Evil Queens and Chex Mix

I recently traveled to Gooding, Idaho, to faciliate a book talk. These rurally centered “talks” are part of an ongoing program called “Let’s Talk About It” and have enjoyed a healthy tradition of funding from the Idaho Hunanities Council. This was Gooding’s first time with the program, designed to promote opportunities for folks from smaller areas to gather and share discussion on a particular read. I’ve been involved with the program for several years now, and I always enjoy a chance to connect with people through literature when I don’t have to give a grade.

Honored to be the first of five facilitators in Gooding, I jammed through a book of Classic Fairy Tales, enjoying visits to old favorites–(hello, dear Ms. Ridinghood and that so-sensitive pea princess) while encountering some harrowing tales that were quite foreign (Bluebeard, yikes!) The Gooding session went well, with most of the participants having read the collection.

I arrived to find the library sharing space with both the police department and the city council. Ushered into the city council chambers, the hospitable staff had arranged treats–lemon bars, mint Oreos and Chex mix. The ladies entered. One woman came, sporting a tattoo of the beast from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I told her she didn’t have to go to such measures for a book talk…

Conversation ranged from the moral intention of the tales and their origins to whether or not it is appropriate for a girl to be treated like a “princess” with a lively debate over the definition of the term. Connections to other literary works were made, among them Twilight, Macbeth and the Border Series by Cormac McCarthy.

Quote of the evening:
“You know, it’s never the Evil Queen who is the well-rounded person in these stories.” I agree. And why does the Evil Queen always get the bad rap? She shares the dubious honor of being the bad-ass, along with the Wicked Stepmothers wrecking lives and havoc in their ball gowns and castles. Collectively, we decided that maybe the EQs and WSs deserved a second look… Perhaps the disappointment of being the second choice of the King (having undoubtedly lost the love of his life to some tragic illness or accident) has wrought some emotional damage that is then inflicted upon others. What would their Facebook profiles look like? People are complex, as Gregory Maquire, author of Wicked points out… Maybe they just didn’t get the opportunity to tell their side of things.

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to meet in these forums that encourage dialogue and for the richness that comes with simply gathering in a space with food and drink to share a book.

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