Activists, artists, pioneers. Rad American Women A-Z takes readers on an alphabetized journey through the lives of women throughout the country and across time “who fought,” “who led,” and “who soared.” Every woman’s story begins with an action: there are no passive heroines in this historical feminist primer.
Each biographical sketch by Kate Schatz is accompanied by a crisp, black and white print from Miriam Klein Stahl. The author and illustrator team create a tone that is both conversational and immediate. The brightly colored background of each portrait seeps across from image page to text, highlighting each woman’s name and drawing readers into her story. This alphabet book meets call to action lends itself to a wide range of readers, using accessible, explanatory language (“A union is an organization that helps protect the rights of people who have the same kind of job.”), bold, dynamic illustrations, and a traditional walk through each letter of the alphabet (“J is for Jovita,” and “K is for Kate.”). I’ve been reading it with my three year old knowing that even on the days we use it only to practice the alphabet, she’s getting a dose of empowerment and diverse herstory. Though many of the women profiled are easily recognizable agents of change, Rad American Women introduced me to others I hadn’t heard of and began to flesh out the origin stories and broader social contexts of the women I already knew. Through the work of greats like Billie Jean King, Angela Davis, Temple Grandin, and Maya Lin, this book does an excellent job introducing the concepts of identity, intersectionality, and straight-up girl power, simply by telling the stories of real, radical women.
It’s easy to forget that “rad” is short for radical, and even easier to forget what being a radical really means. In addition to the snapshots of rad women that make up the bulk of the book, there is a brief resource guide at the end for further reading, as well as the alphabetical acrostic, 26 Things That You Can Do To Be Rad! Armed with this list of ideas for cultivating social change through basic, individual actions, Rad American Women readers, no matter their age or identity, will connect with, and aspire to be like, one of the athletes, organizers, writers, or rock stars whose actions shaped the world we live in today.
– Marykate Smith Despres