No Longer Worn Down.

No Longer Worn Down
A review of Amal El-Mohtar’s”Seasons of Glass and Iron” in The Starlit Wood (ed. Navah Wolfe and Dominik Parisien, Saga, 2016).

By Derek Newman-Stille

Amal El-Mohtar interweaves two tales of disempowered women, one forced to perpetually walk to save an abusive husband, and one forced to remain perpetually still to avoid being placed under the power of men. Both are trapped -one in movement and one in stillness. In most fairy tales, both are situated as women in distress and need.

“Seasons of Glass and Iron” is a tale exploring the way that men attempt to control women through stories, rhetoric, and actions and the way that women can liberate themselves through collective action, and by creating their own narratives. El-Mohtar brings two disempowered fairy tale heroines together in her “Seasons of Glass and Iron” to illustrate that women are not passive objects to be moved around a man’s chess board, but rather are figures who can shift and change each other, providing support and encouragement to discard the disempowering texts surrounding them. 

Tabitha, doomed to perpetually walk in iron shoes, and Amira, doomed to a life of frozen near-death at the top of a mountain have to learn to loosen each other’s bounds, unlatching iron shoes and discarding glass mountains in order to find themselves and change the stories that have been written around them to bind them. It is a release from the spell of patriarchy – one that is presented, all too often, as unbreakable. 

“Seasons of Glass and Iron” is a tale of change and self-liberation where women come to recognize their own magic. Frequently women in fairy tales do magical things, but are not considered magical in comparison to other characters. El-Mohtar centralizes women’s magic. 

To discover more about Amal El-Mohtar, visit her website at https://amalelmohtar.com/

To find out more about The Starlit Wood, visit http://www.simonandschuster.ca/books/The-Starlit-Wood/Dominik-Parisien/9781481456128

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Home is a Place Created in Tales

A review of Amal El-Mohtar’s Mon pays c’est l’hiver (Lackington’s issue one, Winter, 2014 http://lackingtons.com/2014/02/13/mon-pays-cest-lhiver/ )
By Derek Newman-Stille

We pretend that home is an easy concept, something that comes easily, but Amal El-Mohtar’s Mon pays c’est l’hiver poetically charts the challenge of home. We hold on to memories of a wintery, beautiful landscape. But our sense of place always shifts. Nostalgia is something that creates a home that we can never return to, an idealised notion of home that is forever slipping away.

Mon pays c’est l’hiver reveals that that wintery beauty of nostalgia is something created in the labyrinths of the self, in the complex passageways of the heart, made of memory and substanceless desire. Nostalgia can be something alluring, constantly calling us back to an idea of belonging that is always slipping away, always proving itself non-existent when played out in our current existence. Home is a changed place, and a place that is perpetually shifting and El-Mohtar reveals to us that we are always travellers, always venturing in and out of memories of different experiences… and that perhaps the best way for us to ‘come home’ is to create it, build it with stories and tales that abstract from memory, that create new realms of belonging.

To read Mon pays c’est l’hiver, visit Lackington’s website at http://lackingtons.com/2014/02/13/mon-pays-cest-lhiver/

To discover more about Amal El-Mohtar’s work, visit her website at http://amalelmohtar.com/

Artwork for 'Mon pays c’est l’hiver' in Lackinton's issue 1 illustrated by Paula Arwen Friedlander

Artwork for ‘Mon pays c’est l’hiver’ in Lackinton’s issue 1 illustrated by Paula Arwen Friedlander