In May, I participated in MotherTalk’s blog bonanza for Conn and Hal Iggulden’s The Dangerous Book for Boys. Now, I hadn’t actually read the book—I’m not a boy and I don’t have a boy, which of course you all know—but I was inspired by MotherTalk’s prompts: recall your own childhoods and describe some of the dangerous or daring things you did, describe how your own kids’ lives are different, etc. One of their questions was what would a dangerous book for girls look like? Miriam Peskowitz and Andrea Buchanan clearly saw the need for such a book, and in Peskowitz’s own blog posts from that week, she focused on the ways in which her daughter was becoming daring.
Well, Peskowitz and Buchanan signed a contract with HarperCollins at the end of May and now, a mere five months later, their book is on the shelves of bookstores across the county. Five months, people. That’s crazy talk. This, of course, makes me feel slightly pathetic about my recent I’m-not-writing-so-cry-me-a-river posts, but I’ll put those feelings aside for a moment so I can focus on their book, which clearly rocks. (I do suppose there is nothing like a book contract to light a fire under one’s ass.)
The Daring Book for Girls is a manual, a how-to for hundreds of activities and games in which girls have participated (or not participated) over the centuries and across the world. But it’s more than a manual; it’s an inspiration. Peppered throughout the book are sections about women throughout history: ancient queens, women in the Olympics, women inventors and scientists, and female pirates, to name just a few. I either did not know much of this information—who knew that Julia Child had been a spy prior to her cooking fame?—or I learned it at one point and promptly forgot it. How could I forget that Queen Boudica, the Celt, rose up against the Romans in Britain, burning city after city in an attempt to purge her country of oppression?
Over the last week, I’ve dreamt of Artemisia and Cleopatra, women battling on the high seas. I’ve dreamt of Queen Salome of Judea, keeping peace while the nations around her fell into destruction. I’ve dreamt of worlds in which women were seen as leaders and respected as such.
How disheartening that this week I was also reading about how young women writers in America struggle to find their voices, struggle to trust their authority, and are afraid to be “too sure of themselves” for fear of being punished by society. For a local meeting of women in journalism, I also read a recent “Media Report to Women,” which reports that women are just 14% of the guests on Sunday morning public affairs programs; that women in Congress receive fewer articles, mentions, and quotes in newspapers than their male counterparts; that although women have been the majority of college journalism majors since 1977, male-to-female byline ratios (in an analysis of magazines published 2003-2005) range from 13-1 at The National Review to 7-1 at Harper’s to 2-1 at The Columbia Journalism Review.
There are some women (and certainly many men) who are afraid of the word ‘feminism.’ It seems to bring to mind images of butch women who hate men joining forces of estrogen power to conquer the world and make men obsolete. But isn’t feminism really about acknowledging the power and ability of all women, and making sure that we have the same opportunities (and receive the same respect and pay) as men?
One of the things I love about The Daring Book is that it acknowledges the abilities and interests and achievements of girls and women today and of women throughout history. It’s not overtly feminist (the way I can, on occasion, be), but inherent in each of these pages is what feminism, to me, is all about.
Don’t we all hope that our daughters will step out and embrace the world, that they will face challenges and meet them, that they will believe in themselves? I want Stella (and her soon-to-be little sister) to feel secure in their skin, to be strong and confident. I want them to be happy.
The Daring Book can help girls (and their mothers) be these things. It’s filled with hours and hours of outdoor and indoor activities, backed up with history and the idea that all girls can accomplish what they set their minds to. On page one, there is an outline of the essential gear that all daring girls should have. #12 is patience: “It’s a quality and not a thing, but it’s essential so we’ll include it here. Forget perfect on the first try. In the face of frustration, your best tool is a few deep breaths, and remembering that you can do anything once you’ve practiced two hundred times. Seriously.”
How often did I not try something new because I didn’t think I could do it? How often did I fail to push myself to keep trying, keep going after I had failed at something? I could have used #12 as a girl, and I can use it now. I won’t forget to remind Stella of its importance.
Mothers and daughters alike will love this book. Some parts are, for now, too advanced for Stella, but there are pages I’m going to Xerox and put in the kitchen—you’ll know what I mean when you read it—and other pages I’ll go back to again and again.
And really, how could a book that spells out how to make a clock run on the juice of two lemons not rock? I’m glad I have a hard-cover copy of the book because I know it will get dragged through the house and generally beaten up over the next ten or fifteen years. It’s going to need to last.
Check this book out, and read what other bloggers have to say about the book at MotherTalk!