Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2
We all grew up with those princesses. The ones locked in towers waiting for men to save them. The women who were cursed and needed the prince to kiss them so they could awaken. Princesses who were prim, proper and above all, quiet. Perhaps that’s why Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions & Heretics by Jason Porath, born out of his popular web series, was such a refreshing read. It was nice to see page after page of badass women, even if all of them didn’t get their storybook happily ever after ending.
The book presents a hundred stories of women (real, maybe real and mythical) across space and time, across cultures and continents that broke the mold of expectations and did something great, even if it didn’t end well. From Mongolian wrestling great Khutulan to ant-lynching journalism rockstar to Baroque painter extraordinaire Artemisia Gentileschi, this book is chock full of women to look up to and enjoy learning about (Most of the time. Some of them made really crappy decisions, but hey, they were human). These are the stories of women you don’t learn about in school or anywhere else. Their stories are messy sometimes, but always glorious.
My favorite stories included Te Puea Herangi, Pope Joan, Josephine Baker, Jezebel, Joan of Arc, Ada Lovelace, Ida B. Wells and Artemisia Gentileschi. I loved the wide variety of women represented and knowing that this is a book that I can read again and again and still learn new things about each of the women. It feels like a fairy tale book for adults, for who I am and what I need today as a twenty-one-year-old woman about to go out into the world.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the art. A former animator for DreamWorks Animation, the style of the princesses’s portraits is fun, vibrant, bold and energetic. While I wish more body shapes and sizes were represented in the images and some of the changes in favor of aesthetics over historical accuracy were mildly irksome, I loved looking at the pictures and reading the art notes scattered throughout the stories that explained why Porath depicted the women the way that he did. It was nice to see his intention behind each image and the images made the book feel even more like a storybook.
I also loved the trigger warning system Porath used in the book. Clear, non-invasive and color-coded, both the maturity rating from 1 to 5 and the content warnings for different issues were useful in navigating stories that might be more difficult to read. Appearing on the top left of the first page of each story, they were easy to read and navigate. Porath got trigger warnings right and seamlessly brought them into his gorgeously designed storybook. I also loved that the stories were organized in order of maturity instead of alphabetically, as it made the book feel less like a roster and more like a collection.
The takeaway is that I highly recommend this book. Read it if you’re a girl. Read it if you’re a guy. Read it if you’re 20 or 80 or anywhere in between. This book will teach you about the forgotten women in history and maybe even a little bit about yourself. And if you want more, don’t forget to check out rejectedprincesses.com.
Note: I received an advance copy of Rejected Princesses from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.