If you are a feminist on the internet, there is a good chance you have already stumbled across Jason Porath’s website, Rejected Princesses, in which he pairs gorgeous illustrations with short descriptions including legends, history, and fun facts about women who don’t fit the classic princess archetype. One hundred of those entries have now been printed in physical book form, and it’s definitely worth getting, even if you have already seen the blog.
Porath deliberately chooses his examples from a diverse array of cultural backgrounds, from Norwegian fairy tales, to Brazilian myth, to Algerian royalty. The idea is to tell the stories of some of the most obscure but impressive women from history and legend. As stated in the book’s introduction, “This is a book for any girl who ever felt she didn’t fit in. You are not alone. You come from a long line of bold, strong, fearless women. Glory in that. This is a book for anyone who ever underestimated a girl.”
You might recall from my Holiday Wishlist post that this book was the first thing I asked for. Well, Santa/the Chanukah fairy delivered! The book was published last October and its full title is Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics. Now, you might be asking, “If I can read the content for free on the internet, why would I pay for a physical copy?” Here are some of my reasons:
First of all, the book is gorgeous. It is fairly large and thicker than I expected and perfect for displaying on your coffee table.
Second, physical books are great for gifting to those who don’t spend all their time reading blogs on the internet, or for reading aloud as a bedtime story. Now you can spread the love of bold and accomplished women to all! Read it to your kids, your friends, your cats, your parents, etc. I definitely read a few of the stories out loud to my mom while she was visiting for the holidays.
Third, the book is conveniently organized by maturity level and marked for content that might be triggering, making it easy to pick out which entries are appropriate to read to different ages of kids, etc. There are five maturity levels given both a color and number and indicated by a circle on the first page of the entry. They fade from green (“Good beats evil, the world is moral, think PG”) to red (“Red requires maturity. You must be your own moral guide. Think R”). All the level ones are at the beginning of the book, followed by the level twos and so on. There are also five icons that essentially denote trigger warnings, although Porath doesn’t call them that. They indicate stories that contain “violence,” “abuse,” “sex,” “rape,” and “self-harm.” Porath is fairly generous with assigning these labels. For example, as far as I can tell, every story about racism or anti-Semitism is marked “Abuse” even if they sound like the kind of stories we hear every day and stories are marked “sex” for mentions of infidelity or controversies over a woman’s virginity. Nevertheless, as with any trigger warning, they serve only as an indication for what you’re getting into, and the combination of maturity level and warning should let you know the severity of each issue.
These are not your classic clean cut children’s stories, but that does not mean they are not for kids. As Porath says in his introduction “Kids are flexible. Kids can handle more than we think. What’s ‘suitable for kids’ defines what sort of kids we as a society want. And right now, the girls society wants are the ones who can fit on a short list—while the list for boys is without borders or end.” With the convenient icons at the start of each story, you can easily thumb through and pick the right level for your audience.
Lastly, many of the stories are followed by notes on the reliability of the historical sources used to write up the account or calling attention to certain aspects of the illustration, but there is tons more content available from the website only for people who own the book. Get parts of the stories that were cut, detailed information on what goes into making each illustration, etc. The overwhelming interest and support for Porath’s project has turned what started as a mere tumblr blog into a whole franchise. Supporting his work not only enriches and diversifies the literary scene for women, but also supports an independent artist.
If you are a fan of the website, I highly recommend getting the book. You can purchase it through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the publisher Harper Collins, Indiebound, and many places where books are sold.
Have you read Rejected Princesses? Would you share it with the children in your life? Let me know what you think in the comments below!