This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.Her Stories by Virginia Hamilton
Published by Scholastic Inc. on November 4, 1995
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Fairy Tales & Folklore / Country & Ethnic, Juvenile Nonfiction / Girls & Women, Juvenile Nonfiction / People & Places / United States / African American & Black
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In the tradition of Hamilton's The People Could Fly and In the Beginning, a dramatic new collection of 25 compelling tales from the female African American storytelling tradition. Each story focuses on the role of women--both real and fantastic--and their particular strengths, joys and sorrows. Full-color illustrations.
Today’s Throwback Thursday book feature is inspired by my current read: Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen. The main character is a Black mermaid, a mama wata. When I first saw the cover I immediately thought about the story, “Mary Belle and the Mermaid” in Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales told by Virginia Hamilton and illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon. I think I may have originally read it when I was a freshman in high school.
Sad Mermaid Tales
First, things first, if you have images and ideas of The Little Mermaid in your head…shut that down. “Mary Belle and the Mermaid” is super sad. I remember being disappointed actually at how sad the story was when I first read it. And just like most fairy tales, there is and should be a trigger warning. This one is for suicide.
Cape Verdean Origins
I actually wrote a review of “Mary Belle and the Mermaid” for my anthology project for ninth grade. I will have to go find that! lol! I got so excited about the story is because part of my heritage is Cape Verdean. The Cape Verde Islands are a country off the West coast of Africa. In the comments at the end of the story it explained how it was possible that the “Mary Belle and the Mermaid” could possibly have Cape Verdean and Portuguese connections.
Her Stories About Black Girls and Women
“Mary Belle and the Mermaid” is just one of many stories in this folktale collection. One of the major highlights of the book are the gorgeous illustrations. I love them! I wish I could find some wall art of them, they are that good.
The stories are grouped together into Animal Tales, Fairy Tales, Supernatural Tales, Folkways and Legends and True Tales. All of the stories feature a female narrative and they are all African American, hence the title. In this book young girls and women get to see Black women portrayed as mermaids, fairies, witches and animals. Female empowerment is a feature of many of the stories.
I love the comment feature at the end of each story. It provides information about the origins of the tale, including where it came from and other possible versions that are commonly told. Some of the stories I loved in addition to “Mary Belle and the Mermaid” were “Woman and Man Started Even” and “Annie Christmas.” They both also have amazing paintings that correspond with the stories.
Are there any fairy tale or folk tale collections that you love?