I had so much fun doing The Lunar Chronicles Book Tag that I decided to do one for A Tyranny of Petticoats, the badass feminist historical fiction anthology edited by Jessica Spotswood! Here are book recommendations for each of the 15 short stories in the collection, which is themed around brave, resourceful girls in American history. As a bonus, all the books are about girls or women. I also wanted them to be diverse, as that was one of my favorite things about A Tyranny of Petticoats. Happy reading!
MOTHER CAREY’S TABLE: AT SEA
I read this classic in fifth grade, and to this day, it has the distinction of being one of the very few full novels about ships that I enjoyed. The most recent cover has Charlotte in all her upper-class finery, but c’mon, nothing beats the sailor threads!
THE JOURNEY: JOURNEY
I’m still dying to go on a proper road trip. Salamanca Tree Hiddle’s cross-country journey with her grandparents to visit her mother is a very different story from Yakone’s dogsled run across the frozen tundra, but it’s no less affecting.
MADELEINE’S CHOICE: CHOICE
I read this book for the first time in my Children’s Literature class last quarter and loved it! This is a different, less “‘Sugar Daddy’ by Fleetwood Mac”-esque interpretation of ‘choice’, but it gets in for Mama’s oh-so-memorable quote: “I choose to be happy, Esperanza. What do you choose.”
EL DESTINOS: MYTHOLOGY
And for a much older audience, here’s some Margaret Atwood! I was way into Greek mythology as a child, and I always liked Penelope–after all, she’s one of the few mortal women who stand out for being clever and resourceful in their own right. Then I read The Odyssey and “Ulysses” in freshman year of high school and thought she kinda got screwed over. (Also recommended: “Penelope” by Dorothy Parker.) Speaking of Parker, I didn’t think of Desperate Housewives while reading, but I’ll take that blurb.
HIGH STAKES: HIGH STAKES
What could be higher stakes than the Civil War? How about a war to save Earth itself? Gotta love a series conclusion that lives up to the hype!
THE RED RAVEN BALL: SPIES
I was obsessed with the Queen of Crime in middle school, and though I mostly read her mysteries, this 1950s espionage thriller stands out for its lively heroine, Victoria Jones.
Lolita is one of my top three favorite books, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed this memoir by Nafisi, an English literature professor who invites seven of her female students to read and discuss Western novels considered controversial by the repressive Khomeini government. The discussion of Iranian politics through the lens of literary analysis of such disparate writers as Vladimir Nabokov and Jane Austen is surprisingly deft.
GOLD IN THE LEAVES OF THE GRASS: GHOSTS
I’ve read and enjoyed books by popular Chinese-American women writers like Amy Tan and Lisa See, but I was positively shell-shocked by this in high school. It’s such a raw, unflinching look at Chinese womanhood, and while it’s not the only book I’ve read that incorporates folklore, I think it’s my favorite.
THE LEGENDARY GARRETT GIRLS: SISTERS
Back to children’s lit! This was one of my favorite series in elementary school–besides just being some of the most fun fairy-tale inspired books out there, I happened to be going through puberty around the same time Sabrina Grimm got super angsty in The Unusual Suspects, and man, did I relate. Luckily I, like Sabrina, had an awesome family to keep her head screwed on straight (though unfortunately, I don’t have a cool sister like Daphne!)
THE COLOR OF THE SKY: HEROINES
LOOK AT THIS COVER. I think I just really like “memoirs in books”. The premise of this is just irresistible: Iraqi-American playwright Ellis revisits all the (literary) women who have inspired her, from Elizabeth Bennet to Scarlett O’Hara. (Also, she was in love with Zooey Glass too!)
BONNIE AND CLYDE: OUTLAWS
Westerns aren’t my favorite genre–with the supermassive exception of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly–but I love outlaw stories. I read in an interview with Stacey Lee that this was pitched to publishers as a “Western Thelma & Louise with a Chinese-American girl and a runaway slave” (!)
HARD TIMES: HARD TIMES
Being a 16-year-old hobo during the Great Depression is undeniably hard, but being an 11-year-old girl during the reign of the Taliban in Afghanistan might be even harder. This is another book I read in elementary school, but I never knew there were sequels! Angela Jolie is producing an animated film adaptation next year by the team behind Song of the Sea!
CITY OF ANGELS: SELF-DISCOVERY
Allende has said that Daughter of Fortune “reflects her own struggle to define the role of feminism in her life”. An elementary school education in California prejudiced me against the Gold Rush, but Allende’s writing is so lush and evocative, and I love the postfeminist take on a classic Victorian adventure plot. Also, Chinese leading man!
THE PULSE OF THE PANTHERS: REBELS
I was introduced to Bikini Kill and Riot Grrrl by Veronica Varlow’s Danger Dame blog, and given the much-discussed recent movement of feminism into mainstream pop culture, it’s fascinating to look back at the rebel girls making noise in the underground when most young girls and celebs still rejected the F-word. Kathleen Hanna and Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein have become widely revered icons now. In her kiss, I taste the revolution!
THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING: LOVE
I read this MG romance more recently because it has a premise I would have died for as an actual preteen girl: from Paris and Helen of Troy to Cleopatra and Marc Antony, Love and Death have played a deadly game with humans as pawns. Love wins if the players defeat the odds and choose each other over all else; Death wins if they do not. Death has won every time. The heroine, Flora, is a very cool character, an African-American aviatrix in 1930s Seattle.
If you want to get in on the tag, consider yourself tagged and spread the love for fabulous, diverse heroines! Or comment below so I can see your choices!