I am so excited to be taking part in this blog tour for Sometimes We Tell the Truth by Kim Zarins. Who wouldn’t love a modern, YA retelling of The Canterbury Tales?
Title: SOMETIMES WE TELL THE TRUTH
Author: Kim Zarins
Pub. Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Find it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Goodreads
Guest Blog Post by Kim Zarins: Five reasons why I adore The Canterbury Tales:
I think Sometimes We Tell the Truth might be the first YA retelling of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I’m not sure why it hasn’t been done before, because there is a lot to love about Chaucer. It seems like every time I teach The Canterbury Tales at Sacramento State University, it’s always the most amazing experience.
Of course, I modernized my version. Not just using modern English—I’ve added in modern equivalents to the tales and themes, including zombies, vampires, angel-demon romance, Henry VIII, a massage parlor, fanfiction, a dolphin, and so on. All these additions suggest a YA contemporary novel that plays with different genres, but really, Chaucer is at the heart of this story.
Here are five things that convince me that Chaucer is the gift that keeps on giving:
#1 Great premise. Road trip stories have been told before, as early as The Odyssey, and stories with characters telling stories has been done before, as with Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. But a story about stories told on a road trip is something else altogether. You get the road trip’s sense of anticipation (Will they get there? Will the journey change them?), and the stories do far more duty than short stories taken on their own. You get all those between-the-stories drama, with characters bickering and sizing each other up. The book is really more than the sum of its parts. That, and it being a story on the road, yields magic and a strong statement about the power of stories to take you to new places as well as the places deepest inside you.
#2 The truth and lies of stereotypes. Chaucer’s characters rely on character types—the noble Knight, the big and loud Miller, the scary Summoner. Chaucer can be funny and cruel, and I kept both aspects to show how people get pegged for their looks and social standing, not just how they act. It’s not right, and it’s deeply superficial, but it really happens. And these quick judgments can work the other way. Sometimes you assume the popular person has a perfect life, but that’s untrue too. A stereotype can be an impossible image you try to live up to, or a label you desperately want to peel off. Either way, stereotypes only go so far.
#3 Everyone has a story to tell. This is where stereotypes can get challenged and where surprises happen, because the character might tell a story no one expects, or tells it in an unexpected way. Sometimes these characters tell the truth.
#4 Even the narrator has a story to tell. Chaucer writes himself into the story and tells it from his point of view. He’s something of a wallflower with a limited perspective, so part of the fun retelling this story was to watch Jeff leave his comfort zone and grow during the course of the road trip.
#5 A diverse cast to love. For Chaucer’s day, his cast was incredibly diverse. I mentioned earlier that he wasn’t the first to tell a story with characters telling stories. The medieval Italian author Boccaccio did it too, but Boccaccio chose all attractive, upper-class young men and women to tell tales in a nice villa while they waited out the Black Death raging in the streets. Chaucer took a totally different strategy. There is no catastrophe bringing people together—just a common sense of adventure in going on a pilgrimage. The tension instead comes from the diversity of the characters coming from all walks of life—diverse careers and social classes, diverse ages, and diverse sexualities too, for most readers of Chaucer would agree that the Pardoner is a LGBTQIA+ character. (I will talk more about this amazing character in my post on 9/8/16 at Literary Meanderings.) And of course, Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, bold and up front about her many relationships with men, is arguably the most famous character in all medieval literature. Decades after reading the Canterbury Tales, most people remember her red stockings and her larger-than-life personality to match. What I’m getting at is that Chaucer took a great deal of effort to assemble one of the most amazing casts in any book, ever. I love these characters—all of them.
Special message from Kim:
Pre-order giveaway: okay, my official pre-order giveaway is over, because the book is out! However, if you read this post and have a Canterbury Tales character that you especially are interested in, AND you order the book today, I will send you a Chaucer swag packet. Simply drop me a message on my website or Twitter (mentioning this blog post) and I’ll send you a sticker featuring spot art from the book (that favorite Canterbury Tales character!), along with a bookmark and signed bookplate! But you gotta do it today!
Kim Zarins has a PhD in English from Cornell University and teaches medieval literature at Sacramento State University. Her YA contemporary retelling of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Sometimes We Tell the Truth, will be released on September 6, 2016. When she isn’t reading, writing, or teaching, she hangs out with her family in Davis, CA, and coaxes a scrub jay named Joe to take peanuts from her hand. You can find her at www.kimzarins.com, on Twitter @KimZarins, and on her public page on Facebook at Kim Zarins.
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10 winners will receive a finished copy of SOMETIMES WE TELL THE TRUTH & stickers, US Only. Click HERE to enter!
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