So the girls brought home Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls from the library, a week or so ago.
We’re working our way around the book, and thus far there has been much to like. Naturally I could do entirely without any of the entries for politicians or wannabe politicians (on the grounds of being inherently athematic), but they’ve been easy enough to ignore. The book’s basic premise–of a summary catalog of a selection of notable women–is a great idea, and some of the choices seem truly inspired.
Summary format aside, it can nonetheless be a challenge, especially when the subjects get heady. For our first night, for example, we read about Marie Curie (8yo Sabre’s choice), Amelia Earhart (5yo Dee’s choice), and Harriet Tubman (Dad’s choice). I certainly didn’t count on storytime including a full Q&A session afterwards, and perhaps you can imagine the challenge of answering, as directly as possible, some of the questions that might come out of those particular stories.
And sometimes it overwhelms even me. Tonight I noticed Irena Sendler in the list (somehow I’d missed her name there before) and that became Dad’s immediate pick. After reading the girls’ two choices, I started in on Sendler’s story…
…and by the time I got to the money statements about her accomplishments, when it came time to read the words out loud, I simply choked on them.
“You okay, Dad?”
Okay? Is it actually possible to read those words, with even a small amount of context in which to place them, and truly be okay? I realized, somehow, that every time I had come across the Sendler story before, I’d read it silently. There is something actualizing about reading the words aloud, to your own children, that conjures up some truly overwhelming imagery.
“Sorry, girls. Yeah. I’m just really thinking about what these words mean, and it’s…not easy.”
I had to work to get the words out accurately–both Sendler’s heroics and the conditions that required them. Surprising, how hard it is sometimes simply to speak plainly! But speak plainly I must, as I refuse to fail these girls for a lack of historical awareness.
So, yeah, I’m finding the book worthwhile. Not every story, of course, is as dramatic as Tubman’s, or Sendler’s, or Curie’s, etc. Many are equally inspiring in (thank goodness!) completely different ways. What I’d like to see is space in the book for families to add their own entries; I’ve a mind to add a few family members, plus personal heroes such as Claire Wolfe, Wendy McElroy, and Alison Brown. Everyone will have their own list, and it somehow seems appropriate to have a mechanism to put one’s own choices next to some of the better-known stories.
More entries to come. 100 stories goes a long way! 🙂