Review: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo

I recently read Bad Girls Throughout History by Ann Shen and was naturally craving for more when I came across this equally fantastic collection of extraordinary women.

Illustrated by sixty female artists from every corner of the globe, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls introduces us to one hundred remarkable women and their extraordinary lives, from Ada Lovelace to Malala, Elizabeth I to Serena Williams. Empowering, moving and inspirational, these are true fairy tales for heroines who definitely don’t need rescuing.

Initially I went in a bit worried that this would have the same set of women as in the aforementioned collection, but I needn’t have worried because Good Night Stories features a brand new exciting and enlightening group of women to the table (save for a few classics, of course).

And I just have to say that my heart soars every time I learn of books similar to this one that shine light on groups of courageous and inventive women. Plus, the illustrations are hypnotic and ethereal. Speaking of which, here are some of my favorite ladies I loved to learn about:

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim (1959–): President and Scientist.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 1-- bookspoilsAmna Al Haddad (1989–): Weightlifter.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2-- bookspoilsAnn Makosinski (1997–): Inventor.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 3-- bookspoilsAstrid Lindgren (1907–2002): Writer.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 4-- bookspoilsLindgren has written some of my favorite childhood tales, so I was beyond ecstatic to read about her in here!!

Coy Mathis (2007–): Elementary School Student.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 5-- bookspoilsIt warmed my heart to see a transgender girl represented in Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. It made the book that more accessible.

Eufrosina Cruz (1979–): Activist and Politician.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 6-- bookspoilsThe above quote speaks volumes to me.

Frida Kahlo (1907–1954): Painter.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 7-- bookspoils

Grace O’Malley (c. 1530–1603): Pirate.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 8-- bookspoils

Hatshepsut (1507–1458 BC): Pharaoh.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 9-- bookspoils

Jane Goodall (1934–): Primatologist.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 10-- bookspoils
Maud Stevens Wagner (1877–1961): Tattoo Artist.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 12-- bookspoilsI can’t stop staring at the detailed beauty of the above piece, especially once compared to the real picture:maud_stevens_wagner

This diverse collection of women — from different backgrounds, religions, disabilities, ethnicities, sexualities — was as inspiring as it gets. And not only was their courage and strength legendary, but I found their worldview on life and all its aspects to be very illuminating and comforting.

Bottom line: This is the quality content I’m here for in feminist collections.

5/5 stars

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Review: The Moth Presents All These Wonders by Catherine Burns

Going into this I had no idea what to expect since I wasn’t really familiar with the storytelling phenomenon that is The Moth. But after having read Neil Gaiman’s forward , my curiosity was piqued. And I was surprised to find myself finishing the majority of this collection in one sitting because of how compelling these real life stories were.

All These Wonders features voices both familiar and new. Storytellers include Louis C.K., Tig Notaro, John Turturro, and Meg Wolitzer, as well as a hip hop “one hit wonder,” an astronomer gazing at the surface of Pluto for the first time, and a young female spy risking everything as part of Churchill’s “secret army” during World War II. They share their ventures into uncharted territory—and how their lives were changed forever by what they found there.

I was not prepared for what reading All These Wonders would entail. There were a handful of stories that really managed to infiltrate my everyday thoughts because I couldn’t stop thinking about them. But I think I mainly loved this collection for being able to capture “moments in time caught and gone forever,” to paraphrase what  Tig Notaro wrote in R2, Where Are You?. Without a doubt, the voices I’m about to share next unlocked something in me. (And it’s important to remember that these are all nonfiction tales.)

  • Adam Mansbach, the author of Go the Fuck to Sleep, was featured in here and it was incredible:

“It’s November 2011, and I am the most controversial parent in America by virtue of a short, obscene, fake children’s book by the name of Go the Fuck to Sleep.
It’s fourteen stanzas long—about four hundred words, many of them repeated more than once—and I wrote it in thirty-nine minutes with no pants on.”

  • Josh Bond discovering his next door neighbors and tenants are Catherine Greig & James J. ‘Whitey’ Bulger. And his story is about how he “helped the FBI arrest the most wanted man in the country.”

“So a couple of months later, my family’s a little worried about me, and my friends are taking bets on how much longer I have to live. I get home one day, and there’s a letter in the mail from the Plymouth Correctional Facility. I open it, and I see the same familiar cursive writing, and the same “shoot the shit” dialogue tone that I knew from four years living next to Charlie Gasko.
But in this letter he’s reintroducing himself as Jim Bulger.
And so I wrote him back, and I said, “Look, you know I had something to do with the day of the arrest, and my family’s a little worried. So, uh, you know, just a little note of ‘everything’s good’ would be nice.”
He wrote back and said, “Look, they had me with or without your help; no worries.”
So that made my mom feel better, definitely.
New neighbors eventually moved in, and they seemed like nice people.
But what do I know?”

This was without a doubt one hell of a story.

  • Tomi Reichental’s story was about the Holocaust seen through the eyes of his nine-year-old self, and it absolutely broke me.

“I saw a woman in front of me suddenly take her wedding ring off her finger. She looked around, to see if any of the soldiers were looking at her. And then she threw the wedding ring into the ground, to the dust.
Talking to her friend, she said, “These bastards will not get my gold.”

All my rage toward Nazi Germans was back full force. One of the most hard hitting essays.

  • Auburn Sandstrom’s A Phone Call describes her call out for help while in a dire situation. And my head spun in amazement at this next conversation shared over the phone:

“I said, “No, really. You’re very, very good at this. I mean, you’ve seriously done a big thing for me. How long have you been a Christian counselor?”
There’s a long pause. I hear him shifting. “Auburn, please don’t hang up,” he says. “I’ve been trying not to bring this up.”
“What?” I ask.
“You won’t hang up?”
“I’m so afraid to tell you this. But the number you called…” He pauses again. “You got the wrong number.”
Well, I didn’t hang up on him, and we did talk a little longer. I never would get his name or call him back.
But the next day I felt this kind of joy, like I was shining. I think I’ve heard them call it “the peace that passes understanding.” I had gotten to see that there was this completely random love in the universe. That it could be unconditional. And that some of it was for me.”

  • Dori Samadzai Bonner’s A New Home talks about her family’s fight to stay in the country they call home.

“Finally he tells my dad, “You know, we here in the United States do not give citizenship to people that break the law. We can’t, and I won’t.”
And as soon as I translate this to my dad, I put my head down, and I just start praying.
When I open my eyes, I see my dad rising out of his seat. He starts unbuckling his belt, at which point I’m thinking he’s completely losing his mind. I’m not sure what he’s doing.
But he lifts up his shirt on the right side and, in his native language, looks at the judge and says, “This is what the communists did to me.”
He’s pointing to a five-inch knife scar.
Then he pushes down his pants in the back and turns around a little bit, and again says, “This is what the communists did to me,” pointing at three gunshot wounds.
And he takes off his shoes, and takes off his socks, and says, “This is what the communists did to me.”
He’s pointing at his toenails, which they had tried to pull out with pliers.
I remember thinking, I know I’m hearing what I’m hearing. But everything wasn’t registering, because I am translating these horrible things and also learning for the first time about my dad’s whereabouts. All those times years ago that I didn’t know where he was, wondering if he cared about me, he was in prison being tortured.
And in that moment I have never felt more sorrow.”

My heart just dropped. This story on immigration pulled out all kind of emotions out of me.

  • And the story that followed afterwards might be one of the most frightening situations of a man facing the death penalty for a crime he did not commit in As If I Was Not There by Peter Pringle.

“It was the week before Christmas, and I was sitting in the death cell in Portlaoise Prison in County Laois, Ireland. Some weeks previously I had been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death by the Special Criminal Court for a murder I did not commit. The Special Criminal Court is a non-jury court.”

What particularly shook me to my core was reading this hard-hitting article afterwards about Pringle’s life with his wife, Sunny Jacobs, who was also wrongfully convicted.

  • And last but not least, Undercover in North Korea with Its Future Leaders by Suki Kim was another powerful read detailing the journey of a journalist who risks her life posing as a teacher in an elite North Korean school.

“From that point on, like millions of mothers on both sides of Korea, my grandmother waited for her son to come home.
Over seventy years have passed, and that border—which Koreans thought was temporary—is still there. Even though I moved to America when I was thirteen years old, this family history haunted me. Later, as a writer, I became obsessed with North Korea and finding out the truth of what was really going on there.
So I went undercover as a teacher and a missionary.”

Now I feel compelled to read her book Without You, There Is No Us because her writing style is so effervescent and heartbreaking and real.

So while a majority of the tales in here left me awash in tears, there was still a big junk of stories that I did not care for (mainly from those white privileged individuals). But on a much brighter note, the journey this collection took me on is one I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. (Also, bonus points for letting me add two book to my TBR: Tig Notaro’s memoir, along with the aforementioned book by Suki Kim.)

4/5 stars

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Review: Nasty Women by 404 Ink

“No one can do this alone and now more than ever we need each other.”

With intolerance and inequality increasingly normalised by the day, it’s more important than ever for women to share their experiences. We must hold the truth to account in the midst of sensationalism and international political turmoil. Nasty Women is a collection of essays, interviews and accounts on what it is to be a woman in the 21st century.

I’ve shared my immense excitement for this riveting collection before in my original Skam book tag, so I was beyond ecstatic to finally complete my journey. Full of inclusive, educational and politically relevant essays, this collection breaks all barriers. AND I LOVED IT.

Also, I’m beyond grateful that the triggering essays had warnings at the start. So I did end up skimming or outright skipping some pieces because my heart can’t handle certain topics. But, again, I’m immensely thankful for the mentions of trigger warnings at the start of certain essays.

Plus, I learned so much in the span of just 240 pages, and my mind is still reeling. Touching upon topics such as:

  • institutional sexism in the medical profession, along with contraception and women’s health.
  • the year 2016. It was… tough, socially and politically.
  • immigration. And the likes of certain people in their white, middle class bubble still believing that “Difference is bad. Difference is dangerous.”
  • female icons.
  • raising awareness of LGBTQIA+ rights.
  • racism, sexism and microaggressions being uttered in the same breath.
  • disability, faith, pregnancy, grief, underrepresented bodies, and so much more are also respectively addressed.
  • the reclamation of the phrase ‘nasty woman’ ‘a pretty glorious thing’.

There are also so many game-changing and mesmerizing quotes in here, I feel compelled to share them all in this review, instead of going out to shout it from the rooftops… It seems to be the wiser and more practical option, somehow.

“As a black woman in the Dirty South, can someone please explain to me how America was great, when it was great, and when it stopped being great?
I make ~70% of the salary of white male counterparts in my industry and specialty. Statistics show that I am significantly less likely to be married in my lifetime than any white female.The establishment of whiteness as normal and the impact of slavery negatively affects black women disproportionately to every other ethnic group in almost every aspect of American life. I’ve spent my entire adult life seeking the Greatness of America, but I’ve yet to find it. Can I find this Greatness with Google Maps?”

“You’re expected to feel grateful towards a country that has given you a better life than you would have had otherwise, but the idea of feeling grateful towards Britain makes me feel as if we’re in a host country, rather than our own.We have to give back more than those who aren’t a product of immigration.We have to earn our place here.We have to never give anyone a chance to say that we shouldn’t be here.”

“Success to me is no longer ‘passing’, but standing out. Making a measured difference. Changing attitudes, opinions, through being visible and asking questions that challenge oppression. Carving out a new space through the process of not accepting less than inclusion.”

“That being good means different things to different people and it’s impossible to please everyone.That pleasing everyone should never be anyone’s goal.That being good was not making me happy, in fact it was making me lose myself. A good woman is not necessarily a happy woman.And I choose happiness above all. Freedom.”

“‘Not everything is about race.’
‘Not everything is sexist.’
Perhaps not. But enough of it is for it to be an on-going problem that we simply cannot sweep under the carpet anymore. Being dark and female has made me hyperaware of nonsense, insults and abuse targeted at me and if I want change, I have to fight for it and write about it. Women like me are on the receiving end of both bigotries, so big congratulations for proudly proclaiming that you ‘don’t see race’ and that ‘men and women are completely equal in this day and age’. It’s great that you are privileged enough to never have to deal with both issues, so you can just speak it out of existence and deny misogynoir.”

“We need allies. We need support, we need you to acknowledge your white privilege and we need to be believed when we open up about the shit we’ve had to deal with our whole lives.
If all those things are too hard for you to accept and put into
practice, then you are not an intersectional feminist, wanting equality for all women, regardless of race, sexual orientation, class, etc., and if you are not an intersectional feminist then you are not a feminist at all. Remove your badge and hang it up for someone else to use because the battle for equality will only ever be but only half won.”

“The world is a dangerous place right now, but not as dangerous as a nasty woman with a pen in her hand and story to tell. These voices telling our truths cannot be shaken and they certainly will not be drowned out any more.
Why fear us when you can join us?”

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: March 8th, 2017

5/5 stars

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