Reimagining the Classics

Two books are lying on a piece of material. A Taste of Love and Pride are the titles. More information is in the text of the post.

As I typed the title, my mind jumped to several questions. Whose classics? Also – who has been determining which books are classics? Why do classics stay in the canon and why are they taught in schools for so very, very long? The questions around which works are considered classics are many, but for this post, I want to look at how contemporary authors are retelling these stories with a fresh perspective.

Three book covers. Clash of Steel shows two young women with swords standing at the front of a boat. So Many Beginnings has four young Black women wearing long dress like those from the mid 1800s. They're smiling. Travelers on the way has a domed building and two people standing in front on a bridge who have their heads covered. One is holding a bow and arrow ready.

Feiwel & Friends is creating a series of such retellings called Remixed Classics which you can read more about at Publisher’s Weekly. Many books considered classics in U.S. schools are told from a white point of view and erase or ignore other possible narratives in their pages. This collection is an opportunity to shake that up and allow for a wide variety of perspectives. I was lucky enough to read an ARC of Bethany C. Morrow’s So Many Beginnings: A Little Woman RemixI’ll review it in August nearer publication, but just know that it was incredibly satisfying and made me want to put it in the hands of everyone around me. In elementary school, I read a young people’s adaptation of Little Women and then read the complete novel many, many times over the years. I had unquestioning love for the original until I was older and started to wonder about some of the things I was reading and noticing missing voices–especially regarding enslavement during the Civil War that’s happening during the novel. This new remix addresses some of those concerns and retains all of the things I loved about the original such as the family love that knows no bounds. Morrow’s book will be the second in the series. The  first volume is A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix by C.B. Lee which shares the same publication date–September 7, 2021. These two will be followed by Travelers Along the Way: A Robin Hood Remix by Aminah Mae Safi in March of 2022 and at least on more is scheduled to follow.

Aside from this specific series, there are many other adaptations or retellings and books simply inspired by classics out there that we’ve enjoyed. Here are some we’d recommend.

The book cover for Pride. The book seems like it's metallic and has intricate designs. The title seems to be spray painted across with turquoise paint like graffiti. There are silhouettes of a young man and woman facing each other.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi ~ Pride and Prejudice
Balzer & Bray[K. Imani’s Review]

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

The cover of A Taste for Love has an Asian American young man and woman are each holding a cup of bubble tea and looking at each other with smiles.

A Taste for Love Jennifer Yen ~ Pride and Prejudice
Razorbill [Crystal’s Review]

To her friends, high school senior Liza Yang is nearly perfect. Smart, kind, and pretty, she dreams big and never shies away from a challenge. But to her mom, Liza is anything but. Compared to her older sister Jeannie, Liza is stubborn, rebellious, and worst of all, determined to push back against all of Mrs. Yang’s traditional values, especially when it comes to dating.

The one thing mother and daughter do agree on is their love of baking. Mrs. Yang is the owner of Houston’s popular Yin & Yang Bakery. With college just around the corner, Liza agrees to help out at the bakery’s annual junior competition to prove to her mom that she’s more than her rebellious tendencies once and for all. But when Liza arrives on the first day of the bake-off, she realizes there’s a catch: all of the contestants are young Asian American men her mother has handpicked for Liza to date.

The bachelorette situation Liza has found herself in is made even worse when she happens to be grudgingly attracted to one of the contestants; the stoic, impenetrable, annoyingly hot James Wong. As she battles against her feelings for James, and for her mother’s approval, Liza begins to realize there’s no tried and true recipe for love.

The cover of Scavenge the Stars features a young woman in an intricately decorated jacket. She is holding a highly decorated sword in one hand. The closeup only allow for seeing from her lips down to the hand holding the sword at her waist.Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim ~ The Count of Monte Cristo
Disney Hyperion

When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide.

Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…

On the cover of Legendborn a young black woman is holding one arm low and one high. It makes almost a circle. There are swirls of icy light on the bottom arm and red firey light wrapped around the top arm. She has full hair and is staring intensely. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn ~ Historia regum Britanniae, Le Morte d’Arthur, The Green Knight and other Arthuriana – see Tracy Deonn’s essay: Every King Arthur Retelling is Fanfic About Who Get’s to Be Legendary
Margaret K. McElderry Books[K. Imani’s Review]

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.

The cover of Tigers Not Daughters features a Latinx young woman with her hair blowing in the breeze. A transparent tiger is jumping across the picture in a way that maker her look like she is wearing a mask. There are plants at the bottom and what seems to be orange flames.Tigers Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry ~ King Lear
Algonquin Young Readers[Q&A with Author]

The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.

In a stunning follow-up to her National Book Award–longlisted novel All the Wind in the World, Samantha Mabry weaves an aching, magical novel that is one part family drama, one part ghost story, and one part love story.

The Shame the Stars cover. A young man and young woman are in the center and are facing away from each other with intense and pensive looks on their face. Shame the Stars by Guadalupe Garcia McCall ~ Romeo & Juliet
Tu Books [Crystal’s Review]

Eighteen-year-old Joaquín del Toro’s future looks bright. With his older brother in the priesthood, he’s set to inherit his family’s Texas ranch. He’s in love with Dulceña—and she’s in love with him. But it’s 1915, and trouble has been brewing along the US-Mexico border. On one side, the Mexican Revolution is taking hold; on the other, Texas Rangers fight Tejano insurgents, and ordinary citizens are caught in the middle.

As tensions grow, Joaquín is torn away from Dulceña, whose father’s critical reporting on the Rangers in the local newspaper has driven a wedge between their families. Joaquín’s own father insists that the Rangers are their friends, and refuses to take sides in the conflict. But when their family ranch becomes a target, Joaquín must decide how he will stand up for what’s right.

Shame the Stars is a rich reimagining of Romeo and Juliet set in Texas during the explosive years of Mexico’s revolution. Filled with period detail, captivating romance, and political intrigue, it brings Shakespeare’s classic to life in an entirely new way.

Cover for Summer of the Mariposas. The shadows of of five young women holding hands are floating up off of the ground. The person in the center is slightly higher in the sky like she is leading. There are stars in the sky. An outline of a butterfly is high above the young women and has five stars included in the shape of it.Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall ~ The Odyssey
Tu Books [Audrey’s Review]

When Odilia and her four sisters find a dead body in the swimming hole, they embark on a hero’s journey to return the dead man to his family in Mexico. But returning home to Texas turns into an odyssey that would rival Homer’s original tale.

With the supernatural aid of ghostly La Llorona via a magical earring, Odilia and her little sisters travel a road of tribulation to their long-lost grandmother’s house. Along the way, they must outsmart a witch and her Evil Trinity: a wily warlock, a coven of vicious half-human barn owls, and a bloodthirsty livestock-hunting chupacabras. Can these fantastic trials prepare Odilia and her sisters for what happens when they face their final test, returning home to the real world, where goddesses and ghosts can no longer help them?

Summer of the Mariposas is not just a magical Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey, it is a celebration of sisterhood and maternal love.

the cover of A Blade so Black. A young Black woman is standing with a knife in each hand. The shape of a spade like what is on a deck of cards is like a hole cut in the wall. She is standing among white and read roses and her body is partially inside the spade shaped space and partly outside of it. A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney ~ Alice in Wonderland

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

*We didn’t include fairy tales. Happily, that could be an even longer list and will be a post for another day.

2 Replies to “Reimagining the Classics

  1. I am a huge fan of revisited classics and fairy tales. I have tried revisiting the Anne of Green Gables series but it doesn’t really hold up over time. I loved Pride but the rest of these are new to me. I adored Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles for their retellings of the classic fairy tales. I think it’s why I became a fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series because he messes around with all kinds of stories in them.

    1. It’s definitely fun to see how the authors can play with the stories. Thanks for reading and I hope you get to explore some of the titles.

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