The middle novella of three in Femme Tales (a trio of retellings of fairy tales through a Black queer women-loving-women contemporary lens), “Awaken” brings forth its ‘Sleeping Beauty’ charm with a softer, and even slightly magical trace than “Beast” did with ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ but that’s neither a bad thing nor a complaint about either of the tales. If anything, after Ebony and Belinda butting heads throughout “Beast,” the shift in tone to something gentler (but no less romantic) was welcome and sweet.
Chayse Carmichael, who appeared in “Beast” as one of Ebony’s friends (and a local celebrity chef) steps up to find herself considering taking a chance with a repeat customer. It’s a line she’s never crossed before, but Serena Frasier is tempting in more ways than one: seeing her, and having a brief chat or two with her leaves Chayse realizing that success in her career is a great thing, but she’s starting to feel lonely. Serena, who in an evening of homesickness came to enjoy Chayse’s soul food and asked for a pie to ship home to her grandmother, is just the kind of woman Chayse can imagine spending more time with—and then Serena doesn’t show on her usual night.
I’ve previously struggled with Sleeping Beauty in that the prince character so often knows zilch about the beauty character (and it all ends up being creepy), but Anne Shade plants just enough seeds between the two women to make it clear they were on track already, just interrupted by Serena’s injury and resultant coma. The tie-in with Serena’s family (her grandmother especially) was another nice counterpoint, a building sense of community and family that echoes the more metaphysical journey Serena takes. I ended “Awaken” with a genuine smile, utterly charmed.
Also! As I mentioned last week, I was lucky enough to have been able to touch base with Anne Shade about the stories, so here’s some behind-the-scenes for “Awaken.”
From the Author:
In choosing “Sleeping Beauty” for the premise of “Awaken” I gave myself an unexpected challenge. In the story of “Sleeping Beauty,” Beauty and the prince never truly meet so the reader is supposed to believe these two strangers fall in love instantly with just a kiss, true love’s kiss at that. How do you have true love if you never met? Even with the fact that “Awaken” is based on a fairy tale, I still wanted it to be a tad bit believable that’s why I had Chayse and Serena meet briefly and have that love at first sight moment before the fairy tale premise took over. Then, since many in the medical field believe that talking to a comatose patient could help them recover faster, I thought that would be the perfect way for Chayse to reach Serena. To be the one that kept her connected to the light of life. Her heart was already connected to Chayse, I had to get her head there as well.