WIHM 2022: Stories My Mother Told Me

Stories My Mother Told Me

By: Heather Ventura

I was seven years old when the curtains were removed from my room because they looked like an illustration of the Snow Queen from my fairy tales book during lightning storms. When I was eight, I refused to sleep unless my feet were precisely tucked away so goblins couldn’t steal them. At age eleven I had to sleep with the light on because of Gollum. 

You may be asking yourself what these characters from stories by male authors have to do with Women in Horror Month. They share a common denominator: my mother. They were just a few of the stories my mother read to my sister and I growing up. A master storyteller and narrator, my mother would do all the voices and make the stories she read come alive. My love of books, and more specifically, my love of horror stories was carefully midwifed into existence by my mother. 

Nearly every night of my life, well into the teen years, the ritual was the same. Take a bath, wash my hair, snuggle up on the couch, and listen to Mom read. I remember nights when we would plead for one more chapter or one more short story. We were merciless beggars, and I was the worst. She would read while sick, her throat burning and croaking as she read, sipping hot tea. She would read no matter what kind of horrible day she had survived. Story time was sacred. On that couch I met some amazing authors: Mary Shelley, Ann Radcliffe, Wilkie Collins, the Brontë Sisters, Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates, Edith Wharton, and many more.  

My mother was a voracious reader. Bookshelves lined nearly every room in our house. My grandmothers on both sides of my family were fervent readers. Two of my great grandmothers (one of which was a librarian) were also avid readers. Trips to the bookstore weren’t a special treat, they were as mandatory as going to the grocery store. We went to the library every week. During school holidays, I was allowed to bring a wagon on our weekly visits.

Women in Horror Month is a time to stop and reflect not only on the women who influenced the genre through their writing , but also the often unrecognized  women who put the books in our hands: the beta  readers, the editors, the proof readers, the artists, the formatters, the publishers, the publicists, the reviewers, the ad designers, the distributers, the bookshop owners, the sales clerks, the librarians, the teachers, the girlfriends, the babysitters, the aunts, the cousins, the mothers, the step-mothers, the foster mothers, the guardians, the grandmothers, and great grandmothers.  The network of women in horror is vast and our roots are deep. 

To those women (by all possible definitions of this word) who don’t think Women in Horror Month is about you because you aren’t the next Mary Shelley, know this: every story you write, beta read, edit, proofread, illustrate, format, publish, market, deliver, sell, review, gift, recommend to a friend, loan to others, or read aloud has an influence on the genre. I stand on the shoulders of the women of my family who loved books with a passion that is hard to put into words and every librarian who helped me find the next book to devour.

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