I love what have come to be known as Urban Faerie-Tales. They constitute a genre related to the Twilight phenomenon but instead of sparkly vampires the focus is on those magical beings collectively known as “The Fey”. It’s a sub-genre within the wider milieu of Young Adult fiction that has exploded in popularity thanks to Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games.
I’m a self-confessed fangirl; especially of Melissa Marr and Holly Black whose Wicked Lovely and Tithe series introduced me to the genre.
So, wherein lies the attraction? For me, it’s deeply personal. I am transgendered. When I first began transitioning in late 2005 I began a radical process of liberation and personal transformation that allowed a flood of desires and interests to find expression that previously had been almost entirely stifled.
I underwent the big operation in June 2008 at the Centre Métropolitain de Chirurgie in Montreal, Canada. Dr. Pierre Brassard was the gifted surgeon who handled the delicate operation. I am forever in his debt. As part of my pre-flight/pre-surgical preparation I recognized the need for something to read both on the plane and to help pass time while I recovered from the invasive surgical procedure.
With that in mind, I strolled into my local Chapters bookstore and made my way downstairs to the Young Adult section. Now, I’m in my 50’s **cough** but wandering into the Young Adult section of a bookstore is completely suited to my personality as anyone who knows me will testify. I have a quote on my Facebook page that reads: “Rachel’s like a big kid isn’t she?” courtesy of my dear friend, Mallory. And she is correct. I am, indeed, like a big kid. I like to say “I’m about 14 in girl years.” LOL 🙂
Anyways, I knew basically what I wanted to read. I wanted to read an adventure book about faeries! However, in my mind’s eye the kinds of faeries I wanted to read about weren’t like Disney’s Tinkerbell (although, I think she’s great). No, I was thinking of faeries more along the lines of Legolas, the oh-so-cool Elf from The Lord of the Rings. However, I also wanted a female protagonist. Since I was in the process of joining the girls’ team it was important to me (and it remains so) that I read about female characters and female centered adventures.
Fortunately, a young Chapter’s employee came to my rescue, having spotted me wandering misguidedly about the myriad stacks of books. She asked me what I was looking for and I explained that I was interested in books about faeries. I also solicited her advice on what young people considered to be amongst the best or most popular. She rambled off a few titles but soon led me over to where Holly Black’s “Tithe” series was located.
“Tithe” is a trilogy. It consists of Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside. It was tempting to read them as soon as I got home but I resisted—valiantly so 😉
I was in the middle of reading something else by the time I was due to arrive in Montreal. Honestly, I have no recollection of what it was. However, I definitely remember, “Tithe”. It was a revelation!
Holly Black is a gifted writer, possibly known most for her work collaborating on the popular Spiderwick Chronicles. But for me, she will forever be known, and perhaps unfairly defined by, her work within the sub-genre of Faerie fiction.
Why do I enjoy Faerie fiction so much? I think, for me, it’s a perfect blend of feminine sensibility and edgy, magical, mystical adventure. In the hands of a Holly Black or Melissa Marr it is potent stuff. My son loves classical literature and tells me that Ovid’s “Metamorphosis” touches upon the universal theme of transformation. doubtless, Ovid’s influence is felt in the world of Faerie fiction; however, subtle that influence may be.
Undeniably my own transformation from male to female is one of the most profound journeys of transformation a human being can make. Frequently, within Faerie fiction one finds plot elements involving physical transformations. More often than not, the female protagonist moves from human to faerie, or has some long dormant faerie pedigree that is awakened at some point during the telling. Obviously, this kind of motif resonates powerfully with individuals such as myself.
There exists within Faerie fiction an almost perfect blend of masculine and feminine sensibilities. Yet, too often, I think, feminine traits are decried in a patriarchically infused culture. What a shame! Transsexuals are often criticized for reinforcing a status quo in which females are relegated as sex-objects, and as mere extensions of a male matrix. Proponents of Radical Feminism have been particularly out-spoken in their criticism of transgendered male-to-females. What a shame! And yet, I believe the beauty and glory of feminine sensibilities are innate and should be afforded equal respect alongside the very boldest manifestations of masculinity.
I really enjoyed reading Louann Brizendine’s, “The Female Brain”. It’s a wonderful book and I highly recommend it to men and women alike. In it, the author relates how a feminist friend of hers wished to raise a daughter free of gender-stamped toys. In a sincere effort to raise her daughter free of such limitations she avoided giving her dolls, tea sets, and other such stereotypical “girl toys”. Her little girl did , however, own a typical boy’s toy in the form of a red fire engine. I actually gave my copy away to a friend, but fortunately I found a great quote taken from this part of the book:
She walked into her daughter’s room one afternoon to find her cuddling the truck in a baby blanket, rocking it back and forth saying, “Don’t worry, little truckie, everything will be all right.”
This isn’t socialization. This little girl didn’t cuddle her “truckie” because her environment molded her unisex brain. There is no unisex brain. She was born with a female brain, which came complete with its own impulses. Girls arrive already wired as girls, and boys arrive already wired as boys. Their brains are different by the time they’re born, and their brains are what drive their impulses, values, and their very reality.
Wow! I love that. Of course, as a transwoman. I relate strongly to notions of a hardwired female brain. I like to describe it as the small female rudder that determined my masculine boat’s journey into feminine waters. I thank God for it! I urge women to embrace their femininity. As the old song goes, “I enjoy being a girl” and so should every woman that feels that impetus.
However, it’s also about choice and it’s about freedom. Some cisgendered females by their own admission lack that kind of hardwired feminine sensibility. I get that. I was born in a male body so I understand that a woman may feel more masculine than feminine. Obviously, we should recognize her right to define herself as she is.
Nonetheless, let us not decry feminine impulses to emote, nurture, comfort, and embrace a desire to be pretty, and desirable. It’s all part of being a feminine woman or a feminine man as the case may be. For me, those characteristics are to be respected and valued. Melissa Marr has written on numerous occasions that her motive in writing what turned out to be the 5 part Wicked Lovely series was to create something specifically that her daughter might enjoy. I am so happy she did.
And now to the lovely heroine that headlines this particular entry—the Batman Princess. Is she not the most adorable thing? This little girl is the daughter of a woman who recognizes the simple, but profound truth, that her daughter is being true to herself. For a Halloween costume her daughter expressed a desire to be the Batman Princess.
No, not Batgirl, but a Batman Princess. It makes perfect sense to me. When my three-year old is dressed in her Dora the Explorer shoes, shirt, and jacket, she says “I’m a Dora Princess!” Once she called me a princess simply because I was wearing a hat. “Princess” just means “fancy”. Can you be a Batman Princess? Yes, of course. The crafting blogger Donkey’s Alright understands this.
This little girl is the living embodiment of an innocent, honest, truthful, representation of self. She is the personification of an edgy yet feminine presentation that should bring a smile of encouragement to anyone recognizing the integrity that rests at the core of this darling girl’s soul.
We can learn from her. After-all, aren’t the Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen, Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft, and a host of other edgy-yet-feminine heroines simply grown-up versions of the Batman Princess?
Jesus, himself, is undoubtedly a fan of our little Batman Princess.
“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”
Matthew 19:14 New Living Translation (©2007)