Fairytales for Lost Children is a book of short stories by Diriye Osman, a Somali-British author. Each short story explores the experiences of LGBT+ Somali individuals in utterly raw and powerful ways.
This collection is not for the faint of heart. It is full of sex and power and a specific community that is attempting to find itself. After a few stories, I could almost feel myself sticky with hairspray and full of revolt – like the teacher who turns Snow White black, or the lesbian who attempts to attend her sister’s traditionalist wedding. And all of this contains the undercurrent of the violence of civil war, and the micro-aggressions POC and LGBT+ individuals face on a daily basis.
Fairytales for Lost Children also speaks frankly about traditional Somali attitudes towards mental illness. The stories that really stood out for me in this respect are ‘Earthling’ and ‘Your Silence Will Not Protect You’. In both stories, the protagonists have psychotic episodes – making already complicated relationships with parents and lovers even more difficult. It is clear that Osman knows what he’s talking about (go here for a fabulous article he wrote for The Huffington Post called ‘How Mental Illness Fed My Creativity’).
Each short story is also preceded by a beautiful illustration:
The line-work is just beautiful, don’t you think? And they were also done by Osman himself.
The one problem I had is that the collection often uses the t-slur, which made me quite uncomfortable. This might be an attempt to re-claim the word, much as ‘queer’ has been reclaimed by the general LGBT+ community. However, I am not transgender, so I’m not really in a position to say. It did bother me, though, I’m not going to lie.
Once again, thanks to Naz at ReadDiverseBooks for getting me in touch with Osman, who kindly sent me a (signed!) copy of Fairytales for Lost Children. It is violent and gorgeous and I can’t wait to see what Osman writes next.