Imagine, in a time where teenage supernatural book series and love triangles are new authors’ tickets to the best selling charts and subsequent films, trying to describe that you’ve written a fairy tale?
A black one, at that?
Many are interested at the mention of this dream of ours, but I can’t blame them if they aren’t exactly sure about our vision. After all, the fairy tale genre has been pretty much antiquated, especially in book form.
When was the last time a fairy tale was listed as a New York Times bestseller? When has it ever been?
Well, dreams are funny things. They come alongside inspiration, and grab ahold of you, and whether you’re the most down-to-earth type or free spirit, you can’t quite shake them, no matter how hard you try. On top of that, life has a funny way of nudging you along with signs that make it impossible to forget your dreams for long. This very site, with it’s countless articles and discussions or representations, has been one of winks from the universe for me to never forget my dream. And while for twenty years my mother and I have dreamed to bring the fairy tale, The Prince and Timberance, to the world-it wasn’t until I found this site that the final puzzle piece would be added to push me over the edge into entrepreneurship and self-publishing. It was this article that finally did it.
My mother was inspired to write the fairy tale The Prince and Timberance in 1993, just as my sisters and I were in the midst of our Disney movie collection love affair. Popular titles like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast were in constant rotation at our home on VHS.
It would take one afternoon of my mother passing by the living room, with a familiar Disney classic playing on the screen in front of her youngest daughter, that would stop her in her tracks. She saw her daughter trying to get her very tightly curled hair to “flip” over her shoulder (something that it could do but only after receiving salon-style treatment first). That daughter happened to be me, and when she asked me about it, I would tell her I was trying to get my hair to move the way Belle’s hair had moved on the screen. While she and I both knew what it was like to be fully engrossed in a fairy tale, she also knew one thing that a child my age couldn’t have possibly articulated at the time; that there would be times when a child whose skin was not fair, or whose hair was not golden or straight, would feel the magical looking glass crack, so to speak.
A mother who’s had that same childhood experience could instantly connect with the layered meaning of that moment. It instantly took her back to the time when she had first started reading fairy tale classics herself as a young girl, and the little “pinch” she felt when she repeatedly read about the whiteness and fairness of the beautiful maiden’s skin in Snow White. While the fact that a mere physical trait was mentioned wasn’t the issue, the difference between who she was as a reader and who she loved in the story was starkly apparent. And that difference was even more pronounced when she found herself searching through book after book for an equally mere mention of a trait that represented something on her own body. It would be the same for every classic tale she searched through…no mention of hair texture, skin color or other discerning trait that ever reflected her own. Ever.
It was in that candid moment decades later of witnessing her own daughter’s awareness of what separated her from the characters in the magical world of fairy tales that one of the first signs of divine inspiration could seep into a busy, working mother’s world.
Imagine if there were a new fairy tale, she thought, true to the classic memes of the genre; that believed enchantment was gracefully sprinkled not only on people whose skin was as white as snow or fair, but also on people whose skin were as rich as the earth, who had hair as soft as cotton, or eyes that shone like the darkest of jewels…
It wouldn’t be soon after she had that idea, that such a story would be imagined by her. The excitement of such a story would shake up her entire world and take her from a busy mother of five who worked part-time into the very complex world of artistry, writing, and storytelling. Before she knew it, a fully fledged story that she was proud of was ready to be shared with her daughters. In fact, not only did she give me a special story but unknowingly, she gave me a lifelong dream-one that I am still working on to this day.
That story introduced me to the world of unsolicited manuscripts, and countless (countless!) rejections from publishers and literary agents. Helping my mother draft letters, I came to know the importance a story like The Prince and Timberance held-it would get people of the African diaspora a seat at the table of fairy tale classics-a seat it deserves. I’ve spent my life witnessing, and now taking the reigns, in one woman’s quest for publication and recognition. The Prince and Timberance, to me, is not just a story nor a dream-it is a project that I have given my life to and finally in 2012-after having graduated but failing to “get my foot in the door” at a major publishing house-decided to do whatever it took to get this story in the hands of readers.
We’ve printed it ourselves. We’re selling it ourselves. And I’m blogging about it at enchantedroots.wordpress.com. We thank Clutch, it’s readers, and it’s thoughtful commentors for inspiring us to release our Inner Issa Rae. It’s been a long time coming.
The Prince and Timberance is a chapter book recommended for ages 8-12, but can be read aloud to children of all ages. Read excerpts, find out where to purchase the book, learn more about the story here.
Thank you for dreaming with us!