In celebration of Women’s History Month, I’m thrilled to share insights, as well as some fantastic titles with YA appeal from the 2014 Amelia Bloomer Project, which is part of the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Roundtable of the American Library Association. Named after the intrepid 19th century women’s rights advocate and suffragist, The Amelia Bloomer Project creates an annual list of fiction and non-fiction books for readers, ages birth-18, containing significant feminist content.
From the sassy heroine in Kirby Larson’s Hattie Ever After to Lynn Povich’s vivid account of sexist practices at Newsweek during the late 1960s in The Good Girls Revolt, the 2014 list underscores the critical role of women in American mass media history. Our committee also noted how the legacy of underground punk feminism chronicled in Lisa Darm’s Riot Grrrl Collection is mirrored in the creative expression of a new generation of feminists including Tavi Gevinson and her band of Rookies.
I am currently serving my fourth term on the Amelia Bloomer Project, and each time our committee meets, I am heartened by the depth of our conversations, as well our intense dedication to highlighting feminist literature with teen appeal. In the few years I’ve served on ABP, I’ve come to value the diverse worldviews each Bloomer brings to the table. In addition to evaluating books that â€œshow women overcoming the obstacles of intersecting forces of race, gender, and classâ€ the committee also recognizes titles such as Malinda Lo’s Huntress (2012 Amelia Bloomer title), depicting fully-realized feminist worlds in which women are invested with agency from the get-go.
For me, the Amelia Bloomer Project has been a professional endeavor, and a personal journey. It’s easy to take for granted the rights and privileges afforded to many (but most certainly not ALL) women, particularly if the mainstream is unaware of the critical paths forged by feminist trailblazers. During the course of compiling the annual lists with my Bloomer colleagues, there have been moments where I’ve been painfully aware of deficits in my own knowledge of women’s history (and I have a degree in gender studies). By honoring the diverse experiences of women through the Amelia Bloomer list, we send a strong message: Young readers, most especially girls, need inspiring stories empowering them to break barriers and challenge social limitations.
Here are a few of my favorites titles from the 2014 Amelia Bloomer Project:
Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson: Despite not having read Hattie Big Sky prior to Hattie Ever After, I felt the sequel definitely stood on its own charming merits. Hattie’s struggle to reconcile a career in journalism with her desire to marry Charlie carries emotional resonance. Sure, the book is set during the early 1900s, but even today, girls and women continue to address the work-family balance issue. Larson’s attention to historical details is impeccableâ€”I loved reading about San Francisco, a place I hold near and dear to my heart (I met my husband in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we embarked on lots of adventures during our early courtship).
The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace by Lynn Povich: The Good Girls Revolt is the kind of book I would have loved as a teen, when I once seriously entertained a potential career in journalism. In 1970, Povich and her colleagues took a courageous stand against the institutional sexism at Newsweekâ€”their lawsuit had reverberating impacts on workplace policies and the treatment of women in the newspaper and magazine publishing industry. Povich’s book is a sharp reminder that while things have slightly improved for women, we must never stop fighting for equality.
The Servant by Fatima Sharafeddine: When she is forced by her father to leave school and work as a maid in Beirut, fifteen-year old Faten refuses to give up her dream of becoming a nurse. Though Faten enlists the help of a neighbor boy (with whom she has a brief romance) to take a crucial exam that will get her into college, she is an enterprising character who retains agency throughout the novel.
I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb: I was deeply moved by Malala Yousafzai’s account of her life under Taliban rule, including her miraculous survival after a horrific attempt on her life, and her continued advocacy of education rights for young girls. Librarians and teachers will be pleased to know that Little Brown is publishing a Young Readers edition of Malala’s story entitled I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World. The book will be co-authored with Patricia McCormick and released in August 2014.
– Lalitha Nataraj, Amelia Bloomer Project committee member and candidate for the 2016 Printz Award committee, currently reading an ARC To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han