AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
We've been reporting over the last few weeks about the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. Since October tens of thousands of unaccompanied children have been taken into custody there. Most of them are from Central America and many are fleeing violence in their home countries. As part of our series, this week's must read author Kate Bernheimer recommends a book that might help us reflect on the lives of those children.
KATE BERNHEIMER: There's a story probably heard before: a brother and sister are abandoned in the woods by the parents. Soon they meet a witch, who locks the little boy in a shed and begins to fatten him up, planning to eat him. It's the story of Hansel and Gretel and it asks a primal question -what will happen to these kids? For some uneasy answers, there's no better book than Maria Tatar's "The Grimm Reader." I often visit these tales for dose of courage. There's serious stories about children alone in horrible situations. Reading this week's news, I think there's no book more timely. Tatar's translations come from the Brothers Grimm, who first started publishing the stories in 1812. She gets the spare language exactly right. Like in this quote from a story called, "Little Brother And Little Sister." Little brother took little sister by the hand and said, our stepmother beats us every day. All we get to eat are crusts of hard bread. Even the dog on the table is better off than we are, at least he gets an occasional tidbit. And then there's Snow White, a young girl who avoids murderous threats from the queen by fleeing into the woods. These aren't escapist fantasies. They're stories of kids facing unimaginable terror. As Tatar writes, in fairy tales children have to find radical ways to survive a world ruled by adults. This is their grim reality and it's the reality of the children at the border as well. But not all endings are unhappy. Remember Hansel and Gretel? They managed to shove that witch in the oven and they emerged from the forest alive.
CORNISH: The book is Maria Tatar's, "The Grim Reader: The Classic Tales From The Brothers Grimm". It was recommended by Kate Bernheimer. Her newest book, "How A Mother Weaned Her Girl From Fairy Tales" will be out next month.
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