Three years ago, in March of 2015, Miriam Klein Stahl and I published our first-ever children’s book. It’s not an understatement to say that we had no idea that Rad American Women A-Z would become such a success. Not because we didn’t believe in it, but because we didn’t think that a children’s book about diverse, radical women who have defied the odds and fought for justice and equality would become a bestseller. But we quickly realized: This is something people want. These are stories that parents, educators, kids, and people of all ages need.
A year and a half later, in September of 2016, we released our second book, Rad Women Worldwide, with Ten Speed Press. Once again we presented stories of diverse, often lesser-known change-makers and leaders, this time from around the world. And once again we saw how in demand these kinds of stories are.
Six weeks later, a woman won the popular vote but did not become the president. In the 17 months since that day, I’ve spent a great deal of my time organizing, marching, and resisting — and also researching and writing. And we are thrilled to announce that Rad Girls Can: Stories of Bold, Brave, and Brilliant Young Women will be on shelves starting July 17, 2018.
Rad Girls Can tells 50 stories of young women who’ve done incredible things before age 20 — from winning gold medals to becoming CEOs to running for office. We got the idea from the many young readers who have come to our readings, assemblies, and talks, and asked: “Can you make a book about people my age?” After hearing this request numerous times, we decided to listen, and to do it. And at a time when many of the grown-ups in charge aren’t necessarily doing the best job, it made sense to write about the young people who will eventually take over and, you know, save us all.
Kidding aside: I truly believe that Rad Girls Can is the book we all need right now. It shows us the potential and the power of young, creative, hopeful, brilliant girls, and all that they can do in this world. While some of the stories in Rad Girls Can are about girls from history, many are contemporary, and show how young people are engaging with and shaping the future of some of our most urgent issues, including voting rights, climate change, immigration, gender and sexual identity, disability rights, and racial justice.
Researching and writing this book over the past year has been an incredibly bright spot in an otherwise difficult time. I’ve had phone calls with teenage inventors, climate change activists, and immigration rights leaders. I’ve texted with a 15-year-old voting rights advocate, Skyped with an 11-year-old fashion designer, and exchanged emails with Mary Beth Tinker, who stood up for free speech over 50 years ago, when she was a 13-year-old who did not support the Vietnam War. I sat on the grass in a park in Oakland and listened to 10- and 11-year-old girls talk about racial justice and body image.
In addition to these conversations, I’ve watched countless YouTube videos of athletes like 8-year-old pro skater Sky Brown and rock-climbing wunderkind Ashima Shiraishi. I’ve listened to the music of Elizabeth Cotten, Lorde, Selena, and ESG, and read powerful memoirs by Janet Mock and Misty Copeland. I went back and reread Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, and was struck by the depth and eloquence of a book I hadn’t read since I was Anne’s age. I even found myself doing research during a trip to Rome, when I visited the first-ever Italian exhibit of the stunning paintings of Artemisia Gentileschi, the 17th-century teenage painter who followed in the footsteps of Caravaggio — but who remained unacknowledged for centuries, because people assumed her paintings were done by her father.
The stories we share in Rad Girls Can give me an enormous amount of inspiration and motivation. It is our great hope that it does the same for every person, regardless of age or gender, who reads it. Because every day there are millions of young people quietly, consistently, boldly creating the future. We have to remember this. They are pushing the boundaries of technology and language and how we think and talk about gender, race, and identity. They are dreaming and achieving and innovating and winning and inventing and being rad.