I’m a big fan of Catherynne Valente (go read her Fairytale series, do it!) and Six-Gun Snow White does not disappoint. In this Wild West retelling of Snow White, Snow is a mixed race gunslinger.
Here’s the summary from the Subterranean Press:
A plain-spoken, appealing narrator relates the history of her parents—a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother’s death in childbirth, so begins a heroine’s tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, readers will be enchanted by this story at once familiar and entirely new.
So that’s pretty great, and what really sold me is how Valente structures the book–the first half is told by Snow White about her situation, the ranch she lives on with Mr. H, her father. The arrival of a new Mrs. H. The racism, the abuse, the sexism, as witnessed and experienced by a child. And then, halfway through, Snow White “stops telling a story about other folk and starts being in a story other folk tell.” She grabs the narrative, steals a horse, and makes her own story. The structure of the chapters, the titles that hearken to Native American rather than European lore. The Dwarves are hiding in there too, and the huntsman, and her Appaloosa is called Charming. “Who’s the fairest one of all” is twisted and turned and becomes something new:
I heard a lot of talk speculating on whether myself of Mrs. H was the more handsome. It’s plain foolishness.
Everybody knows no half-breed cowgirl can be as beautiful as a rich white lady. Where’s your head at?
There’s a lot going on in this short novella, about love and magic and abuse and racism and mothers, and about what it means to be a lady, or be beautiful, and how beauty is a trap, or a power, or imagined, or all three.
She put jasper-and-pearl combs in my hair and yanked them so tight, I cried—There, now you’re a lady, she said, and I did not know if the comb or the tears did it.
Now that I’m writing this review, I like this book even more. 5/5, would read again.