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Inanna

by Kim Echlin

The ancient kingdom of Sumer, located in what is now Iraq, gave the world its first form of written language. Sumerian cuneiform was used to record the world’s first written poem, The Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh, the hero who tried to gain immortality for himself, had a sister named Inanna, whose own adventures inspired a number of Sumerian myths and hymns. Among other feats, Inanna won the gifts of civilization from Enki, the god of earth and wisdom.

Novelist Kim Echlin discovered a number of stories about Inanna while looking for myths to share with her two daughters. Echlin was immediately drawn to the woman-positive stories of the impulsive, passionate heroine, but the academic translations left her cold. To rectify this problem, and to introduce the stories to average readers, Echlin has collected and retold the tales in free verse in Inanna. The stories and hymns have been strung together to form a single narrative, giving the book a slightly elliptical feel in places, but Inanna’s vibrant personality and exploits ultimately unify the story. Linda Wolfsgruber’s bright iconic illustrations complement the poetry’s earthy, often erotic undertones. Parents should be warned that the sections on Inanna’s marriage to the shepherd Dumuzi are a little racy – much is made of drinking beer and what happens later in “the honey bed” – but it’s nothing that today’s 10-year-old can’t handle.