient to get to the stories. If I even glance at those first storyless pages, it’s a miracle.

And so I jumped into the first of the stories, and met a non-binary fisher. I really liked xer too. And I very much liked the spirit xie showed.

But I was a bit disappointed when all that agency and resoucefulness and personality was followed with a prophecy. Yes. I’m not spoiling it. It says so in the preface. I did go back and read it after I complained about this very thing to my friend.

Yes. I know now that this collection is set up as such. The stories are all about prophecies that go beyond male or female genders. Prophecies that non-binary, genderfluid or transgendered readers can identify with.

But I would have loved to just see these characters rely on themselves. Be the strong, empowered and lovable people that they are.

To me, but I’m weird like that, it feels like a character’s accomplishment is somewhat diminished when you tack on a prophecy.

“Oh but it was always prophecied that you’d do this.”

I felt like that too when Eowyn killed whats-his-face in The Return of the King. The fact that a prophecy predicted this took away part of the power of her agency in choosing to be in that battle in the first place.

So yes. I admit it. I don’t like prophecies. I did like these stories though. Once I convinced myself to ignore the prophecising.

What I love most about fiction is that it allows me to travel and experience. I visit places I’ve never seen before, do things I’d never get to do in real life.

And for the duration of No Man of Woman Born, I was transported into the minds of these people in a way that you don’t get when you meet them in real life.

I got a glimpse of characters I’d love to see more of, in fiction that reflects the whole sum of human experience. I want people, readers, writers and editors, to see that and to give us more of that.

Rather than seeing our differences, I choose to see the things we have in common. We are all living, breathing, loving creatures.

And we need to read more, learn more, about those of us who are not like ourselves. It’s time we start accepting people for who they are, and it’s high time for literature to lead the way by showing us society as it is. Not some ideal, censored model of it.

climbs off soapbox

OK. That said, I’m a writer and I can never not see the technical bits. Is the writing flawless? Of course not. It’s a wee bit filtered here and there, and I caught one or two editing slips.

But here’s the thing: flawless writing is usually dead. Sterile. This is certainly not the case for No Man of Woman Born.

But would I spend money on this book? Happily. I’d even read it to my niece and nephew since I want them to meet a diverse range of heroes, and they’d love some of the stories. Especially my two favourites, the Sleeping Beauty variation, and the first one in the book, where the fisher faces off with a dragon.

If you read this collection, or plan to, please let me know what you think. I always enjoy bookish discussions.

Hugs

Jasmine

 

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