Anthology of culturally diverse writers create short works in reaction to Kipling’s Just So Stories
Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories was one of the first true children’s books in the English language, a timeless classic that continues to delight readers to this day. Beautiful, evocative and playful, the stories of How the Whale Got His Throat or the First Letter Written paint a magical, primal world.
It’s also deeply rooted in British colonialism. Kipling saw the Empire as a benign, civilising force, and his writing can be troubling to modern readers. Not So Stories attempts to redress the balance, bringing together new and established writers of colour from around the world to take the Just So Stories back, giving voices to cultures that were long deprived them.
I received a copy of Not So Stories from NetGalley. From the start, I was captivated by the premise. I don’t remember if I ever read Kipling’s Just So Stories, but the idea of authors reacting to his stories and taking the stories back was amazing. I also really adore stories about animals.
The stories are #ownvoices.
These stories were engaging and so much fun to read! I really enjoy reading stories with anthropomorphic animals, however I haven’t been reading them a lot recently. To come across a collection of stories that are so very strong in their inherent diversity was a lovely surprise. I didn’t quite realise that even animal stories are usually told solely from the white person’s perspective, until I read these stories.
I am always intrigued when humans vs. animals stories change perspective, and show that the animals consider the humans to be lesser. Thus, I really like the story Queen, especially, since it wasn’t quite clear who the human and who the animal was at the beginning. Also, the whole vibe of the story was very powerful.
I also adored Best Beloved, as it discussed racism within an interracial relationship, and also discussed the connection that the main character had with ghosts.
Samsara was another beautiful story with a biracial (Indian and English) main character. It portrayed many themes that I myself have thought about, such as why it’s fashionable for white people to wear South Asian clothes, but not for South Asians. I really liked how much this story spoke to me. It felt very empowering.
I’m not a huge cat fan (I am allergic to them) but one of the sweetest stories was Strays Like Us. Bastet, the goddess, is the main character in this story. It deals with her bonding with one of her cats. I loved how they slowly came closer and closer to each other, and how you could see that Bastet was not only helping the cat, but the cat was helping Bastet as well. I had a good giggle about Bastet’s opinions of humans and what she thinks about cats.
There are some ableist phrases in some of the stories, as well as phrases that say there are only two genders.
Not So Stories is a great addition to any child’s bookshelf. The stories are so beautiful and there is so much to them. I think that you could have amazing discussions about them.
Trigger warnings: gore/violence, racism.
Are you planning to read Not So Stories? Are there any other diverse children’s short story collections that you would recommend I read?