JJ Amaworo Wilson's Blog

“Rad Women Worldwide” – by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

By JJ Amaworo Wilson

I’m reading Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History with my 8-year-old son, who won it in a raffle. It’s awesome.

It has short chapters – 2 or 3 pages – each containing a mini-bio and a paper cut illustration of a woman who’s made a difference. There are some I’d expect: Malala, Aung San Suu Kyi, Frida Kahlo; some I’m happily surprised to see there: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Miriam Makeba, Josephine Baker; and some I’d never heard of: Grace “Granuaile” O’Malley, Faith Bandler, Kalpana Chawla.

All of this – brevity, surprises, brilliant art – makes it a pleasure to read. The other thing is that it’s a truly global book. The inside cover contains a map showing the origins of these radical women; they’re from every continent. They’re also from just about every documented period in history. Malala’s a teenager. Hatshepsut is three and a half thousand years old.

I might have preferred the book if it had stuck to, say, the last 100 years or so. Without a lot of context it’s hard to fully understand what the ancient rad women really achieved. Egypt is already quite distant culturally for the English speakers this book is aimed at. Egypt three and a half thousand years ago is more so.

The book, by its nature, doesn’t go into much depth, and many readers will be thinking, “Where’s so-and-so?” Why isn’t X, Y and Z included here?” Of course there are notable absentees – thousands of them. But let’s take the book for what it is: a succinct and enjoyable intro to some rad women worldwide. My 8-year-old is lovin’ it and learnin’ loads. And so am I.

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