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What Would Ruth Read?

This seems to be the summer of the documentary for me. I recently went to the movie theater to watch RBG, the biography of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and was pleasantly surprised to see a multi-generational audience sitting in cross-generational groups. There were at least two grandmother-granddaughter pairings. And that got me wondering, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg were a teen now, what would she read?

According to the documentary, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a serious young woman, not given to small talk. When she had something to say, however, she was thoughtful, articulate and powerful. She spent much of her career working for women’s rights, often coming back to the line in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that promised everyone “the equal protection of the laws.”

Although she is an octogenarian, RBG has embraced the “Notorious RBG” persona that was bestowed on her. Even in her 80’s she has moxie, and I think she would enjoy Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, which tells the story of a young women who finds her voice in the zine scene and uses this format to speak out against sexism and start a feminist revolution in her school.

Clearly, a modern teen Ruth would read Vox by Christina Dalcher. Set in a not so distant future US where women are limited to 100 words a day, this book would appeal to Ruth’s sense of justice and her passionate devotion to speak up on behalf of those who have been silenced. Though not a novel written specifically for a YA audience, it certainly has teen appeal.

Ruth loves the music and the drama of the opera and has played small parts in the Washington National Opera. Because of this dramatic flair, I think she would enjoy Mary’s Monsters by Lita Judge, a free verse biography of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. Poetry and dramatic black and white illustrations dramatically tell the story of a young woman, disowned by her family, who uses her creativity to rise above the oppressive traditions of her time to carve out a place in literary history.

Because of her passion for women’s rights, I think Ruth would enjoy Winifred Conkling’s Votes For Women!  – a work of non-fiction that tells the nearly eighty-year fight for voting rights for women. It covers the suffragists’ achievements and politics, as well as the personal journeys that each woman undertook. I don’t know how much nonfiction the young Ruth actually read, but I am certain that RBG reads a lot and would encourage young adults to read more to be informed.

In college, Ruth was inspired by one professor who showed her class how the law can be used to change society. I think that a teen RBG would enjoy How I Resist: Activism and Hope for A New Generation, edited by Maureen Johnson, a collection of interviews, essays, reflections, illustrations, and poems on a theme of theme of activism and resistance. Maybe one of these voices would inspire an aspiring RBG.

Adrienne Gillespie

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One Comment

  1. Great list. I particularly love Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge.

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