Good night stories for rebel girls had been making appearances on my Facebook feed for a while now. Enthusiastic moms who had just bought it for their daughter(s), feminists raving about how the book is a “must have” for today’s girls and many more versions. What struck a chord with me are simply the words “rebel girls” and the beautiful cover page! Of course, given the rave reviews, I had no doubt about the quality of the content – both written and the portraits – and looked forward to learning about these 100 rebel girls. So I finally came around to placing an order for the book, and eagerly awaited its delivery.
Now, like I said before, I had seen the cover of the book online. Yet, when the book arrived I was awestruck by the design and high production quality of the book: graceful fonts yet impactful in its construction, no hints of the cliché pink and other related “girly” colours and fonts, portraits through which the characters of the women shone. That the book conferred a “more power to you message” is discernible and well received – not just for the 100 women it portrays but also to the millions of girls and women who are reading this worldwide through its message to find inspiration in the journeys of these women.
As I was marveling at the book (even before reading it, just by flipping through the pages), I couldn’t help but wonder: What is it that this book really conveys? What purpose does this serve? What impression will it leave on me that I can pass on to my daughter? This deliberation and reading through the book led me to two streams of thoughts: a) It addressed the familiar and popular notion that there aren’t enough (at least talked about) women role models, and that b) It empowers, emboldens women (through the stories of these 100 stellar women) to find and seek what they want, no matter the challenges, and a call to arms that nothing should hinder us just because we are women!
The fact that I did not know about so many of these women was an eye-opener, and, that the journeys of these women and perhaps a host of others forgotten could serve as a reminder that women stand on equal footing when it comes to carving out their lives. In this light, this resolutely anti-princess tales storybook serves as a great primer to seek role models for girls. Personally, however, the latter message resonated strongly with me – above all this is a book that emphasizes that perseverance and the intent to overcome obstacles can take you places, wherever and whatever circumstances that you are in. Towards that end, the stories of these courageous women open the mind of and possibilities for girls and women.
The title of the book also lends a strong message. Ever wonder why “rebel girls” and not just “girls”? Often times, girls and women are conditioned and confined. As I read through the different stories I was filled with a sense of awe and made me understand that all that matters is the conviction with which we choose our path in spite of our circumstances and how we rise above it.
To me the word “rebel” is not about rebelling against the system. True, we still live in a world where glass ceilings are still a reality and gender defines how far you can go (but we are making progress there). Yet, the message is larger: it is about dreaming bigger, fighting harder and trusting yourself all along the way, recognizing that there are obstacles but “know that these obstacles are not insurmountable”, rightly said so in the Preface. Another line in the Preface that impressed upon me is this: “the greatest success is to live a life full of passion, curiosity, and generosity”.
If anything, this book has helped me distill my thoughts about what I need to tell my daughter: that she should dream big, not just know of the challenges that lie ahead of her but also that she is capable of conquering them, that beauty comes in all shapes and colours, and above all to live a life full of passion and courage. My favourite quote from the book (which I’ll probably print and hang in my home) is “Nobody can tell me what I can and cannot do” by Amna Al Haddad, a weightlifter and journalist from UAE! I dearly hope that my daughter internalizes especially this message, because the fight for equality should happen at that level – where we raise girls who can stand for themselves, develop passionate interests, fight for what is theirs through sheer hard work, tenacity and courage. I don’t want my daughter asking, or worse – begging, for equality, I want her just know that she can do anything she wants, of course understanding that nothing is absolute and freedom comes with responsibility.
By the way, I hope families are reading this book to little boys as well – a treasure trove through which they can relate to and empathize with the circumstances of these women and learn that girls as much as boys can aspire to anything!
Interesting facts about the book:
- Entries are arranged in alphabetical order by first name only
- All the striking and evocative full-page portraits were made by women from all over world
- One of the most successful books to raise funds on Kickstarter – it just took 30 hours for Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo to reach their goal of a modest $40,000! What’s more, they closed a total of $630,000 funding in total!