Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales (Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner)

by Virginia Hamilton

Hardcover, 1995


Checked out
Due Jan 14, 2020

Local notes

398.2 Ham



Blue Sky Press (1995), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 128 pages


A collection of 19 folktales about African American women.

Original publication date


Physical description

128 p.; 11.42 inches


0590473700 / 9780590473705



User reviews

LibraryThing member bnray
Wow, what a good find! This is an interesting collection of African American folktales, fairy tales and true tales! It covers many different topics from mermaids to men and women's status at the beginning of time. Many of the stories also reflect on slavery and tales that were born out of that hardship.
LibraryThing member SPutman
This Coretta Scott King award-winning book is an excellent tool for teaching African-American culture and tradition to middle-school students. About a dozen folktales and fairy tales are accompanied by beautiful illustrations, with a recurring theme of the importance of women. Treasured oral tales are captured in this book, and each story is followed by a brief article explaining its historical background. The book closes with three true tales written by the women who experienced them. This book is filled with not only history and legend but also with heroic females and wonderful examples of human strength and weakness.… (more)
LibraryThing member gwen.ashworth
Hamilton, Virginia. Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales. New York: Blue Sky Press, 1995.

Her Stories won the Corretta Scott King Award for writing in 1996. The nineteen stories in this book focus on folklore and stories handed down in oral tradition by African American women. Honoring the heritage of African Americans, and broadening their understanding of their past seems to be the theme of this book. One of the more perplexing tales was “Mary Belle and the Mermaid.” It is a Cinderella-like story of a young black girl whose mother became ill and died. Mary Belle’s father remarried, and she was mistreated by her step-mother and step-sisters. Mary Belle would run to the river where she sang and talked with a mermaid who took her under water and feed her delicious treats. In the story, the mermaid is similar to the fairy godmother in Cinderella. When Mary Belle tells her family about the mermaid and all of the wonderful things she has provided for her, they are jealous. They go to the river and call up the mermaid. The father shoots the mermaid twice; the mermaid screams, then sinks and disappears, never to be seen again. The next day Mary Belle wades out into the river and disappears. The way that I would interpret this for children is that Mary Belle became a mermaid. Although this is unclear in the book which says, “Gone was she, like the mermaid and like her mother. Gone, gone. All the way gone. True.” To me, it seems that her father kills the mermaid and Mary Belle drowns herself, but I suppose it is open for interpretation. This story is attributed to South Carolina and dates back to the early 1900’s, and there are similar stories brought from the Cape Verde Islands off the African coast and Portugal. If my interpretation is correct, this tale might reflect the hopelessness of the black community following slavery. Although they were freed, their circumstances had not improved. Many of the stories in this book deal with things like vampires, the devil and voodoo, and the ending of “Mary Belle and the Mermaid” was unclear, I would recommend this book for children ages ten and older due to the content.… (more)
LibraryThing member furthur66
Interesting collection of more recent folk tales, focusing on women. Though some of the selections seem odd and ill-placed, I like the historical background provided and the tracing of the folk tales' orgins. The illustrations were also amusing.
LibraryThing member lporsia
Winning both the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and the Coretta Scott King Award, Her Stories by Virginia Hamilton is a great compilation of traditional African American tales. Focusing on the stories about and pertaining to women, Hamilton’s book serves as a good source for feminine strength over the years as well as an escape from the double social stigma associated with being African American and female. Some filled with fantasy are reminiscent of Disney movies, while others are mythic in nature and some identify with an individual from a past time. The illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon are not included in every tale, yet their placement and attention to detail is clever. By placing these stories together in their own binding Hamilton has created an essential addition to any book collection and brought age old spoken-word tales to life, especially for African American households who may have long forgotten the tradition.
Public librarians can use this book for several story-time tales, even picking and choosing for relevant Black History Month stories or those that speak to women’s rights. Additionally this would be a good reference for school libraries, english teachers, and history teachers since Hamilton interprets spoken word stories, suppling various types of early American literature at its finest.
… (more)
LibraryThing member flying_monkeys
The collection itself is varied, interesting and informative. And the illustrations are absolutely stunning! I feel blessed to have found a copy of this hardcover at Goodwill for under $1 -- I can't believe someone gave it away; their loss.

4.5 stars
LibraryThing member rmyoung
Amazing illustrations and stories
LibraryThing member RachelHollingsworth
This is a collection Africa American Folkales, fairy tales and true tales. The first in the series is about a little girl who tricks a rabbit who tricks a wolf that is killed by daddy.
LibraryThing member josephm1
Coretta Scott King Award Winner 1995, 19 stories about African American women, folklore, fairytales




(26 ratings; 4.1)
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