Daughter

The book every girl (and boy) should own

6:50 PM

This year, instead of just getting myself something for my birthday, I decided to get something for Ishita too. A book I had on my wish list for months. A book I knew we HAD to have the instant I watch this very thought provoking video :


I've always been very reluctant to introduce Ishita to the classic princess or rather damsel in distress tales. I also have pretty much steered cleared of every moral story that teach a girl she needs to do as she is told and always ask a man for help.

The problem, as illustrated by this video, is that it limits girls greatly. All books about exploring the world and doing great things have a male protagonist, and if you are lucky a female sidekick. Hardly something that teaches girl they can do things on their own too right?
And don't get me started about the old Disney movies from the 30's up to the 90's where princesses even need help from woodland creatures because they are considered too helpless to save their own butts.

Then of course, there was my own childhood, and the fact that not only did I grew up with books and even cartoons that told me that I could never hope to be more than a Boy hero's sidekick, there was also my teachers and society at large saying rather stupid and ignorant things like "Girls aren't supposed to be good at Maths, Science is for boys" or when I decided to enter a male dominated profession and heard the people who were supposed to train us in the art of upholstery say "Why do we even bother teaching these girls, they will get married and have babies?".

Growing up, I heard about Leonardo Da Vinci, the Wright brothers, Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong, Pasteur, and Bill Gates. All men! I think the only woman I remember hearing about was Marie Curie, but somehow her impact in science was quickly brushed over. No place for achieving women in the curriculum. The only women I ever heard of were fictional, and the type that had their moral or lack of thereof entirely tied to their vagina and what they wore.
Don't scoff just yet! I know you probably have been fed a similar bulk of infos in your school years and fess up! The few women you ever heard about were pretty much given to you as if it was some sort of anomaly that needed to be wiped under the rug.

With that in mind, it is no mystery that not only girls grow up having less confidence than boys, it sadly also help feed the "Boys will be boys" stereotype. If you constantly tell half of the population they can't do certain things because they lack a certain set of genitalia and the other half that they can pretty much have it all, you have created a widely unequal setting.

This book : "Good Night stories for Rebel Girls" by Elena Favili and Francesca Cavallo aim at correcting this bias (affiliate link).
And while I understand the need to give it a title that suggest it's for girls, I think this is a book EVERY kids should own.
First because it gives girls much needed role models to look up to, and then because boys should grow up to understand that history is paved by ladies who contributed as much to it than men and that women achievers aren't anomalies.

This book contains 100 stories of real life women and their amazing stories through the ages and around the globe.
Each story is one page long, with a beautiful illustration on the other, and it features the extraordinary lives of ladies of all walk of life :

Ada Lovelace, they first woman to have created a computer programe (even before computers were a thing). Alicia Alonso a blind ballerina from Cuba, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Cleopatra, Hypatia an Ancient Greece mathematician and philosopher, the Venus Sisters, Maria Montessori, and even Mary Kom from India among many many others.

Spies, pilots, writers, politicians, warriors, pirates, astronauts, models, painters, scientists, athletes, justices...All women, all with impressive achievements to their name. Their stores told in a way a child can understand and feel inspired by. Heroines worth looking up to.

Ishita managed to read 3 stories in a row within minutes of receiving the book then browsed through it for a few hours more just checking if the ladies whose story was written was alive or dead or where they came from or what they did. She has since then read quite a few already and simply won't let us have a look at this book without her if she is awake (we had to peak into it at night).

I have never seen Ishita as excited by a book before, not once. But then she also looks up to strong female characters in fictional stories too. She admires Elsa, Moana and more recently Wonder Woman the very same way I felt I could connect with Princess Leia when I was a kid.
She doesn't need books and stories that tell her she can't do things just because she is a girl.
In fact the first time she came accross a story that featured some inequality was Disney's Mulan. Another character she admires, but when she first saw it she asked me why girls can't join the army. And when I told that in some places people think women should not do it her reply was "That's not fair, it's her choice!"
She was 6 years old at the time, and she came to that conclusion on her own, I had not influenced that reply. She genuinely thought forbidding girls to do something because they are girls and only because they are girls is wrong.

While I played no role in influencing her to make that statement, I sure am doing my part to make sure she is never told she can't do things on the basis of her gender, and that she continues coming across the kind of books, stories and movies that show her possibilities beyond our still very sexist world. I want her to grow in a world where she is an equal to a man in every way.

We might still have a long way to go, this book not only teaches girls they can do it, but also that many women of the past did have to overcome unfair obstacles, like Alfonsina Strada, the first woman to compete in the Giro d'Italia only to be banned from ever doing so again (that did not stop her) on the account that Cycling was a man's sport. She held an unbreakable record for 26 years, but she was still considered less than a man an unfair situation that is still part of her story in the book.


In India, the book is available in leading bookstores and online. The MRP is 799, but it is available for 399 rupees on Amazon, so if you want to gift a good book to your children (boys and girls) go ahead and use my affiliate link to order it. I can guarantee you will not regret it.

7 comments

  1. Anonymous11:29 PM

    A beautiful book and a must read for everyone. Not only for children but adults also. Talking about Mary Curie, she is kind of tagged alongwith her husband and I always thought that there is more to her that needs to be known but not told. Interestingly, the Mars mission of India had many woman scientists at prominent positions and this fact was acknowledged worldwide. Science is still considered a male bastion.


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    1. Exactly, as a kid I think Marie Curie was always introduced to us as her husband's professional partner as well. Like a woman cannot possibly think on her own and her Nobel Prize needed to be validated by the fact she had a husband around.

      Growing up the list of male achievers I got subjected to was HUGE and there were almost no women, and certainly none that were presented to us as being in charge of their own achievements.
      But then even the Rio Olympics last year taught us it was still accepted to make remarks about female athletes, like mentioning that their husband coaches had something to do with their success (funny didn't not mention the coach of any male athlete). Or calling a woman Swimmer a "Female Michael Phelps" because otherwise her exploit would not have been valid enough if she did it under her own name. Or all the athletes whose pregnancies and child they left in childcare to compete. Nobody really seemed to care about the male athlete leaving their children home to compete, but yeah it apparently needs to be injected in the commentary on the athletic performance of a woman.

      We still have a long long way to go in equality, this book might be able to correct a few wrongs, and as you said, it is a great book for adults. A book we can all read as families.

      I read the authors got the crowd funding for a second volume. I will be waiting eagerly for it and buy it as well.

      My parents were baffled by my elementary school teacher when I was a kid. They went to a PT meeting to discuss the fact I was constantly behind in Math and wanted to know more about how to get me back up to level. My teacher's reply was the one I mentionned in the blog post "Don't worry, girls aren't supposed to be good at Maths". A blanket re-assurance that it was ok for me to suck and that there was nothing to be done about it. This handicap stayed with me my whole school life, because she was the only teacher who voiced it, but not the only one who thought that way. Funny though I was doing good in Biology, Chemistry and to an extent Physics (as long as there were not too much maths equations). If anyone bothered, they would have noticed I needed a different more visual and less mental approach to learning maths.

      But hey, I was a girl! In a country that granted women the right to finally vote at a national level in 1972 and the country in which the last women to be granted the right to vote at State level in one State was 1991. A country where women didn't get compulsory paid maternity leave until 2001 or 2002.

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    2. Anonymous9:18 AM

      In India I think we don't say it explicitly that girls are not good in maths or science but yes IIT has only 8 per cent females which means that parents actively discourage their daughters to pursue a career in science.

      Among many reasons that impede women in India are safety issues. Whether we like it or not it's is a huge issue and we have done precious little about it. Delhi was always unsafe but now the seemingly safe cities like Bangalore are no longer safe. Instead of creating the eco system of safety, we harp on change in mentality and go around in circles. Change in mentality is a long term process which needs to be accelerated but do we do now is not a rocket science. Our roads are poorly lit, lonely and badly policed. No steps are taken in this regard. The ground situation does not change, mentality dies not change so we are back to square one. The problems are well known so are the solutions but nobody is willing to do anything and the citizens are left to fend for themselves.

      Woman have expressed their opinion frankly during elections but perhaps even they have a pessimistic idea about these things. So women's issues are sporadicly addressed by political parties. The day women's safety becomes an issue like water and electricity and u cannot ignore it we will see a change.

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    3. I doubt the problem of women not pursuing science in India is due entirely to safety. Europe has a better law enforcement, responsive police forces, well lit streets, and even then it has a rape problem. Yet women in Europe will pursue higher studies in other fields but not science.

      I think the problem in India, is the fact that women are still traditionally supposed to get married and have kids, preferably before the age of 25. This makes pursuing a career in Science impossible considering the long years of studies and longer years before you reach a high achieving position.
      And like it or not, this is a problem that is also shared in Europe and US, women are just more obviously discouraged from even trying than in India, propagations of gender stereotypes from a very early age.

      Safety of women is still paramount in India, and I think it's not one thing over another that need changing. Mentality absolutely have to change, as long as the only purpose of being a woman is to produce babies and uphold the family values we have a big problem. But yes a million times yes, the government should step up, stop making excuse and throwing blames around and do their bit : well lit street, responsive police force and better enforcement of the laws. But as long as these Babus think rape is happening because women wear certain clothes, have mobile phones, or are venturing out of their homes we have a problem, they will not see the point of enforcing better security measures because their own mentality is backward.

      Oh and Bangalore was never really super safe for women, I lived there. A city that feels the need to ban women from Brigade Road and MG Road on New Years eve to prevent trouble has it all wrong.
      Mumbai is way safer for women than Bangalore.

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    4. Anonymous10:07 AM

      I saw discussion on woman’s security in Bangalore yesterday. The police commissioner was one of the participants. He stated that woman should come forward and report the crimes. The crime reported on social media is also considered as a complaint. On being told that police is not always responsive, he reiterated the point that reporting the crime and being aware of your rights still the only way forward. It was reassuring the say the least. Why not such people come forward and go to schools and colleges and reach out to the young people more often.

      On the other hand, the U.P. police has formed a squad called the “Anti Romeo Squad” in all the districts. Their job is to target miscreants around schools/colleges and In public places who have been a nuisance for woman for a very long time. Though in the process, they did round up a few couples as well. Overall, besides a few hiccups, it had the desired impact. People are happy that the police is seen to be doing what it is supposed to do. It is proposed to be ongoing process.

      Such efforts have happened in the past also, but somehow the gap between the public and the police has never been filled.

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  2. I ordered via your link Cynthia.
    Thank you so much. I really want my niece to read it.

    Much love !
    Smita

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    1. Thank you :-)

      Your niece will love it!

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