Rejected Princesses

dsc06582From Goodreads: Blending the iconoclastic feminism of The Notorious RBG and the confident irreverence of Go the F**ck to Sleep, a brazen and empowering illustrated collection that celebrates inspirational badass women throughout history, based on the popular Tumblr blog.

Well-behaved women seldom make history. Good thing these women are far from well behaved . . .

Illustrated in a contemporary animation style, Rejected Princesses turns the ubiquitous “pretty pink princess” stereotype portrayed in movies, and on endless toys, books, and tutus on its head, paying homage instead to an awesome collection of strong, fierce, and yes, sometimes weird, women: warrior queens, soldiers, villains, spies, revolutionaries, and more who refused to behave and meekly accept their place.

An entertaining mix of biography, imagery, and humor written in a fresh, young, and riotous voice, this thoroughly researched exploration salutes these awesome women drawn from both historical and fantastical realms, including real life, literature, mythology, and folklore. Each profile features an eye-catching image of both heroic and villainous women in command from across history and around the world, from a princess-cum-pirate in fifth century Denmark, to a rebel preacher in 1630s Boston, to a bloodthirsty Hungarian countess, and a former prostitute who commanded a fleet of more than 70,000 men on China’s seas.


 

Since the dawn of humanity (or maybe longer), women have made up half the population. Until recently, however, if you were to consult the canonical historical record, it would seem like women made up something like five or ten percent of the population. The occasional figure like Queen Elizabeth I or Cleopatra would be thrown in for a bit of spice, but historians up to (and, sadly, including) the twenty-first century too often regarded women as a weak-willed curiosity set against the Great Men of History.

This view is changing, if slowly. In my little public school on the prairie, for example, we learned about Sybil Ludington before Paul Revere, and so I was singularly unimpressed by Revere’s little adventure. Sybil Ludington rode much farther than Revere, through greater danger, and to greater effect. And she was 16 at the time.

But I digress. As we advance into the 21st century, more and more authors are taking up the mantle of women’s history and so we’re seeing more biographies of women who, try as they might, older historians simply could not erase from the record. New television shows about old subjects- from the beautiful but rather historically inaccurate The Tudors or Versailles, to the dreadful The White Queen or Reign– are popular, and new fan sites devoted to the likes of Anne Boleyn and other historical women spring up daily.

Into the middle of all of that comes Jason Porath’s Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and HereticsThis book is a spin-off project that came in the wake of Porath’s successful blog devoted to women who were too rebellious or offbeat for the animated princess treatment, though Porath, being a former Pixar animator, gives the women in the book a taste of the princess treatment. Each biography is paired with an illustration of the woman in period and place-specific clothing, doing whatever it is she was known for, whether it was teaching or piracy. The background characters serve to illustrate the story Porath tells.

The women depicted in Rejected Princesses span the globe and are spread across history. Some of them are myths. Some only seem mythical because their deeds are so outlandish or astonishing. All of them are amazing, whether you’re reading about 1st century BCE Vietnamese warrior women, a 13th century woman sultan in Egypt, or a 20th century African-American reporter.

While the stories are fascinating, they are not all happy. And they are certainly not all appropriate for children like a Disney princess might be. The women of these stories are often abused, forced into unwanted marriages, or were even raped. The last few stories in particular, are graphic in the description of events. While Porath has included a guide to maturity levels and levels and types of violence depicted, if you’re reading this book to children, it would be a good idea for preview each tale before bedtime. Many of them are not appropriate for small children, and some aren’t appropriate for older ones, either.

That said, Rejected Princesses is a wonderful book, full of madly interesting stories that are generally overlooked, or about women that history likes to demean simply because of their gender. Each biography is only a few pages long, so they’re lacking depth and I often came to the end of one wanting to know more about the woman. But that’s probably part of the point of the book- to open our eyes to the rich tapestry that is women’s history so we go and seek answers and, just maybe, help everyone discover new things about the world we thought we knew.

 

Thanks to Danielle over at Books, Vertigo and Tea for asking me to write this. It’s been a loooong week, and my tired brain was coming up with few writing ideas.

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3 thoughts on “Rejected Princesses

  1. Oh I love this review! I was half asleep last night thinking I was ordering this book on my Kindle, but this morning I see I purchased Princesses Behaving Badly. I believe it is all based on true accounts so hopefully I will find enjoyment in it. And I will still pick this up!

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