Grim Tales is an amazing project. Not just as a book, which is the end result, but as an idea to raise funds and awareness about family violence and abuse. The end product is a large format, richly illustrated hardback, that tells thirteen stories.
Each of the female narrators has told her story, opened her heart a little and perhaps opened up old wounds to talk about abuse and domestic violence. Then, each storyteller has taken what they heard and turned it into a beautiful fairy tale, on some levels removing the pain and the violence, but in other ways making those horrors even more real by placing them in a childlike setting. Then an artist has worked on the story, to make a beautiful black and white illustration for each tale.
At the end of the book, all three of the parties involved in this creative partnership have talked a little about the how and the why, and shared a little about what it has meant to them.
The collaborators behind the book were the Tauranga Women’s Refuge and the Incubator. The Women’s Refuge has done so much to free many of these women from harsh and abusive situations, while the Incubator in Tauranga’s Historic Village has harnessed all of the creativity required to create a magical and lyrical expression that is a credit to all who have been involved.
The book is a fundraiser, with the proceeds going to help the Women’s Refuge and I urge you to go and find yourself a copy, either at Books a Plenty in Tauranga, or through the website
This is a book of which Tauranga should be proud. Proud to be associated with, and proud of the artistic collaboration which has gone into it from both writers and artists. It is a difficult subject matter. I applaud that these stories have been told, because it is important that people know about abuse and that we can talk about it and by doing so perhaps encourage others to seek and find help. For me as the reviewer it is hard to say more, to go beyond the stories and pictures on the page and make further comment. Have the women who told their stories been helped by the process, has it helped them to heal? This is where I feel that I am venturing onto thin ice that might not quite take the weight of my ideas. If I review a piece of fiction, I have no problem crediting authors or characters with motives I am not certain are true. They are, after all, made up stories. With Grim Tales, not only are the stories true, but they are terrible, painful and haunting. So to make up or assume anything about those who have suffered these trials feels quite wrong.
At the end of Grim Tales, Amanda Girvan, from Tauranga Women’s Refuge, writes very movingly about domestic violence. She calls it a dirty river that flows through all parts of society. There is no class, education standard or workforce that it does not touch. She writes of the bravery of the women who have told the stories and how some have moved on to far better lives, while others are still nursing and hiding wounds that will take a long time to heal. She calls the women brave warriors and I applaud her for that. And I applaud the writers and artists who have done so well to capture that bravery and those painful journeys.
Footnote from the reviewer
This was one of the hardest reviews to write. The book Grim Tales is beautiful, but the story behind it is not and so it is hard to do justice to both sides of the coin. To tread carefully around wounds which are real and not fictional.
Go and buy a copy of this beautiful book to support Tauranga Women’s Refuge. Thank you to fellow ARTbop columnist and one of the book’s writers, Dhaivat Mehta, who lent me his copy to review. I will go and buy a copy for myself now. Please do the same.
Marcus Hobson is the ARTbop Literary Editor, regular book reviewer, writer, and the Secretary of the Tauranga Writers group Marcus has been, and continues to be, lots of things. An aspiring author of both novels and reviews, he has always said he wants to be a writer and 40 years later is making that come true. He has in the past done such varied things as study ancient and mediaeval history at Uni in London, worked as an archaeologist, as an economist in central and southern Africa, and as truck driver in a quarry. About two years ago he relocated to the beautiful Bay from a finance job in Auckland. He is a lover of art, the written word and a full-time fanatical book collector, with over 3,000 volumes on his shelves. He lives close to Katikati with his wife and sometimes their three daughters, two cats, a library and the odd chicken. Marcus is currently working on a “factional” work about World War I.
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