Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
|Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo|
|Category: Children's Non-Fiction|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: What could have been a right-on list of successful and self-motivated women (or a UK broadband advert in book form) is actually a humbling, charming and vivid survey of real world-changers, from all corners of said world.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: March 2017|
|Publisher: Particular Books|
|External links: Author's website|
It's been said very often that 'history is told by the winners'. Well, too often history, the news and even destinies are written by men, and the proof is between these covers. I didn't know anything about this before reading it, even if it has become the most richly-backed crowd-funded book ever. I'd never heard of the Hollow Flashlight, powered purely by body warmth – which is rich if you're old enough to remember the brou-ha-ha when a maverick British bloke did a wind-up radio. I'd never read about the Niger female who has successfully made a stand against forced, arranged marriage, rejecting a cousin for a fate she wishes to write for herself. My ignorance may, perhaps, show me up to be a chauvinist of sorts, but I think it is further evidence that 'the gaze is male' and that the media are phallocentric. I hope too that this book doesn't turn any of its readers into a feminist, for that would be as bad as the chauvinist charge against me. If anything it is designed to create equals, and that is as it should be, even if there is still a long way to go…
I'm not sure completely sure what a Rebel Girl is supposed to be. I dare say it's better than a Riot Grrrl or however it was spelled, and much superior to a Pussy Rioter. What and whoever they may be, there's a snatch of ethos at the beginning here, and the full format of the book provides a host of other quotes for them to live by too, for while the world of womankind is infinitely diverse, the structure of the book is very rigid.
What we have is a hundred quick studies of women (practically all individuals, although a couple of entries are collective ones) that at least somewhen, somewhere, people have been forced to sit up and take note of (or I guess stand up, in the case of Rosa Parks). They're all written as fairy stories – a large percentage start Once upon a time… – and as a result don't really concern themselves with identifying where they're set, or when, or giving surnames. (In fact the entries are in alphabetical order by first name, to avoid anybody being credited by such an evil thing as a patronym.) The entries are high on quotations, and simplified language as you'd get for a quick tale while tucked up under the duvet (perhaps with a Hollow Flashlight), and simply convey the awkwardness each character has met with and how it was overcome. You do get the bare bones of where and when characters lived in an obituary-styled footnote, and the empowering quote has been layered over a full-page portrait – all of which have, of course, been provided by female artistes.
If anything, however, it could have been improved – as sterling as it is. I found a slight semblance of misjudgement here – we get not one but two female pirates, bizarrely, and should Catherine the Great really be lauded, especially as she usurped her own husband to take his place? And speaking of death, the ends of the tales are too happy at times – those obituaries actually are such in too many instances, but you might not realise it. Take the Mirabal sisters – four activists fighting against the Dominican Republic's dictator. Only in the small print do you get an inkling that three died on the same day – they were clubbed to death by the secret police, in fact. While many successes here lived for decades, too many were cut off in their prime, and their ending is obfuscated.
Also, it is done in a style that makes it immediately ripe to becoming out of date, such as Hillary and another being credited, perhaps too hopefully, as 'presidential candidate'. Many bright lights will be snuffed out imminently, with the likes of a blind ballet dancer currently in her 90s.
But all in all, almost the closest thing to a flaw here is, again, my ignorance. I didn't know about Gentileschi's being pressurised into a relationship by her tutor, I was ignorant of the woman who forced the Giro d'Italia to become men only, having embarrassed her doubters, and that's all before the Cs. Later on, in amongst a welter of people I'd never heard of, you get a polio victim with twenty-one siblings who became an Olympian, and someone literally cooking a recipe to stop sharks bumping into underwater wartime mines. But you also get one lady that I've met in the flesh – proof positive that on these pages there is hope for us all.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
I dare say the subject of J K Rowling: the Mystery of Fiction by Lindsey Fraser was choice number 101. There's also a series that's great for inspirational biographies of females for the young, that includes Little People, Big Dreams: Agatha Christie by Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Elisa Munso – and five others at least whose subjects, unlike Christie, are in the 100.
You can read more book reviews or buy Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo at Amazon.com.
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