How’s this for someone who doesn’t blog for two months? Nothing for ages then three in twenty-four hours! I always was good at rising to occasions, last-minute cramming, skidding into deadlines with mere seconds to go. And obviously a bit less good at sustaining the momentum. Ho hum.. the world’s beautiful because it’s vario, right? And different is good, they always say.
So, I’m packing all my favourite girl-empowering books into my 24-hour mark of respect for International Women’s Day. Next one up is another stunner from Sinnos.
Winner of the 2014 Italian ANDERSEN prize for the Best Children’s Graphic Novel, Cattive Ragazze (Bad Girls) presents 15 outstanding biographies of 15 equally outstanding writers, voyagers, scientists, activists, philosophers, singers, painters and cyclists. All brave, independent women who refused to bend to society’s idea and expectations of them. All women, some more famous than others, who made their mark on history through the years.
Hedy Lamarr was a very rich, very pretty movie star and also an inventor who won the BULBIE, known as the “Oscar” of inventing. Nellie Bly was the first women journalist to go under cover. Antonia Masanello was the only women to fight in Garibaldi’s Mille. These three “bad girls” keep very good company in this quirky but cool graphic novel: Olympe De Gouges – Elvira Coda Notari – Nawal El Saadawi – Marie Curie – Aleksandra Kollontaj – Alfonsina Morini Strada – Angela Davis – Claude Cahun – Domitila Barrios De Chungara – Franca Viola – Miriam Makeba – Onorina Brambilla. Read the rest of this entry
Following on from last night’s story of the princess who was too busy studying to accept a marriage proposal, I’d like to present this little gem – Eugenia l’ingegnosa (Eugenia the Ingenious) as part of my celebration of female protagonists, female authors (Anne Wilsdorf), and female-run indy presses (Sinnos Editrice). Oh, I do love a story with a positive takeaway. Not only is it a bargain (two things for the price of one) it’s also excellent for girls to see different role models in their books. You know, princesses are nice, but they don’t always have to be marrying princes.
So, this book’s about Eugenia. Eugenia lives alone with her family on Nascondoni Island. Until she discovers another island – Nonsodove – that looks far more interesting. Eugenia wants to go there. She tries with a plank of wood first, and fails. She tries again with a sort of floating bridge, and fails. Try and try again, Eugenia finally makes it to the island. All sorts of things happen there, the most important of which are making lots of new friends and discovering she has a skill for building things.
Suffice it to say this this is not a book about princesses and pink ribbons. If you want your little girl reading stories about building bridges and revelling in the wonders of the world around us, then this is the book for her. It’s definitely going on my list of books to take into schools and libraries, translate into English and maybe stick under someone’s (publisher person’s) nose. But for now, I’m sticking it under yours as I mark International Women’s Day.
The idea for this story came from a group of feisty female engineers and architects in Switzerland who have been fighting for women’s rights for years. “We want our book to encourage girls to be curious and not settle for the games and toys they’re supposed to play with just because they’re girls.” Valérie Ortlieb, spokesperson for the group, said, “We need to give girls activities and models of women that they can identify with. So that when they grow up and start thinking about who inspired them, they’ll think of a woman.”
Switzerland (and Italy) both have a gender problem in the professional, technical world. Girls make up 50% of students in Architecture faculties but ten years later, that figure drops to 20%. Maybe if we start our daughters, nieces, grand-daughters or friend’s children reading empowering stories like these when they’re young, they maybe we can inspire the confidence and self-belief to make it where society in general expects/wants/forces them to fail.
It’s all in the grammar
I’ve been doing lots of reading workshops with children lately. Most of them have had either female protagonists or female authors (or both). It all started with La Grammatica La Fa La Differenza by one of my favourite Italian publishers (mammeonline). It’s a clever book full of ingenious stories that turn Italian sexist grammar on its head. Sexist? Italy?
The best one has to be about the princess who can’t marry prince charming because she’s too busy studying to be a lawyer (avvocatA, of course). Or a group of school children wondering why we can’t just be people (persone) instead of “men” (uomini) and live together instead of in fratellanza. Or asking themselves why suorA is okay for a nun but assessorA is not okay for a lady councillor. Equally confused is the girl who dreams that the bank (bancA) was actually just a bunch of school desks (bancO) in the street, or the door (portA) to her house had gone and turned into a harbour (portO). Lots of interesting conversations were had… and the idea gradually formed that if teachers are already addressing mixed groups of children collectively as just “boys” (ragazzi/bambini) when they’re young, then is it any wonder that women are often undervalued, disregarded or mistreated when they’re older?
Let’s all just read about cream cakes instead
Well, since it’s International Women’s Day, I thought I might pop in a few wee tips about other (as yet unpublished) books by or about women. Brought to us in Italian by another little Italian indy press: Atmosphere Libri.
“…beats its way slowly and deliciously through drizzling honey, buttered baking tins, quivering jellies and slabs of chocolate..”
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