Yesterday Chelsea Clinton’s new book, She Persisted, arrived in my mail. I had pre-ordered it because I believe that it is an important item to show our children. Kids need to see people like them achieving their dreams. They need to know that life isn’t going to just hand them what they want, but if they believe in themselves and never give up, they can do great things. It is why I have also ordered a copy of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.
I will admit, that when I first read the book, I was less than enamored with it. Clinton has put together 13 very abridged biographies about women from all over the spectrum – civil rights activists, artists, politicians, professionals, and athletes. I wanted something I could sink my teeth into a bit more. But I also tend to immerse myself in full picture book biographies about many of these subjects, so I wanted a viewpoint closer to the intended audience and asked my 10 year old to read it this morning. She actually read it out loud as we were driving to school and somehow hearing it in her voice gave it more power.
When J finished reading the book, I asked her if she liked it. She said that she thought it was a really good book. That she really liked seeing people go after their dreams. Not all of the women were in this book because their gender had kept them back, there was simply some force that told them they weren’t good enough, smart enough, strong enough, or white enough, to get the job done.
Sometimes being a girl isn’t easy. At some point, someone probably will tell you no, will tell you to be quiet and may even tell you your dreams are impossible. Don’t listen to them. These thirteen American women certainly did not take no for an answer. They persisted.
J is currently chasing the dream of becoming an actress. It is what she wants more than anything. I’ve warned her that it is hard road, but that she should go after it with full gusto, but that being an actress doesn’t mean not also trying her best in school (then I tried to talk to her about Mayim Bialik, Natalie Portman, Jodie Foster, Claire Danes….). Fortunately, in addition to her love of acting, J also is book obsessed and loves learning – enough that she is a member of her school’s Battle of the Books team and plan on being on the Science Olympiad team next year, so hopefully we have balance under control.
The “she persisted” title can be complicated. About a week ago I wore a shirt featuring a favorite character of mine with the words “she persisted” under her. I posted it to Facebook and many people thought I was making a political statement, when really, I was saying that I had had a really bad week but that I wasn’t going to let it stop me from believing in myself and knowing that I could make it better. I think that a lot of people look at Chelsea Clinton’s book as some sort of political protest, but it isn’t. It is a statement to anyone to remember that you can do anything you set your mind to.
As the inside cover flap says, “She Persisted is for everyone who has ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who has ever tried to reach for the stars but was told to sit down, and for everyone who has ever been made to feel unworthy or unimportant or small.”
Each of the 13 women highlighted in the book have had an important role in history. Each of these women have changed how we view the world. Whether it was Helen Keller working to help fight for the rights of those with disabilities, Virginia Apgar creating the test still used to check a newborn baby’s health, or Claudette Colvin whose act of bravery inspired Rosa Parks to not give up her seat and sparked the modern Civil Rights Movement. Just as I love that J has continually gone back to reading Girls Who Rocked the World (and a new one is coming out!!!), a book like She Persisted can inspire our next generation to find more information on those who spark their interest and encourage them to dream a little bigger.
Every Wednesday I try to post a non-fiction picture book as part of the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. There are truly so many amazing nonfiction picture books being published these days, it can be hard to contain myself sometimes. Make sure to check out Kid Lit Frenzy and the linked blogs to find some more fabulous books!