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Fiewel and Friends has recently announced the 2021 launch of Reclaimed Classics, a new YA series that seeks to reimagine classic literature from new cultural perspectives.
Even the English major most enthused about classic literature knows that just about everything in the literary canon has one thing in common: white authors. The newly-announced Reclaimed Classics aims to counter those primarily-white narratives by reimagining classic works—including Robin Hood, Little Women, Treasure Island, and Wuthering Heights—from the perspective of diverse characters.
According to Emily Settle, the mastermind behind the series, the idea came to her after reading a Twitter thread where a NYT columnist imagined what Batman would be like if Bruce Wayne was black. From there, she thought about ways to retell well-known classics from cultural perspectives not typically represented in the literary canon.
C.B. Lee, the author of the upcoming Treasure Island, says she is “excited to be working with the spirit of adventure and discovery that [she’s] always loved about Treasure Island and bringing it to the South China Sea with a courageous girl at the forefront.” She also hints at an LGBTQ+ protagonist, asking, “What would freedom mean for a young queer girl in the 1800s?” Treasure Island will be the debut book of the series, set to release in Spring 2021.
Little Women will follow as author Bethany C. Morrow imagines the classic Louise May Alcott story from the perspective of a black family during the Civil War. Morrow points out that, despite taking place during the Civil War, the original Little Women fails to “involve or present any narratives of black American women at the time” but instead presents “a story of northern white Americans, which becomes synonymous with ‘abolitionists’ and ‘good’ [despite the lack of] any actual evidence of that, nor any consideration for how a black American from anywhere in the country might think about that characterization.” She hopes to counter this white narrative with her own adaptation of the classic.
Morrow hopes that her novel, coming Fall 2021, can play on the universality of love and sisterhood, and hopefully become “a welcome adaptation among many.”
Next, coming Winter 2022, is Robin Hood by Aminah Mae Safi. The book will feature a young Muslim girl during the time of the Third Crusade. Speaking about her upcoming book, Safi says, “By taking this medieval legend of a crusader and turning that into the story of a young Muslim woman who is fighting to protect her own homeland from invaders and her own region’s fragile peace, I can also reclaim a piece of history.”
The series will conclude with Wuthering Heights by Tasha Suri. In the Emily Bronte classic, Heathcliff is ‘foreign’ looking and struggles to find acceptance in the novel because of it. Suri hopes to play on that idea, but by writing “a reclamation that says: everyone comes from somewhere, and colonialism may try to make us its monsters, but we don’t have to let it.” Her book will be available in Spring 2022.
Currently, the series only includes four titles, but Settle expects it to extend into a larger collection of works. You can keep up to date with the series on Goodreads, the authors’ Twitter pages, or the Feiwel and Friends social media accounts.
Featured images via publisher’s weekly
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