Saturday, October 16

‘Tales for rebellious girls’: Feminist stories for Latin American girls without princes or princesses | Culture

On the right, an illustration of the singer Chavela Vargas and on the left, Claudia Ancapán Quilape, both appear in the book 'Tales for rebel girls'.
On the right, an illustration of the singer Chavela Vargas and on the left, Claudia Ancapán Quilape, both appear in the book ‘Tales for rebel girls’.NATALIA ATENCIO / QUETZALLÍ MUJICA / Editorial Planeta

“When she was little –and she still had a man’s name– Claudia’s mother told her a Mapuche myth about warriors touched by the feminine force of the moon,” begins a bedtime story for Chilean girls. The little girl in history, the indigenous Mapuche Claudia Ancapán Quilape, “felt identified with those female warriors, without fully understanding why.” But after facing evil teachers who discriminated against her for wanting to be a girl, Claudia is now a 44-year-old transgender woman who “fights for women’s rights, against obstetric violence and for the protection of transgender children.” . And colorín colorado, Claudia, like the lunar warriors, became her own tale for girls.

The Planeta publishing house published, on International Women’s Day, five new books entitled Goodnight stories for rebellious girls, and in its Chilean version is the story of Claudia with those of other 99 women. Each edition – in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Mexico, and one for Ecuador and Colombia – brings 100 very short stories of women from their country, stories in which there are no princes or princesses waiting to be rescued, but women who have changed history. at the regional, local, or neighborhood level. “Sometimes the exemplary women you can learn the most from are those who have been around your house,” says the introduction to the book in all five editions.

In the stories there are Latin American women as famous as the singers Chavela Vargas or Lila Downs, but others much less known in the region such as Dorothy Ruiz Martínez, a Mexican scientist who works at NASA. In the edition of Peru, in addition to highlighting the poet Blanca Varela or the heroine of independence Micaela Bastidas, next to them is Isabel Cortez: a woman who worked many years in the cleaning service since she was a minor, until she “She became the spokesperson for all the cleaning employees, and confronted the authorities to make their working conditions more dignified and fair.”

“They are women who find their super power, so to speak, from rebellion,” explains Myriam Vidriales to EL PAÍS, director of marketing and communications at Planeta for Latin America, about the basic editorial criteria used by the multiple teams of editors in the region to make these books. “In every life there is something extraordinary, but how do you focus on that extraordinary? That is what makes that life a fairy tale ”.

These new five editions have a mother edition. In 2016, two Italian authors living in California, Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, published Rebel Girls, a first book of 100 stories featuring women from around the world – like Michelle Obama, Coco Chanel, Cleopatra and Aung San Suu Kyi – that was translated into 26 languages. The three previous editions in Spanish – from 2017, 2018 and 2020 – have sold more than one million copies in Latin America and Spain, which makes it one of the best-selling books by Planeta in recent years. “Through the simple and straightforward account of the extraordinary in the lives of these women, the book became a phenomenon,” says Vidriales.

For the five editions in Latin America –and a sixth to be published in Uruguay in April– Planeta editors made long lists that they later shared and discussed with Elena Favilli and her team of Rebel Girls in United States. After reaching an agreement on the 100 women who would enter each book, dozens of illustrators in each country made the 500 drawings that accompany each of the stories. The editors interviewed several of the women portrayed, especially the lesser known, and each of them received a notification announcing that they were going to be, from now on, a story for “rebellious girls”.

But the most interesting thing about the five editions now in bookstores is trying to decipher their selection. In addition to the regionally best known women – from Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in Mexico to Alejandra Pizarnik in Argentina – the five books echo what many feminists have been trying to reflect in movements: understanding that the female experience is extremely diverse (or intersectional) and that is why, in addition to the whitest or most privileged women who have changed the world, there are all those who have received less recognition in the history of Latin American feminism: the poor, the transgender, the indigenous or Afro-descendant.

The Colombian edition, for example, has a story dedicated to the Asociación de Midras Unidas Del Pacífico, a group of Afro-Colombian women who live in the west of the country and who “teach young women how to manage their menstruation, pregnant women to take care of themselves so that their babies are born healthy, and they help them to give birth ”. Although many of them have been victims of the violence of the Colombian armed conflict, and their traditional practices are not always recognized by Western medicine, they managed to form an association that brings together some 1,600 women and that their ancestral knowledge was recognized as national heritage. “They show that when women get together, they are unstoppable,” the story reads.

“It is an openly feminist book, but it is not a book that one goes through life saying that it is a manifesto,” says Vidriales. The book, for example, has a clear liberal approach in defense of women’s reproductive rights: it makes several profiles of women who have been key to approving women’s right to abortion, such as Argentine lawyer Nelly Minyersky (the green queen , as it is known in Buenos Aires) or Mónica Roa, the Colombian lawyer who achieved in 2005 that the right to abortion was approved in her country on three grounds. “Once upon a time there was a girl who dreamed of being Wonder Woman and changing the world,” the story about Roa begins.

The first women to reach important public positions – the former president of Michelle Bachelet in Chile, the Argentine Eva Perón and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, or the first mayor of Bogotá Claudia López – also have their place in stories for rebellious girls, although Planeta try to be careful with the political context of each country (the first translated edition of 2017, which included England’s Prime Minister Margaret Tatcher, was excluded from the Argentine edition as this policy fueled the war in the Falklands). “They are not the manifesto of Las Tesis,” says Vidriales from Editorial Planeta about the political aspect of the five books, “but they are a sweet with a feminist fire wrapped up.”

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