Staff Picks Category: Mythology

Girl Meets Boy: The Myth of Iphis by Ali Smith []

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In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, tucked away between stories about just how cruel gods & monsters & men can be, is a happy myth about a girl falling in love with another girl. In Girl Meets Boy, Ali Smith takes this myth of Iphis and Ianthe into the twenty-first century, and the result is a story that celebrates transformation, love, and civil disobedience.

In Inverness, dreamy twenty-something Anthea quits her corporate job, to the chagrin of her serious-minded older sister, Imogen, and promptly falls in love with a graffiti artist. Anthea and her modern-day Iphis joyfully thwart conventions of sex and gender in this decidedly queer retelling. Told from the perspectives of Anthea and Imogen, Girl Meets Boy is written in Smith’s signature (& humorous!) steam-of-conscious style. Her love of wordplay and ear for conversations make it perfect to be read aloud.

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Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips []

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The immortal Greek gods are in reduced circumstances in the 21st century, living in a dilapidated house in London and pretty tired of each other’s company by now. Their relationships among themselves and their interactions with the modern world are perfectly in character, smart and very funny. Now that the gods have had to get day jobs, Aphrodite does phone sex, Artemis is a dog walker, and Apollo is still chasing mortal women. It’s an ingenious concept and Phillips carries it through cleverly, unpredictably and hilariously. This is Phillips’s debut novel and I can’t wait for the next.

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman []

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Okay, this book did come out in 2001 and it is a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards so you may have heard of it or even read it already. If you haven’t read American Gods yet, if it has been sitting on your “to read” list, or has slipped through the cracks in some other way, I would like to confirm that it is a great read.

Part modern day epic, part rambling road narrative, American Gods has something for a variety of audiences. Neil Gaiman, best known for the Sandman graphic novel series, has again proven his abilities in adult fiction writing with this masterfully crafted piece of storytelling. I found myself sucked into the intricately woven plot line and fascinated by the combination of modern and ancient mythological characters. While at times dark and a little graphic (the main character is an ex-con after all), the story has an element of gritty realness not often found in fantasy novels.

I honestly don’t want to give anything more away because I enjoyed learning every new piece of the plot as I read and I think you will too.Whenever anyone asks me for a book recommendation, this is almost always the first title that comes to mind.

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Sita’s Ramayana by Samhita Arni; art by Moyna Chitrakar [, ]

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Moyna Chitrakar is an artist from the Patua scroll painting tradition. The paintings in this book have been adapted fit the page, but they are rendered in a style that wasn’t meant to be confined to such a small space—Patua scrolls are large and complex. Significantly, the Patua artist traditionally tells the story through song while unrolling the scroll and gesturing to images. Keep this in mind as you read Sita’s Ramayana. The images sometimes feel cramped on the page, and the juxtaposition between text and image is often awkward, but remembering the traditional manner of presenting these paintings will help you see past these small annoyances to appreciate the elgeance of Chitrakar’s art.

Sita’s Ramayana presents the Hindu epic the Ramayana from the perspective of Rama’s wife, Sita. In this version Rama’s noble character is taken as a given—even when Sita suffers as a result of Rama’s actions her love for him does not falter. Samhita Arni’s Sita does not tell us why she loves Rama. Instead she tells what happened, and how she felt about it. She tells us about her doubts and fears, and about the suffering she saw on both sides as Rama’s army made war on Lanka.

Sita’s Ramayana‘s is a quick retelling of the Ramayana, and differs from the classic version in ways that may make you eager to explore this famous story’s many variations. Moyna Chitrakar’s art is beautiful, and while more care might have been taken in the page design, lovers of traditional art and myth will find something to appreciate in this book.

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