Monday, February 20, 2017

Rejected Princesses: Tales of History's Boldest Heroines, Hellions, & Heretics - Jason Porath

Summary: 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. Summary and image from

Review: It's no secret that women have been around for quite some time. You know, since the beginning of it, and all. But reading the history books and one might think we were either a relatively new addition to the globe, or that women in general were so rare, so secret, that that's why only a few get mentioned. Rejected Princesses aims to fix that by relaying many forgotten stories and legends over many cultures. 

I had so much fun losing myself in this book. Each illustration is beautifully detailed and holds so many clues and references to the original time of the legend, key elements of our heroine's story, and provides a tongue-in-cheek reference for the reader. Beneficially, most illustrations also have a short explanation pointing out many of the details that those unfamiliar with the time or setting would miss. But enough about the pretty pictures, I want to talk about the stories!

Porath has an affable, colloquial style of relaying the information he’s dug up. Sometimes such a style can backfire on the author, driving away the reader, but in Porath’s case, and with this subject matter, it serves to showcase how amazing, resilient, resourceful, and awesome these women were. Some of these stories are difficult. Some are stomach-turning. Some make you want to take up arms and jump through time to fight along some of these women, and some had me cheering out loud. 

The author has drawn inspiration from women all over the globe from every fathomable period of time. I loved reading about South American rebels, jumping to Chinese pirate queens, running over to Europe in the Middle Ages, and then flying down to Africa in the middle of the colonization of the continent. Even better, you know that “For the Sensitive Reader” section of our blog we feature? Porath has done the work for me, giving each story Maturity Rating 1-5, and then color coding what rates each — violence, self-harm, abuse, rape — so that the reader (or, in the case of my daughter), the reader’s mother knows which stories are acceptable for the maturity level of the partaker.

A note on that - since Porath has done the work for me as for labeling what’s appropriate, he doesn’t pull punches in the story. There’s no glossing over the unpleasantries, he respectfully and forthrightly states the  matter and moves forward. Please understand, this isn’t a gratuitous relay of salaciousness, since most of these biographies are only a page or two long, any information is pertinent to the narrative. 

I really loved this book. It infuriated me on some level (ahem, on the New Feminism level, cough, cough) that these women are so rarely heard of. If you’re looking for Amelia Earhart or Sacagawea, they won’t be in this book. This is for the princesses History books have chosen to leave out. It’s their ball this time.

Rating: Five stars

For the Sensitive Reader: Maturity levels 1-2 are safe. Higher than that, and pay attention to Porath’s ratings. He’s honest.

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