Sometimes I get a bit angry at the state of the world. Sometimes, it can be hard to see discrimination against women and not know how to handle it. Sometimes, we have to turn to books to inspire us.
Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nichols is a book that celebrates the suffrage movement in England. This year marks the 100th anniversary of women being given the vote in that country. I really, really enjoyed this book. It is a wonderful take on the ways in which three very different women tried to find their place in the world. Evelyn wants to go to Oxford, to use the brains she has been gifted. She becomes involved in the suffragette movement, despite the risks of jail. May is a pacifist. She wants the world to be a better place, without violence and hate. Nell dresses in a man’s clothes, and is frustrated that no one will take her seriously. May and Nell begin a romantic relationship, something I was pleased to see in a historical fiction. Romantic relationships between women are often erased by history and I was thrilled to see one included here. The story was incredibly interesting, and I was incredibly intrigued by the historical detail, much of which I did not know. This book inspired me to fight where I see injustice and I only hope I can do a tenth of what these fascinating young women achieved. I highly recommend this book for women of all ages.
Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu was another fantastic book about young women fighting back, this time against sexism in a school in small town America. Viv is angry at the way the world is treating her and her peers. Her anger fuels her creativity and she creates Moxie, a zine calling all the girls in her school to action. What I liked most about this book is its introduction of intersectional feminism. I have been listening to an incredible podcast called The Guilty Feminist, where I have learned that the traditional model of feminism caters to white, straight, middle-class, able-bodied women. This book called that out. Viv comes from a position of relative privilege and is called out by her peers to reinforce that girls of colour, and queer girls have a place in her movement. This is a book every young woman should read, not only to understand the ideals of feminism, but also to encourage her not to accept the sexist crap that so many schools let slide.
And I cannot forget the non-fiction! Mackenzi Lee, author of the absolutely fabulous A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (‘the queer teen historical you didn’t know was missing from your life’) has produced a compilation of her famous Twitter threads, Bygone Badass Broads. The book discusses incredible women who have been forgotten by history. My favourites: Ursula Nordstrom, publisher extraordinaire (she published the first YA novel to overtly mention homosexuality, and was also the woman who brought us Maurice Sendak’s genius), Mary Seacole, an incredible Jamaican nurse who worked on the Crimean battlefield (she was better than Florence Nightingale), and Mochizuki Chiyome, a woman from 16th-century Japan who literally trained spies and ninjas. There are so many more incredible stories told in this book and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of interesting and inspiring women to model myself on. I am particularly thrilled that Mackenzi draws attention to those stories which history has tried to erase, particularly the stories of queer women and women of colour.
And we cannot forget the incredible Good Night Stories foR Rebel Girls 2. The amazing authors, Francesco Cavallo and Elena Favilli, started the greatest trend of the moment, story collections about amazing women! I did find there was a bit of crossover with Bygone Badass Broads but I only think I noticed it so much because I read them one after the other. I liked that this book included young women, such as Sky Brown, a ten-year-old skateboarder from Japan! I was also thrilled to learn about Beatrice Vio, a Paralympic gold medalist in fencing. (Normally I am not this into sport!) Seeing Sappho, the wonderful ancient poet, on these pages, was also lovely! JUST ALL OF THESE WOMEN ARE AMAZING!
And I’m going to include a sneaky shout-out to a book coming later this month all about Australian women! It’s called Shout Out to the Girls! and includes such wonderful women as Cathy Freeman and Turia Pitt plus SO MANY MORE! This one comes out on February 26th – order at the link above, or get more information over here.
What are your favourite stories about incredible, badass women? Do they inspire you to strive harder?