I have to look up Scheherazade every time I type it, so I just put it in the title to refer back to. This post is actually about One Hundred Nights of Hero, by Isabel Greenberg, which is a wonderful graphic novel and you should read it.
Two men are discussing the modesty and beauty and purity that is attractive in a woman, and one claims that his wife fits all their requirements, and the other doesn't believe him. So they make a bet--that Old Guy One can seduce Old Guy Two's wife if given one hundred nights to do it in. This is incredibly gross, which is the point.
The wife, Cherry, was married off Old Guy Two by her father, and Old Guy Two is right--she's so pure she's never even slept with her own husband. But he's also wrong, because she's actually got a beautiful and loving relationship with her handmaiden, Hero. The two women overhear about the bet and hatch a plan to keep Old Guy One from winning the bet.
And so follow night after night of stories--beautiful, human stories. I usually don't love books that are structured around mythology or folk tales, but there is an enormous humanity (as well as a modern sense of humor) that just made me love these. The people are not the two-dimensional shadows from most fairy tales--they all have depths of feeling that made me believe in them and want to hear more of Hero's stories.
I also loved the ideas of storytelling here. I'm usually surprisingly immune to stories that are about stories, but here, the agenda is so explicit and so empowering that I couldn't help but love it--this is a book about how even when you lose, the story you create can win far beyond you. It's about how the world is made up of individual people, and enough of them together make a society, a zeitgeist, a nation, an era. It's about the League of Secret Storytellers and the moon who came to earth and about sisters--sisters of all kinds.
I want to thank Aarti for turning me on to this one. I tried Isabel Greenberg's previous book, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, at her suggestion, but I was put off by the mythology at the beginning--mythology is not my jam. There are a few pages of mythology at the beginning of Hero, but the story sounded so intriguing that I pushed through it, and it was completely worth it. Now I have to go back to Early Earth and see if I love it as much.
This is the perfect graphic novel for right now, because it's about how people can make their own power, and about how small stories matter, and how small stories can accumulate into larger stories in unexpected ways. Kelly and Cora, you need to read this one!