cover image A Suffragist’s Guide to the Antarctic

A Suffragist’s Guide to the Antarctic

Yi Shun Lai. Atheneum, $19.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-6659-3776-4

Lai paints a brutal portrait of Antarctica’s unforgiving landscape via the detailed journal entries of a white-cued 18-year-old from Pennsylvania who longs to prove that she is as capable as any man in this insightful 1914-set historical debut. Determined not to end up married to a controlling man like her mother, Clara Ketterling-Dunbar joins the suffragist movement in London. When WWI puts their fight on the back burner, Clara lies about her age, nationality, and past to impulsively enlist in an ill-fated, all-male expedition to Antarctica. After their ship sinks, leaving the crew of 28 stranded on ice floes, Clara resolves to show that she can do more for their survival efforts than sew and cut hair—even if it means making enemies. Alongside her keen observations, Clara provides historical and scientific introspection into how to survive not just in Antarctica, but as an independent woman in the early 20th century. Though her observations about men (“A man will fill any dead space, if only just to hear themselves talk out loud”) are ironically similar to the female stereotypes addressed in the text that she hopes to disprove, Clara is a defiant and resilient heroine who immediately endears herself to both the reader and her motley crew. As tension mounts and survival becomes uncertain, Lai neatly underscores the courage it took—and still takes—to be a woman in a male-dominated world. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)