Girls can do anything boys can, including smash stereotypes, defy expectations, and make history. In fact, that’s the title of a new girls’ empowerment book from National Geographic Kids, available now on Amazon — GIRLS CAN! Smash Stereotypes, Defy Expectations, and Make History. While it’s intended to uplift girls, readers of all ages and gender identities will love the stories inside, which travel centuries into the past to highlight powerful women. There are even exclusive interviews with role models of today, including Roxanne Gay, Oprah Winfrey, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Alicia Garza, Alex Morgan, and many more.
GIRLS CAN! Smash Stereotypes, Defy Expectations, and Make History is meant to showcase both well-known and little-known women from around the world who shaped their industry, advocated for change, or made waves in their own way. Whether a girl (or boy!) in your life enjoys sports, the arts, science, or leadership, they can find a strong woman to relate to within the pages. The book also covers the origins of outdated gender myths, breaking them wide open along the way. See “women can only write romance novels,” for example.
The book is written by Marissa Sebastian, Tora Shae Pruden, and Paige Towler. Tora Shae Pruden is the director of brand growth at the nonprofit organization Equality for Her, as well as a social media manager, freelance journalist, and culture critic. In an interview with Romper, she explains what a book like this would have meant to her as a young girl.
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“I was always into reading and learning about history and people who looked like me,” she says. “As voracious of a reader as I was at that age, I think this book would have really touched me, especially knowing that there were people like me breaking barriers. It would have really helped me come out of my shell at that age.”
Pruden says she and her fellow authors carefully selected each notable woman to feature. As you can imagine, the process was not quick or easy. “We had a document where we started writing down names and reasons we wanted these particular women included,” she says. “The first list was so long. We were texting each other about it, highlighting, marking people out, and going back and forth with each other about each subsection. It was really hard narrowing it down to the ones featured in the book. There are so many [women] in history you want to highlight and praise and talk about, but we finally got it.”
One of Pruden’s personal favorite entries in the book is the story of Cleopatra, which has captivated her for many years. Stories about historic and modern-day women, from Cleopatra to Serena Williams, include advice on how to lead fearlessly or become a champion, just like them.
Lesser known but equally amazing women are included too, like Angela Mao, the first female kung fu movie star, and Edmonia Lewis, the first world-renowned Black and Native American sculptor. Aside from busting myths and covering role model-worthy women, the book includes fun sections like “Girls Who Geek Out,” which showcases diverse female graphic novel and comic book artists.
Pruden thinks readers of any age will enjoy this book, whether it’s a parent and child reading together, a gift to a teen, or something parents pick up after their little ones are done.
“If it broadens the worldview of a teen girl, boy, or nonbinary person, that would be amazing. If moms and dads read it, that’s great, too — learning never stops,” Pruden says. “I hope that after reading this book, they take away that there’s nothing that should hinder you from going after what you believe in and feel strongly about, even if there are trials in your way. Each of the women we focus on has something they have to conquer or overcome, and they find a way to move past that. That’s what I think is most inspirational.”
Girls Can!: Smash Stereotypes, Defy Expectations, and Make History! is available on Amazon in hardcover for $14.99, or for $9.99 on Kindle.