How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales

Stories by Kate Bernheimer

August 5, 2014 • 6 x 7.5 • 167 pages • 978-1-56689-347-3

Elegantly simple fairy tales of strangeness and wonder from a master of the form.

No one has done more for the contemporary fairy tale than Kate Bernheimer. In eight new stories, she leads us into a forest of everyday magic and misfits, where dinosaurs wear pajamas and talking dolls ruin your life. Elegant and brutal, Bernheimer’s latest collection locates the existential loveliness of ideas amidst the topsy-turvy logic of things. This collection renews classic stories with intelligent wonder. Like one of Bernheimer’s girls, whose hands of steel turn to flowers, the reader will marvel.

About the Author

Kate Bernheimer has been called “one of the living masters of the fairy tale.” She is the author of a novel trilogy and the story collections Horse, Flower, Bird and How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales and the editor of four anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award winning and bestselling My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales and xo Orpheus: 50 New Myths. She founded and edits the literary journal Fairy Tale Review and lives in Arizona with her husband, the writer Brent Hendricks, and their daughter, Xia.

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.


Time Out New York, “Best Books of 2014”
Book Riot, “2014’s Must-Read Books from Indie Presses”

“With dinosaurs and pink sisters, shadows and talking dolls, librarians and totems, Bernheimer presents haunting looks at mothers and daughters, the magic of childhood, and the power of illusion, fantasy, and dreams.” —San Francisco Book Review

“I’ll read anything [Kate Bernheimer] writes, and I’ll undoubtedly learn more about myself and my own writing than from 100 other books. Truth is, I hope every young writer is lucky enough to discover a particular writer who speaks to her more than any other, a writer whose words reach out through the pages and touch her heart, the way Kate Bernheimer has done for me.” Electric Literature

“Bernheimer manages to tickle the cerebrum without sacrificing surface pleasures.” Star Tribune

“As Tatar writes, in fairy tales children must find radical ways to ‘survive a world ruled by adults.’ This is our grim reality. And it’s the grim reality of these children at the border as well. Of course, not all endings are unhappy. Remember Hansel and Gretel? They manage to shove that witch in the oven, and they emerge from the forest . . . alive.” All Things Considered

“The intimacy of [How A Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales] seems to reiterate that immediacy of the form—disbelief is beyond suspended . . . disbelief is terminated.” Waxwing Journal

“[Bernheimer], an impassioned advocate for the relevancy of the fairy-tale genre, fills the whole strange, lovely book with such gems, reinventing traditional, timeless tales for new readers.” Time Out New York

How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales, deftly blends gloomy fairy tales with existential manifestos. Nine nimble stories confront a spectrum of suffering; loneliness, addiction, poverty, and death lay exposed with open language for all to interpret.” —Entropy

“[Kate Bernheimer] reminds us why she is reigning queen of the modern fairy tale.” —American Microreviews

“An impressive array. . . . The way the rules of realism are rewritten makes for a thrilling experience.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“One might call Bernheimer a bit of a fairy tale activist. . . . Fairy tales are composites—unnerving blends of fantasy and rationality—and as such, the stories they govern may lure you into their candied constructions, only to eat you alive.” Heavy Feather Review

“The tale is in the telling, and this new collection of lyrical, exhilarating fairy tales makes use of the moribund, ruthless aspects of the Brothers Grimm and the lilting, calmative qualities of Mother Goose.” Largehearted Boy

“[Bernheimer is] one of literature’s foremost champions of the fairy tale.” —Nylon

“Recommended if you like: offbeat, unusually structured stories; re-imagined fairy tales with a somewhat dark (but also whimsical) tone.” Insatiable Booksluts

“You cannot argue with a fairy tale. It is tautology as art form.”—Slate

“Gobble up these stories as you would a trail of bread crumbs that leads into the dark, magical woods of Kate Bernheimer’s imagination. Here you will be happily lost, sometimes afraid, often amused and always awed.” —Benjamin Percy

“A master of minimalist style, Kate Bernheimer taps into the poetry of fairy tales to reveal the dread that seeps into ordinary things as well as the redemptive power of language and story.” —Maria Tatar, Chair, Program in Folklore & Mythology, Harvard University

“Kate Bernheimer’s beautiful and daring stories do not lead us to familiar places. She miraculously collapses the distinctions between the quotidian and the wondrous, the enchanted and the cursed, and takes us into the dark woods to wander until we too can see each uncanny branch.” —Jenny Offill

“These aren’t fairy tales, they’re signposts for the lost—and strange lands await if you go their way.” —Ben Loory, author of Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day

How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales is a remarkable compilation of stories: a girl’s relationship with her shadow, a librarian’s secret home, a solitary boy in a cardboard house.” Book Page

Praise for Kate Bernheimer

“Hauntingly poetic. . . . By turns lovely and tragic, Bernheimer’s spare but captivating fables of femininity resonate like a string of sad but all-too-real and meaningful dreams. This is a collection readers won’t soon forget, one that redefines the fairy tale into something wholly original.” Booklist

“Imaginative. . . . Lean and lyrical writing . . . Bernheimer’s passion for fairy tales is evident in every story she spins . . . [her] work provides a refreshing contrast to most available fiction. It is no stretch to compare her to Aimee Bender or Kelly Link.” Library Journal

“While Bernheimer’s tools and techniques are ancient, her materials are contemporary. . . . It’s a fine writer who can demonstrate so perfectly how a primal form maintains currency in any era.” Review of Contemporary Fiction

“You didn't think fairy tales could be punk rock? Think again. Kate Bernheimer takes this classic genre and filters it with an eye for contemporary fashion, music, and conflicts. The result is at once nostalgic and astonishingly new.” —Bustle

“[Bernheimer’s] new stories will astound you.” —Masters Review

“There is perhaps no living writer who more ferociously champions the fairy-tale tradition than Kate Bernheimer. Her work in the form is innovative, challenging, and always accomplished.” —Brooklyn Rail