Fairy Tales, Memoirs, and Other Appalachian Mysteries – Guest Post – Grendolyn Peach Soleil

Fairy tales and memoirs share some common elements. They can develop reflective narratives for understanding the world we live in. They can explore the good and evil aspects of ourselves and others. Fairy tales and memoirs can express common emotions and universal experiences, and they can impart wisdom and deliver important messages. Both fairy tales and memoirs grapple with existential issues and satisfy our curiosity as humans and as creatures.

The Imaginary Line between Fairy Tales and Memoirs

I am grateful to have been born in Appalachia where the line between fairy tales and memoirs is imaginary. Making a distinction between fairy tales and memoirs feels very unnatural to me as an Appalachian woman. What many people call fairy tales and folklore, I call reality. Folk magic is as real as the rolling hills in West Virginia. My hilljack granny talks to objects on a daily basis, and she believes that the rivers, the sunflowers, the moon, and the stars talk back to her. Granny lives in the here and now. Her stories are not sequential. She goes wherever the wind blows and wears her heart on her sleeve. Granny’s mountain medicine is not a complementary or alternative medicine for me. In fact, there is nothing as powerful as the first sip of granny’s elderberry tonic on a cold, October night by the campfire.

Pearls of Wisdom from My Hilljack Granny

What my granny lacks in formal education, she more than compensates for in pearls of wisdom.

• It hurts to be human, and pain is inevitable. My granny survived The Great Depression, the death of her father, domestic violence, the death of her son, mental illness, and addiction. Granny’s mama never took a shine to her, and once upon a time, I asked her why there was bad blood between her and her mama. A quote from my granny sums it up better than I can. “Reasons don’t grow on trees. Sometimes, there ain’t a reason, so stick that in yer pipe and smoke it. Besides, that old bitty don’t bother me no more. I’m a rich woman cause I got me the rivers, the hills, and the trees.”

• What matters most is how you respond to painful experiences. Humans are masters at avoiding, ignoring, and numbing their pain in all sorts of destructive ways. Humans are very sly and can spread their pain to others along the way. Humans are also incredibly good at getting so stuck in their pain that they can’t imagine living life any other way, but granny teaches me to face my pain with courage and let it transform my brokenness into something beautiful.

• We are creatures of the in between, and we need to nurture both our earthly and our sacred dimensions. In her own humble way, granny asks the tough questions in life and dares herself to live a life of purpose and meaning. Granny teaches me that there will be moments when we are wholly present in our humanity, and moments when we morph into a creature feature, and moments when we shine as bright as the golden gods of eternity.

• Humans live in the land of fairy tales, and there is magic in simplicity. Fairy tales take common objects and transform them into conduits of the divine. Fairy tales transport us to a world where anything is possible, and there is no limit to our imagination. Granny teaches me to worship roses, rabbits, apples, mirrors, and spindles because any object can have magical properties.

Limbo Jubilee: A Visionary Celebration

After many long and painful years of trying to reconcile my reality with the world’s reality, I decided to write a memoir to capture my experiences and to conjure up my healing. In my quest for the cure, I explored the lonely frontiers of the human spirit and wrote Limbo Jubilee, my debut novella. Initially, when I read the final product, I was very worried. It troubled me that my novella didn’t fit neatly into any category, but somewhere along the way, I embraced the mystery. After all, memoirs live in the land of fairy tales where memories are constructed, and narratives are imaginary.

Limbo Jubilee is a visionary celebration. It is a metaphor for being human and alien, earthly and otherworldly, broken and blessed, and all in the same breath. In our modern world, we talk endlessly and try to explain everything, but when children read fairy tales, they open their hearts and expand their minds, hoping that something unexplainable will happen. Magic and mystery make life worth living. They are common languages that unite humans and beasts.

Visionary fiction and magical realism are not just fancy literary concepts. For me and granny, they are a way of life. They are family values that I carry with me. They are my lifeblood and my north star. When I write visionary fiction, I transform my joy and my pain into something meaningful, and it nurtures both the Appalachian woman and the slippery creature within me.


About the author

Grendolyn Peach Soleil was born in the land of sweet tea and Sunday suppers. Drawn to the mysteries of human nature, she earned her doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Grendolyn moonlights as a writer because it’s good medicine for her soul. She carries the folk magic of Appalachia in her heart everywhere she goes. Grendolyn’s roots as a southern, Appalachian writer deeply influence her style of writing and storytelling, and she is a proud member of the Visionary Fiction Alliance. Limbo Jubilee is her debut novella. She lives a merry life in the desert where adventure is around every corner.

Visit her website: https://www.grendolynpeachsoleil.com/

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7 thoughts on “Fairy Tales, Memoirs, and Other Appalachian Mysteries – Guest Post – Grendolyn Peach Soleil

  1. margaretduarte says:

    “What my granny lacks in formal education, she more than compensates for in pearls of wisdom.” Oh my gosh, so true. The real kind of education!
    “We are creatures of the in between, and we need to nurture both our earthly and our sacred dimensions.” Well, of course, I agree with you here, one reason I call my book series, “Enter the Between.”
    “…there is magic in simplicity.” And why is this so hard for us to learn?
    “It troubled me that my novella didn’t fit neatly into any category, but somewhere along the way, I embraced the mystery.” This is the story behind the creation of the Visionary Fiction Alliance. A home for the type of fiction we write. At last!
    Thanks so much, Grendolyn, for your wonderful article.

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  2. Grendolyn Peach Soleil says:

    Thanks so much, Margaret! I greatly enjoyed writing an article for the Visionary Fiction Alliance! It is wonderful to find a creative home and have the opportunity to connect with others who share similar passions and values. I will have to check out your book series. I’m glad we can connect in the between! I will also have to check out other authors in the VFA too. Happy reading and writing, and long live the fairy tale!

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  3. Margaret Duarte says:

    That’s what we thrive for at VFA, Grendolyn, to serve as a “creative home” and provide “the opportunity to connect with others who share similar passions and values.” Let’s keep in touch in “the between,” and, yes, long live the fairy tale.

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  4. Eleni Papanou says:

    I could relate to you when you mention, “trying to reconcile my reality with the world’s reality.”

    I also resonated with this:
    “My hilljack granny talks to objects on a daily basis, and she believes that the rivers, the sunflowers, the moon, and the stars talk back to her. ”

    Nature has a way of answering us back. I view this as truth. If were silent, we can hear it. There’s a Greek song that I sing called “The Mountain,” where a despondent person climbs a mountain and talks about the pain of being poor. She is friends with the mountain, and it talks back to her.

    Finding magic and mystery certainly makes life worth living, and also more exciting. I also think it allows us to connect to who we truly are beneath all outside influences that shape us.

    Eleni

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  5. Grendolyn Peach Soleil says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments , Eleni! I appreciate you taking the time to read my article and to connect with me. I love when you said “nature has a way of answering us back.” I wholeheartedly believe this too.

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  6. Victor Smith says:

    Granny rules! Now, Grendolyn Peach Soliel, is that your real name? If so, your mama could pick ’em. If it’s a nom de plume, you win the prize. Love it. And thanks for contributing the the VFA.

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    • Grendolyn Peach Soleil says:

      Thank you, Victor! Granny definitely rules! It’s a nom de plume and an homage to different aspects of myself. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and welcome me to the VFA. I appreciate it!

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