Betty by Tiffany McDaniel

Books fast became the love of my life. Everything about them; how they feel to hold, the smell of the pages. That I can become lost within a book, as though it still contains the spirit of the forest it started from, is magic. Storytelling is the art that is accessible to everyone, as natural to life as telling someone about your day. Books have an infinite duty to highlight  perspectives and people that would otherwise remain strangers. Voices that become louder as pages.

Tiffany McDaniel’s Betty reminded me how stories can set a soul on fire.

Betty and her siblings are carried through life on the back of their father’s stories. Through maintaining their imagination and wonderment, the family pull through racist prejudices they face due to their Cherokee heritage, focusing on the pieces of world they can still consider blessed. From a young girl enamoured with fairy tales and dreams of a different life, to a young adult adamant to face the harsh reality around her, McDaniel shows Betty’s ever-growing love for storytelling. In a true portrayal of her mother’s life, McDaniel highlights the importance of stories to help us understand each other.

Taking inspiration from past generations of her family perfectly demonstrates the value of storytelling between people, and which is the reason I was drawn to this book in the first instance.

Betty reminded me that storytelling means much more than the entertainment we provide to friends over Friday night drinks. At the heart of storytelling is the ability to connect with others. Particularly during 2020, a year I feel we all laid a greater importance on empathy, Betty is a reminder of the undeniable effects of human interaction. It is a reality plagued (or perhaps ‘cursed’ as Betty’s sister Flossie would muse) with tragedy, that shows a glimmer of hope in our imaginations.

As I read Tiffany McDaniel’s story, I pondered how we all like to hold on to the fairy tales we heard as children. I believe they rest in our hearts, so that once we are old enough to embrace reality, there is still a sliver of us that has hope. McDaniel writes stunning imagery. Her book, as I mentioned before, reaches deep into the soul.

– I’m not sure I could have given it higher praise if I tried!

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