Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls reinvents fairy tales. It is about making history and breaking stereotypes. It is about inspiring young girls to be knights in their own shining silver armor, which is determination, courage, and hard work. The book will help in reclaiming the term “fight like a girl” and make it into a mantra.
Author: Elena Favili, Francesca Cavallo
I came across this book while I was going Amazon’s bestseller list. The name itself fascinated me because most of the feminist achievements were because of those women, raised in a patriarchal society, backed by socially constructed gender roles which furthered internalised misogyny in the form of restrictions. The book began with the phrase “girls were not allowed” or “only boys were” at the beginning of the stories. The book is about women who were willing to or dared to rebel.
Patriarchy is a reality and even today there are cultures and rules meant for women that prevents them from coming out of the box and limit a woman’s role inside the four walls of the house. Even if women come out of the box then patriarchal sentences like “not like other girls”, “she is the man!”, “I let her do it” haunts them, which only makes women’s empowerment, as a process a big joke. Some of the stories, notably Hatshepsut’s story had such connotations. But reading the whole book was like discovering their inner strengths and determination.
The book features inspiring stories of 100 women (cis and trans) from around the world, from before the 15th century to the present. The stories are presented with narrations focusing on their birth, circumstances, their aims and aspirations. However, the story is limited to a single page with illustrations on the side. Stories range from women who dared to dream and work for the same, to women who brought about major change in the society by breaking the glass ceiling. From Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Ada Lovelace to modern day icons like Mary Kom and Malala Yousafzai.
After being raised with popular characters that Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Red Riding Hood who represent casual sexism, socially constructed beauty standards and racism, the book is about what women could achieve apart from their roles as “princesses” waiting for their loved ones. Women featured in the book are not limited to Caucasian women from the west in a specific field, but different parts of the world who have undergone their own version of difficulties. We have warriors, activists, scientists, sportswomen, politicians, rebels, and artists.
Some of the stories call out socially constructed gender roles, notably Queen Elizabeth I’s story where her father longed for a son but she became the popular ruler, and the Pharoah of Egypt Hatshepsut whose identity as a woman was hidden for a long time as men feared the participation of more women in the future. Then there is a story about a trans girl named Coy Mathis. Coy is someone who is living her life the way she wanted to. She wanted to be who she is and everyone accepts her for she is.
Stories range from women who dared to dream and work for the same, to women who brought about major change in the society by breaking the glass ceiling.
Another major positive aspect of this book is that it does not feature only those women who have succeeded in life. Manal Al-Sharif challenged the draconian rule in Saudi Arabia where women can’t drive. Where male authorities claimed that if women drive, then things go out of control. Manal was arrested twice but her voice scattered, inspiring thousands of women to go out in their cars. The rule has not been lifted yet and Manal could not guarantee when it will be lifted. But, in her words, she says “just get out there and drive. Someday we shall overcome“. Lella Lombardi finished in 6th position, in Formula One racing, but her hard work is lauded. These women have not had outstanding success stories, but their attempts are lauded because it could motivate other women to give their best shot. It also means that it is OK to fail, what matters is that you have tried.
There are stories that will give you goosebumps and bring tears to your eyes. Millo Castro’s story of wanting to be a drummer, Matilde Montoya – first female physician of Mexico, Yusra Mardini – whose story created waves during the 2016 Olympics as the refugee swimmer who saved people from a sinking boat, and above all Rosa Parks – a woman who changed the segregation system in USA with a single move.
Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls is definitely worth reading and will give you insight into these women’s lives and motivate you to go for your dreams. Above all, spare your daughters from the sexist-racist contexts in Disney stories and celebrate those women who are lauded for being themselves.
Featured Image Credit: Alphabet Street