A journalist and folklorist explores the truths that underlie the stories we imagine—and reveals the magic in the everyday.
“I’ve always felt that the term fairy tale doesn’t quite capture the essence of these stories,” writes Emily Urquhart. “I prefer the term wonder tale, which is Irish in origin, for its suggestion of awe coupled with narrative. In a way, this is most of our stories.” In this startlingly original essay collection, Urquhart reveals the truths that underlie our imaginings: what we see in our heads when we read, how the sight of a ghost can heal, how the entrance to the underworld can be glimpsed in an oil painting or a winter storm—or the onset of a loved one’s dementia. In essays on death and dying, pregnancy and prenatal genetics, psychics, chimeras, cottagers, and plague, Ordinary Wonder Tales reveals the essential truth: if you let yourself look closely, there is magic in the everyday.
About the author
EMILY URQUHART is a National Magazine Award–winning writer and has a doctorate in folklore from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her first book, Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family, and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes, was a Maclean’s bestseller, a finalist for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, and a Globe and Mail Best Book of 2015. Her freelance writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, The Walrus Magazine, Longreads, the Rumpus, and Eighteen Bridges, among other publications. She is a nonfiction editor for the New Quarterly and teaches creative nonfiction at Wilfrid Laurier University. She lives in Kitchener, Ontario, with her husband and their two children.
Praise for Ordinary Wonder Tales
"The mix of heady and magical will be spellbinding to memoir readers with a ready sense of wonder."—Publishers Weekly
"With insight, compassion, and skill, Emily Urquhart’s essays delve into the intricate wonders of our lives. This book is magical in every sense of the term—a beautiful ode to both the natural world and the supernatural one, and all of the ways in which our human hearts traverse the space between these shifting places."—Amanda Leduc, author of The Centaur's Wife and Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space
Praise for Beyond the Pale
“[Urquhart] isn’t afraid to make the personal political, to delve into her particular experience while also acknowledging its limits and investigating what lies beyond them. Urquhart’s as interested in championing individuality as she is in embracing our shared humanity. But she never shies away from the fact that cherishing both can be a knotty, contradictory affair.”
—Globe & Mail
“A courageous and ambitious book. Beyond the Pale offers an intimate account about raising a daughter with albinism, a lucid portrait of related genetic, medical and social issues, and a disturbing reminder of the brutal violence that many people with albinism continue to face today.”—Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes and Blood: The Stuff of Life
“A brave, thoughtful, clear, and always graceful journey through the terrifying randomness of genetics and the unexpected ways genetic anomalies can mark not just children, but all the lives around them.”
—Ian Brown, author of The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Search for his Disabled Son
“A graceful, perceptive rendering of a misunderstood condition.”
“Folklorist Urquhart writes poetically and movingly about her daughter … readers will weep and smile.”