After far too long being sold stories of boy adventurers or male makers-of-change, girls are finally hearing a different tale.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, versions one and two, broke Kickstarter records for the speed at which they were funded. Kate Pankhurst’s Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World has been nominated for several awards. There’s a huge appetite for true stories about inspirational girls and women. Into this mix drops the fantastic book, Brazen (Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World) by Pénélope Bagieu.
Bagieu is a French graphic novel author and illustrator. She created and pitched the idea of a web series about 30 audacious women to the French newspaper, Le Monde, in a series called Les Culottées. Now they have been collated together to form Brazen (Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World) and are selling thousands of copies all over the world.
There are so many things to love about this book. Bagieu’s illustrations contain beautiful, expressive lines and gorgeous touches of colour. Each story has a muted palette of few colours, marking out its own self-contained world. Between each story is a double-page spread of glorious colourful illustration, summing up each tale. You can read them one at a time, or curl up for an afternoon to devour the whole book.
But the images are only part of the joy of Brazen. There is wit, humour and lightness in the images, but in the writing too, and how she tells each tale. Bagieu never misses the opportunity to share a raised eyebrow or a wry smile with her reader. She acknowledges the ridiculous ignorance, oppression or limitations her leading ladies are having to tolerate. She doesn’t shy away from revealing when violence, abuse, racism or discrimination play a part in these stories, but Bagieu doesn’t focus solely on that. She is most interested in how these women manage to fight against their circumstances to achieve something incredible, whether it’s fighting in the resistance, leading a people, preserving a lighthouse or studying volcanoes.
The range of women included is inspiring. Bagieu really shows how stories of incredible women are everywhere, in every industry and piece of history. The cumulative effect is an appreciation that every piece of progress is worth it. You don’t always need to be hoping to change something huge and fundamental, although you can. If you fight for progress or access or appreciation in something close to your heart, you can achieve real change.
Brazen is a book full of stories worth reading again and again. Perfect for someone approaching their teenage years, the women in this book will continue inspiring them well into adulthood.
Girl Museum Inc.