With a world full of female role models, the makers of "Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History... And Our Future" knew that restricting their list to the 26 letters of the alphabet—and to the boundaries of the U.S.—left fans wanting more. As they curated their international version, author Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl were very intentional in their selection of stories. Whether it was a savior of language and culture, the mother of the gay rights movement, or the founding mother of primatology, Schatz and Stahl chose biographies that resonated with more than the "Eurocentric" woman and reflected more than Western history. As mothers who find it critical to expose their sons and daughters to a world view of "rad-ness," especially through the lens of feminism, Schatz and Stahl say this book is made for for all age groups looking for inspiring stories of courage and radical success.
Link TV caught up with author Kate Schatz while she was promoting the new book "Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History." Read our interview with her below.
(And check out an excerpt of the new book HERE!)
What inspired you to create this project?
I was inspired to create our first book, "Rad American Women A-Z," because I wanted my then-2-year-old daughter to have a book that was educational, inspiring, empowering—and really fun to look at. Miriam is also a mom, and together we set out to create the kind of book that we would've wanted as children, and that we want our daughters (and my son!) to have now. Once we finished the first book we knew we wanted to create another "Rad Women" book, and an international version felt like the obvious choice. Many readers, parents, and fellow educators requested it, and it was an exciting approach for us to take.
Why do you feel this book is so important?
We cannot raise global citizens without global education. The world is vast and beautiful and complex—and for far too many Americans, it's a big unknown. We believe that exposing readers of any age, and any gender, to the stories of inspiring, powerful, brave women from countries all over the world can help build confidence, increase empathy, and expand perspectives on what women can do and have done. We're living at a time when very dangerous nationalist, xenophobic, racist, and often misogynistic sentiments are on the rise—we hope that this book can be one kind of counter-force to these violent, cruel models.
Even though I’m sure it is hard to choose, which woman featured in the book resonates with you the most?
So hard to answer! As a mother, the story of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo is just devastating and so powerful. I sobbed while researching and writing it. I love the story of Josephine Baker, because it's wild and fierce and so few people know it all. Kasha Jacqueline Nagabasera, the Ugandan LGBTQ activist, is profoundly inspiring to me as well. And I love sports, so I'm always inspired by Venus and Serena Williams and the amazing soccer (er, futbol!) player Marta!
How do you select which women to feature?
I compile a massive spreadsheet of hundreds of women I've learned about or been told about (people constantly send me stories of cool women, or come up to me at events to share rad women). I research them, and then we work to narrow it down. We try to span time, geography, and the field that the women work/ed in. We balance well-known women with more obscure (but super rad) figures, and always are ultimately searching for compelling stories that will resonate with readers, whether they've heard of the woman or not. With this book we also worked to ensure that it not feel Eurocentric, or only reflect a Western model of "world history"—30 of the 40 stories are about non-white women, and that is very intentional.
What is your creative process?
Research, research, research, think, think, think, write, write, write, snack, snack, snack, go for a run, pet the cat, pick the kids up from school, make dinner, put them to sleep, and start again!
What is the best feedback or most rewarding experience you’ve had from your projects, perhaps from a student or young person?
I'm truly honored to say that I don't think I can name one experience, because the entire process of sharing these books with the world is so rewarding. Miriam and I are both teachers and mothers, so hearing from students and young people about how the book/s impact them is so amazing. Doing an assembly for 300 kids in Fresno who come from mostly migrant farm workers families, and sharing the story of Dolores Huerta, and seeing their excitement about it all—that stands out for sure. I especially like hearing from parents who tell me that the books have brought up issues that they weren't quite sure about how to address with their children (racism, slavery, gay rights, transgender identity, etc). I love hearing that they engaged in those challenging conversations with their children, even when it felt slightly uncomfortable. This is one of the many jobs of the parent, and I'm honored to play a part in that.
The refugee crisis is absolutely a women's rights issue: of the 60 million forcibly displaced people in the world, 80 percent are women and children. That is a staggering statistic, and so many of these women and children exist in incredibly dangerous, abusive situations.
You discuss refugees in "Rad Women"—what do you feel is the connection between refugee issues and women’s rights / equality?
Yes, I wrote a piece that appears toward the end of the book called "The Stateless." It's a tribute to the millions of women who are refugees, migrants, and displaced people. The refugee crisis is absolutely a women's rights issue: of the 60 million forcibly displaced people in the world, 80 percent are women and children. Eighty percent! That is a staggering statistic, and so many of these women and children exist in incredibly dangerous, abusive situations. I wrote this piece to draw attention to this crisis. We are happy to partner with and spread the world about a wonderful non-profit org called Circle Of Health International. They provide healthcare to women, mothers, and babies in the world's most dangerous places. They bring midwives into war zones, refugee camps, and border camps, and what they do is essential.
How long does it take to create the illustrations?
That's kind of a secret! Let's just say that Miriam is really, really fast. It takes her a long time to draw the initial image—the cutting is incredibly speedy.
Do you have any future plans, such as writing / creating more books?
Indeed! We've already completed the next "Rad Women" book (told you she's speedy). "How To Be Rad" is an illustrated journal that comes out in Summer 2017. It's a companion to the "Rad Women" books, and is intended to help readers explore and claim their own radness. It's chock-full of new illustrations of badass women (mostly contemporary—think Michelle Obama, Janelle Monae, and Jazz Jennings!), inspiring quotes, prompts, questions, and tips on how readers of all ages and genders can live their raddest lives.
And beyond that...well, we're working a few things that can't be disclosed quite yet! But the thing is: there is really no shortage of rad women in this world. We're honored and excited to keep sharing their stories.