Peggy Orenstein grapples with it and so do many other feminist mamas, aunts, sisters, cousins, dads and uncles: what to buy your girl-feminist. A Bitch reader named Maura recently wrote to us asking readers to weigh in about the “best books for budding feminists,” especially six- and eight-year-old girls. She writes: “There seem to be plenty of biographies that tell the stories of important women from the past—and that’s great—but I’d like to explore Bitch-friendly fiction for younger readers as well.” So, please take two seconds to channel your feminist girl-self and talk about the fiction that really made you feel like you could do anything and become anyone.
I asked Kimmie David, one of the owners of Bluestockings—the radical bookstore, fair trade cafe, and activist center in the Lower East Side of Manhattan—to share her picks for the best feminist fiction or nonfiction books for girls. Here’s what she recommends:
Kimmie also mentioned a few of her childhood favorites, including the original Nancy Drew series (“Despite all the weird racist shit that I didn’t figure out was weird racist shit until I was 21. Oops”), the Betsy Tacy series, by Maud Hart Lovelace, and the everlasting Eloise, by Kay Thompson.
The Amelia Bloomer Project of the American Library Association is one of the best ways to find books with strong feminist themes for young people. It’s an annual book list published by the Feminist Task Force of the American Library Association’s Social Responsibilities Round Table. Here’s the past nine years of the list and their blog, too.
I can’t finish this post without talking about one more book: Pugdog, by Andrea U’Ren. It’s about a girl dog whose owner thinks is a boy. A friend gave my nephew Pugdog before his birth. Right now, he’s all about loving Pugdog for escaping the vet (see above) and splattering saliva, but soon he’ll discover all the lovely subtext about how rigid we are about gender in this country—and how wonderful it is just to break free.
What fiction books have you given the girl-feminists in your lives?