Saturday, February 24, 2018

"Rebel Girls"

When I was a kid, I went to a school that was labeled "progressive." From the fourth-and-a-half grade until the 8th grade, North Country School in Lake Placid, N.Y., taught me all sorts of things, though not, to my mother's dismay, an ability to spell well.

We ate organic food before 'organic' was chic (and more important, pulled the fucking weeds), climbed mountains, built a rice paddy, slept under the stars, built huts with hatchets and rope and without the hovering presence of an adult, learned to type from the fourth grade onward, and skied as part of the physical education regimen. Boys and girls all participated: When there was a knitting fad, everyone learned, and when it was time to play jacks, everyone played. The adults had little or nothing to do with it: the kids did stuff on their own. I have several scars where I cut myself with the sheath knives (some of it pretty serious hardware) everyone carried as pretty much a matter of course ... hay bales had to be cut open and knife-throwing was fun, if difficult.

As a skiier, I was used to being beaten by girls who were better than I was. I lacked the courage for slalom -- the pedal-to-the-metal kamikaze spirit -- but several girls were pure courage mavens. Sometimes girls were better, sometimes boys ... at anything and everything.

Vegetarian was not special.
Girls were not second-class citizens.
And the sense of guilt did not rise up on either count, or any of the others that might arise later as 'minority marginalization' came to the fore.

No big deal ... girls and boys and no fucking lectures or wispy guilt.

Which was some of what I felt just now as I read this story about a book that details the excitement and adventure and courage that girls can enjoy every much as boys.
There’s a book my younger daughter asks me to read to her every night. Over the years I’ve recited The Gruffalo, voyaged with her to Narnia and opened the door to The Secret Garden. But this book is different, because when I put it down and turn off her light, she sometimes says: “I want to be in it.”
It will come as no surprise that the book is Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo’s Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, a collection of “100 tales of extraordinary women” that has become a publishing sensation. It is the most successful new title in the history of crowdfunding, has sold more than a million copies, been translated into dozens of languages and has prompted a slew of copycat efforts. Now Rebel Girls 2 is coming out in the UK, with a podcast to follow next month.
Reading about this book and its underpinnings made me feel that the world was at last catching up with what I was privileged enough to take as a matter of course in grade school. Or maybe that's too self-centered. Anyway, I am happy someone has shouldered the task and that girls may be smiling as they go off to sleep.

If we wait long enough, maybe someone will do the same for boys.

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