Book review · short fiction collection

Book review: Not So Stories

Not So Stories, edited by David Thomas Moore

not so stories

Description: (from Rebellion)

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 How the First Letter Was Written paint a world of magic and wonder.

It’s also deeply rooted in British colonialism. Kipling saw the Empire as a benign, civilising force, in a way that’s 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, to interrogate, challenge and celebrate their legacy.

Including stories by Adiwijaya Iskandar, Joseph E. Cole, Raymond Gates, Stewart Hotston, Zina Hutton, Georgina Kamsika, Cassandra Khaw, Paul Krueger, Tauriq Moosa, Jeannette Ng, Ali Nouraei, Wayne Santos and Zedeck Siew, illustrations by Woodrow Phoenix and an introduction by Nikesh Shukla.

Expected publication: April 10th 2018.
A review copy (eARC) of this book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley. Some things might change in the final copy.

I have never read the Kipling book this was written in reaction of, but I knew about Kipling’s writing and how rooted in British colonialism it was. So the idea of this anthology reclaiming the narrative really appealed to me!

Right from the title of these stories, I could guess at the content of the original book, up to the structure of the originals, since so many used the “How the x got their x” and many were addressed to “Best Beloved”. I feel like the stories which seemed to stick closer to the originals were the ones I liked least, but they still has a lot to offer.

Obviously this was a very diverse bag of stories and I found a lot of favourites. I was looking forward to the very last, How the Camel Got Her Paid Time Off by Paul Krueger because I had read and loved his novel last year. It was a really cool one to end the anthology, a bit more “fun” because it addressed modern issues that a lot of people will relate to, mainly how corporations are using their employees, but with anthropomorphic characters.

Another one was Strays Like Us by Zina Hutton, about a goddess struggling in the modern world and bonding with a cat. It was really short but I loved it a lot. I also liked how the horror was built in There is Such Thing as a Whizzy-Gang by Raymond Gates.

My favourite of the whole might be Sāṃsara by Georgina Kamsika staring a young woman reconnecting with her mother’s culture as they go to empty their Nana’s house after her passing. It addressed a lot of social issues regarding racism and being mixed-race with a white parent.

I loved the stories that addressed colonialism as well and showed the horror of it and how awful white people have been. They were stories of revenge like in How the Spider Got Her Legs by Cassandra Khaw (which also made me scared to even think about killing the spider that’s lurking in my bathroom), stories of the supernatural and slow realisation with Best Beloved by Wayne Santos, of the evil and irrational anger of the white men in The Man Who Played With Crab by Adiwijaya Iskandar…

I cannot think of a single story that I didn’t like, from anger to compassion leading to raw emotions, they all had important things to say, either in small or grand scale.

(I understand Kipling’s book is a children book, but I do not think all the stories in this anthology are suited for children, I would recommend to parents to read it alone first and see which one they want to share with their progeny later. But I guess it’s still better to let any child read this than the Kipling one!)


Table of content

How the Spider Got Her Legs, Cassandra Khaw
Queen, Joseph E. Cole
Best Beloved, Wayne Santos
The Man Who Played With Crab, Adiwijaya Iskandar
Sāṃsara, Georgina Kamsika
Serpent, Crocodile, Tiger, Zedeck Siew
How The Tree of Wishes Gained its Carapace of Plastic, Jeanette Ng
How the Ants Got Their Queen, Steward Hotston
How the Snake Lost its Spine, Tauriq Moosa
The Cat Who Walked by Herself, Achala Upendran
Strays Like Us, Zina Hutton
How the Simurgh Won Her Tail, Ali Nouraei
There is Such Thing as a Whizzy-Gang, Raymond Gates
How the Camel Got Her Paid Time Off, Paul Krueger


Recommended reading:

I WAS ENCOURAGED TO CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE by Wayne Santos
IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE SO by Jeanette Ng

And watch this video presentation:

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