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Mirror Mirror: Discussing the Representation of Abuse Survivors in STITCHING SNOW, a guest post by author R. C. Lewis (The #SVYALit Project)


Today author R. C. Lewis has written a guest post for us about her upcoming novel, Stitching Snow. Stitching Snow is a science fiction retelling of Snow White and it contains an element of #SVYALit, which she discusses with us today. In order to discuss this element, this guest post is SLIGHTLY SPOILERY. Please be aware.

In tackling a sci-fi retelling of Snow White, one question hit me immediately that needed to be addressed: Where is Snow’s father? Is he dead like Cinderella’s? If not, why doesn’t she turn to him for help?
Some readers will wonder why I went so dark in my answer. And there’s more than one reason.
My first step before beginning to draft Stitching Snow was to research the original fairy tale the best I could, not only reading a translation of the Brothers Grimm version, but also looking at academic commentary. I found that some commentators considered the magic mirror to represent the judgmental voice of the father, leading to the whole story hinging on a “sexual rivalry” between Snow and her stepmother (or mother, if you go for the un-sanitized, pre-Grimm version).
If anyone’s wondering why I left out the mirror, there’s the answer. I didn’t. I just turned him back into a person.
Reflecting an underlying interpretation of the original fairy tale was one of the reasons I included the father’s sexual abuse of Snow. It also gave a credible reason for her not to go to her father for help when the queen tries to kill her, immediately or in the years following.
But there’s more.

Stitching Snow isn’t meant as what some would call an “issue book.” The abuse is one thing—among many—that shaped the protagonist, Essie. It colors some of her decisions and actions. It’s an integral piece of her character and story. But it’s not what the story is about.
To me, Essie’s status as an abuse survivor is about representation. Too many people know what it’s like to endure some version of what Essie endured. The vast majority of sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows—a family member, a neighbor, someone trusted.
Many children will never disclose it happened, and I can imagine why, particularly when you consider an immediate family member. The fear a child must face knowing that disclosure could cause the obliteration of what they consider their most fundamental unit of home and belonging.
Abusers are not likely to be the caricature we imagine, identifiable on sight as a creep. Abusers may not even qualify clinically as pedophiles. Abusers may appear to have a genuine, caring attitude toward their victims. If we can recognize this, maybe some of those victims will realize we’ll believe them if they find the courage to tell.
I wanted to tell a story of a girl who lived on. Who bore the effects of the abuse quietly and found a way to become her own person. And specifically one who didn’t “act out” by becoming highly promiscuous. One who didn’t turn to drugs or suicide attempts to combat the pain.
Those things do happen. And those individuals need help and understanding. But here’s what I fear:
I fear even one person thinking, “Yeah, this happened to me, but I’m not having sex with everyone I meet, or binge drinking and getting high, or cutting, or trying to kill myself. So what happened to me must not be that bad. No one will care. I should just get over it …
“… but I can’t.”
I worry what the long-term effects are on those who are able to cope more quietly, but who therefore never really heal. I worry about what wounds may spring up suddenly, without warning, years or decades later, and how they may not be able to cope so well then.
So I made Essie a survivor of abuse. Some of the events of the story are more extreme than real life is likely to be—it’s a fairy tale, after all—but I hope at least one person sees that what she endured is worth acknowledging. Worth facing. Worth discussing.
People like Essie exist all around us. It happens more often than we want to believe. We need to talk about it. And we need to figure out what we can do about it.
About R. C. Lewis 

R.C. Lewis teaches math to teenagers—sometimes in sign language, sometimes not—so whether she’s a science geek or a bookworm depends on when you look. That may explain why her characters don’t like to be pigeonholed. Coincidentally, R.C. enjoys reading about quantum physics and the identity issues of photons.
Her debut novel Stitching Snow is a sci-fi retelling of Snow White, releasing October 14th from Hyperion. 
R. C. Lewis Blog and Twitter

About Stitching Snow (Publisher’s Description):

Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.

Librarian Angie Manfredi has mentioned on Twitter that this is a perfect read-alike for fans of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, and of course she is absolutely correct. 

Comments

  1. Great post! While I tend towards the more depressed reactions/self-harm in my own writing, I will be honest in saying that it's also how I personally responded. I do think this is a great point, though, because we need to be clear that everyone reacts differently. And every response is normal.

    Looking forward to reading this!

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