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  • The Fairy Tale Magazine

Book Review: Urbanshee by Siaara Freeman

Urbanshee, by Siaara Freeman, is a collection of poems that is marketed as a retelling of fairy tales and mythology through an urban lens. The book explores how the physical world can be a part of your identity and discusses blackness in America with raw emotion. Freeman’s poems cut to the heart of modern struggles, shocking you and forcing you to reconsider the fairy tales you remember from childhood.

Freeman’s poems circle around the “hood” where she grew up, the loss of her father, and the pain of feeling like an outsider. One poem, “World in Which the Word Father Is Replaced by Hood” presents the neighborhood as a stand-in parent, while a series of poems such as “Once You Know What Your Father’s Brain Looks Like” and “Fearless Sounds Like Fatherless on the Right Tongue” confront the pain of losing a father to violence. Freeman also contemplates her mother in the poem “On the Day I Learned My Father Was Murdered, I Learned” when she writes “My mother is a person. A real one. / Not just a mom person, not just endless / love, not just mine.” Fairy tale images permeate Freeman’s deep emotional explorations of growing up in urban America.

Freeman’s poetry is experimental with some poems unfolding in unique ways. She writes several poems that feature frames of words and one poem with large blocks of ink blocking out words. She curses, uses vernacular language, and references pop culture like “flaming hot Cheetos” and the television series “Orange is the New Black”. She returns again and again to colors in poems titled “Haint Blue”, “Haint Pink”, Haint Green”, and “Haint Glitter”, and attempts to capture the experience of a girl growing up in a liminal urban space.

Freeman’s collection is more real world than most fairy tale retellings, and the harsh tone of the poems is not for every fairy tale lover, but it will make you think about poetry, fairy tales, and urban life in new ways.

You can purchase the book here.

Thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.

Kelly Jarvis teaches classes in literature, writing, and fairy tale at Central Connecticut State University, The University of Connecticut, and Tunxis Community College. She lives, happily ever after, with her husband and three sons in a house filled with fairy tale books. She is also The Fairy Tale Magazine's special project’s writer.

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