I’m sure it’s no accident that “Rad American Women A-Z” came out at the start of Women’s History Month. Written by Kate Schatz and illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl, this alphabet book introduces readers to American heroes from political activist Angela Davis to anthropologist/writer Zora Neale Hurston, with a truly diverse collection of women in between. The opening offers a broad definition for the term “rad” in the title:
What does it mean to be “rad”? Well, it means a few things. “Rad” is short for “radical,” which comes from the Latin word meaning “from the root.” So a radical person can be someone like Ella Baker, who did grassroots organizing. A radical can be a person who wants to make big changes in society, like Angela Davis and the Grimke sisters, who fought to end discrimination of all kinds. Radical can also be used to describe something that is different from the usual, like Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial or Ursula LeGuin’s innovative science fiction. “Rad” is also a slang word that means “cool” or “awesome.” Like when flashy Flo-Jo ran faster than any woman in the world, or when Patti Smith takes the stage to rock out.
Each rad lady gets a one-page biography, complemented by a cut-paper portrait in bold colors. Some of the names, like Billie Jean King, were familiar to me, but lots were new, too, such as Jovita Idar, who fought for free, bilingual education on the Texas/Mexico border in the early 20th century.
Something I love how Schatz tackles the ever-difficult “X” page: “It’s for the women we haven’t learned about yet, and the women whose stories we will never read.” It’s true that there are many women throughout history whose stories we’ve missed, but “Rad American Women A-Z” has 25 worth learning. Get yourself a copy and pass it on! (It’s currently only available through City Lights Books, the publisher.) And be sure to check back tomorrow, when I’ll post a video interview I did with the book’s author, Kate Schatz.