It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
There is a proliferation of biographies of women who are described to be ingenious, adventurers, and rebels. While definitely laudable, there are a few issues that I am finding now, as I read more of them for our current reading theme. Here are two collections of such stories about fearless females, and some of my observations, both as a reader and a researcher.
Written by Linda Skeers Illustrated by Livi Gosling
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (2017)
ISBN: 1492653276 (ISBN13: 9781492653271). Borrowed a copy from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
I am intrigued by stories depicting women, ostensibly from different parts of the world, because I am keen to look at representation. The first thing I did after borrowing this book from the library was to look at the table of contents and check from which countries these daring women come from.
The book is divided across three major categories: Daredevils, Adventurers, and Rebels. I would have appreciated a short description of how the authors/illustrators came up with their categorizations: what constituted daredevils, who are the adventurers, and rebels? Right now, the women could have fallen under any of these categories, as the labels seem fairly interchangeable, which does not really do it justice – because otherwise why come up with the categories in the first place.
I was also intrigued initially when I saw that there were women coming from Germany or Australia that I didn’t know about. As I read through, however, I realized that even the women born in Nicaragua or Jamaica eventually became American immigrants and citizens. While there is nothing wrong with this obviously, the way that the women are depicted raises the polemical and oft-problematic issue of what constitutes where one is from: is it place of birth, one’s ethnicity, where one currently resides, or where one grew up.
Most of the daredevils are also performers with the Barnum and Bailey Circus in the United States. In fact, there is a whole group of them that can fall under the Barnum category entirely. Again, nothing wrong with this – but still raises the issue of range of representation of what constitutes daredevils. This is where a Section Introduction would have helped tremendously in setting expectations.
I suppose one of the reasons why we can now nitpick these anthologies is because so many of them have come out in recent years – and once again, I see very few people coming from Southeast Asia – except for the occasional Japanese mountain climber or martial artist – as is shared here.
Regardless, I think that this remains a good collection that would benefit all young readers. Definitely more wordy than other anthologies of a similar theme, but still a worthy addition to your library collection.
Written by Catherine Thimmesh Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2000)
ISBN: 0618195637 (ISBN13: 9780618195633). Literary Awards: IRA Children’s and Young Adult’s Book Award for Older Reader Category (2001), Society of Midland Authors Award Nominee for Children’s Nonfiction (2001). Borrowed a copy from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
There are only twelve ingenious women presented in this fairly-thin collection of biographies, but I found the story highly compelling, and the narrative flow suspenseful and ultimately triumphant – as the ingenious inventors made the public realize the worth of their creations.
I especially liked how Madam C. J. Walker was depicted in the Introduction. Born Sarah Breedlove, daughter of former slaves, Madam Walker eventually became a self-made millionaire through her hair care products.
The book also depicted the female inventor of Kevlar, the maker of Paper Bags, and the creator of the Windshield Wiper. I like how these are simple, but ultimately life-changing inventions that revolutionized safety, comfort, and the affordability of things that one can not imagine living without now.
I especially enjoyed direct quotes from female creators based on the creators’ research on their lives. What I found mildly disturbing, however, was how a few creators mentioned getting their ideas from others, yet there was no indication of efforts being made to donate to a particular cause that inspired the idea in the first place. A case in point is the patenting and creation of Snugli which was inspired by Ann Moore’s time in West Africa, and how the mothers snugly held their babies close to their bodies through these makeshift clothing (see image below).
While sales for the creation of Snuglis have reached millions of dollars, there was no mention of how these West African mothers may have benefited inadvertently from providing the inspiration to the idea.
Another interesting aspect of the book is that it also included very young female inventors. It also includes information on how one can go about patenting one’s idea, as well as the many contests and camps, organizations that young people can be a part of to stretch their ingenious inventions further.
We have also just recently decided to come up with a monthly #ReadAlong given our quarterly reading themes. Please feel free to join us. I shall post an update somewhere at the end of the month to host a discussion of each book (which we will be linking up as well in our Twitter, Facebook Page, Litsy, and Instagram). Essentially, I intend to simply share my thoughts about the books – and hope that you will chime in with your own musings and reflections.
January: Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo – this choice was deliberate given the heinous events that have just recently transpired (Country: USA).
February: Sin by Forugh Farrokhzad edited and translated by Sholeh Wolpe (Country: Iran).
March: Insurrecto by Gina Apostol (Country: Philippines)
#WomenReadWomen2019: Apart from Livi Gosling who lives in the UK, all the other authors/artists are from the United States.