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Snail Shells and Blackberry Doors
BFA Final Show, 2021

A Letter to the Viewer

Note: All quotes in the following letter are from The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow.


“But you still know about Doors, don't you? Because there are ten thousand stories about ten thousand Doors, and we know them as well as we know our names. They lead to Faerie, to Valhalla, Atlantis and Lemuria, Heaven and Hell, to all the directions a compass could never take you, to elsewhere. My father--who is a true scholar and not just a young lady with an ink pen and a series of things she has to say--puts it much better: "If we address stories as archaeological sites, and dust through their layers with meticulous care, we find at some level there is always a doorway. A dividing point between here and there, us and them, mundane and magical. It is at the moments where the doors open, when things flow between the worlds, that stories happen.”

Snail Shells and Blackberry Doors is all about the “elsewheres” I’ve found in books—the solace and strength I’ve found in fantasy and imagination all my life. It’s also about the spaces between where stories fall into each other and live and breathe and grow and decay.

“Thresholds are dangerous places, neither here nor there, and walking across one is like stepping off the edge of a cliff in the naive faith that you'll sprout wings halfway down. You can't hesitate, or doubt. You can't fear the in-between.”

Those of us who have spent our lives in books and around stories sometimes wonder whether we were born in the right world. We love and yearn for this in-between space of discovery where we find elsewheres. We find ourselves broken, mended, and empowered by stories that read like mirrors or send us searching for something we can’t quite name. I hope that this space and these pieces remind you of elsewheres or of a particular Door. That you find a fragment or a hint of a tale you’ve forgotten, feel the urge to read a new story, or return to an old favorite. And if you have any book recommendations, don’t hesitate to send me a list.

“Worlds were never meant to be prisons, locked and suffocating and safe. Worlds were supposed to be great rambling houses with all the windows thrown open and the wind and summer rain rushing through them, with magic passages in their closets and secret treasure chests in their attics.”



Reading List:

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
The Goose Girl (and the rest of The Books Of Bayern) by Shannon Hale
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
"A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies" by Alix. E Harrow
Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidecker
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
The Frog and Toad Treasury by Arnold Lobel
Circe by Madeline Miller
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
The Heroine with 1,001 Faces by Maria Tatar
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes by Duncan Tonatiuh
The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairytales by Frank Xaver von Schönwerth

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