Jessica Spotswood grew up just outside of Gettysburg, Pa., the site of the deadliest battle of the Civil War. She inherited her love of history from her father, who “has a whole study of books about presidents and statesmen and generals, but all of them men,” she recalls. So when she first thought of putting together an anthology of historical fiction, “the topic that popped into my head immediately was girls, all girls: disabled girls, girls of color, queer girls.”
Spotswood’s first anthology, A Tyranny of Petticoats (Candlewick), was so successful she was commissioned to do another. The Radical Element: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes & Other Dauntless Girls, edited by Spotswood (Candlewick), collects stories from a dozen YA writers about girls of many colors and cultures standing up for their beliefs. “I knew I wanted more #ownvoices stories about girls from throughout history,” Spotswood says, so she e-mailed writers of color whose work she admired, even if they hadn’t written historical fiction before. “I was convinced they would have a good story in them.” She wasn’t disappointed.
Others are doing similar work, seeking to highlight the unheralded accomplishments of lesser-known women throughout history. Here’s a list of some recent and forthcoming titles:
The A-Z of Wonder Women by Yvonne Lin (Little, Brown). This illustrated compendium celebrates some of history’s most amazing and accomplished women.
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu (First Second). This humorous book of sequential art geared toward teens profiles female role models, some world famous, others more obscure.
Code Girls: The True Story of the American Women Who Secretly Broke Codes in World War II (young readers edition) by Liza Mundy (Little, Brown, Oct.). Mundy’s book recounts the true story of women recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy to learn the top secret science of code breaking.
History vs. Women by Anita Sarkeesian and Ebony Adams (Feiwel and Friends, Oct.). Sarkeesian, founder of Feminist Frequency, along with scholar Ebony Adams tell the stories of 25 remarkable women, from Mongolian wrestlers to British prime ministers, who defied the odds to shape history.
Rad Girls Can: Stories of Bold, Brave, and Brilliant Young Women by Kate Schatz, illus. by Miriam Klein Stahl (Ten Speed, July). In this follow-up to Rad American Women A–Z and Rad Women Worldwide, the author/illustrator duo illuminate the lives of teen girls of historical importance.
For more of the latest developments in the YA category, see our 2018 Spotlight on YA.