Babalola, a self-proclaimed “romcomisseur,” breathes fresh air into ancient myths with her debut, a collection of short stories that have love and fully-realized heroines as their focal points. The myths she adapts are not the largely familiar Greek and Roman tales, but rather draw on the beautiful lore of Ghana, Nigeria, China, and many others. A true expert in romance and its tropes, Babalola writes with charming playfulness; her characters are witty, and their dialogue will have you rooting for their love. Her prose takes the readers into sunny, colorful places where warmth and magic abound. Reminding us that love is always something to celebrate, Love in Color is simply a joy to read.
Mythos (Chronicle Books, $29.95) is a modern retelling of the classic Greek myths by the legendary Stephen Fry. With his usual wry wit and charm, Fry weaves the tales together in chronological order with plenty of context for those who may be unfamiliar—and with plenty of new insight for those who are revisiting the stories once again. For those who are truly tickled by Fry’s sense of humor, you may find yourself laughing out loud on many occasions as he comments on everything from the English language’s tricky borrowings from Ancient Greek to the pettiness of the Gods’ familial spats. Not only is this book highly entertaining, it is a beautiful gift for history and art lovers who will appreciate the full- color illustrations. This could also be an excellent choice for readers who loved Madeline Miller’s Circe and are anxious to explore more.
From the assorted inks and fonts to the spacious pages, the gallery of vintage illustrations, the notes, the essays, the testaments by readers and scholars, and the stories, The Annotated African American Folktales (Liveright $39.95) is both beautifully presented and impeccably researched. Edited by eminent Harvard professors Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and American Research, and Maria Tatar, chair of the Program in Folklore and Mythology, both of whose detailed introductory essays could constitute a substantial book in themselves, the volume gathers close to two hundred tales. The editors build on the work of predecessors including Arthur Huff Fauset and Zora Neale Hurston, correct the distortions of popularizers like Joel Chandler Harris and Walt Disney, and extend the canon of African American folklore to embrace Caribbean and Latin American tales. The collection begins with its roots: four sections lay out African story-telling traditions, from trickster tales and the Anansi cycles, with their mischievous animal/human creature “who weaves webs of beautiful complexity and tells stories about the tangled webs we weave,” to today’s oral narratives. The editors follow Anansi and other foundational African motifs through the one-hundred-and-forty stories that follow, tracing a vital tradition as it changes and grows. Drawn from both songs and published texts, here are familiar figures like the Tar-Baby, Brer Rabbit, and John Henry; people who can fly, heal, and disappear; casts of heroes, preachers, and shape-shifters; and here also are their descendants in the work of contemporary writers like Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison.