Book Reviews

Bad Girls Throughout History.
By Ann Shen, Chronicle Books

The 100 revolutionary women highlighted in this gorgeously illustrated book were bad in the best sense of the word: they challenged the status quo and changed the rules for all who followed. The book contains short and concise chapters on women who changed history complete with illustrations.

Some of the characters in the book include: Aphra Bhen, first female professional writer; Sojourner Truth, activist and abolitionist; Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer; Marie Curie, first woman to win the Nobel prize; and Joan Jett, godmother of PINK.

Ann Shen presents a broad world of women coming from all eras, countries, backgrounds, races, ethnicities and left me wanting to find out more about these remarkable women.

Like the author said “the short essays are meant to whet your appetite for exploring more on your own”.

Some of my favourites were Malala Yousafsai (1977- ); Ruth Bader Gunsburg (1933- ); Coretta Scott King (1927- 2006) and Edith Head (1897-1981).

If you are looking for an impactful, quick read about powerful women whose actions have been both celebrated and persecuted, I’d recommend this collection.

Fight Like a Girl
By Clementine Ford, Allen & Unwin.

Through a mixture of memoir, opinion and investigative journalism, Clementine Ford exposes just how unequal the world continues to be for women.

Traditionally, to do anything like a girl is to be rubbish at it. Because girls are rubbish, and girls are pointless, and unless girls are servicing some other kind of patriarchal ideal, then what’s the point of us at all?

Ford said “It’s that old quote — I’m paraphrasing it,” but — “the rent we need to pay in order to have any kind of voice”. And when I started to think more about that, I heard it instead as, “Well, if I [a man] have to listen to you, then you [a woman] have to give me something to at least look at”.

Therefore, the idea that “to fight like a girl” is a play, not just on the fact that people think that girls are rubbish but is testament to how strong women are and how vigorously we fight just to exist day to day, with all of the violence against us, all of the hostility, the brutality. We are still here and still standing.

Ford wrote the book in the wake of Jill Meagher’s murder in Melbourne. She writes from the perspective of what it comes down to when something happens to women the questions that get asked relate to what men are thinking. Fundamentally what it comes down to is realising that, when you say things to women like, “Well, why did you walk down there? Why did you dress this way?”, that’s taking the emphasis off the men who are choosing to do these things to women.

This book is an essential read for advocates of women’s rights everywhere. It will make you laugh, it will make you want to scream and it will make you cry. The book is a call to arms for all women. It will make you fight for a world where women have real equality not just the illusion of it.

Yassmin’s Story
By Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Penguin Books 2016

Yassmin’s story is a memoir of her experiences as an immigrant in Australia. Frank, fearless, funny, articulate, and inspiring, Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a young Muslim dynamo offering a bracing breath of fresh air — and hope.

At 21, Yassmin found herself working on a remote Australian oil and gas rig; she was the only woman and certainly the only Sudanese-Egyptian-Australian background Muslim woman. With her hijab quickly christened a “tea cosy,” there could not be a more unlikely place on earth for a young Muslim woman to want to be.

This is the story of how she got there, where she is going, and how she wants the world to change. Yassmin shares her experiences in an open, easy style. The book begins at a grassroots level with the changing of her parents lives with the overthrow of the Sudanese government and what led them to flee Sudan.

She shares her views on the bias and oppression that was presented to her as a Muslim woman in a Western country. She shows no anger, nor does she present bitterness, but an alternative view of Islam and women’s choices, as well as, freedoms within this religious culture.

Yassmin presents a positive outlook throughout the book as she shares her accomplishments with her readers. The book is incredibly informative and enables the reader to see more clearly how systems appear to people with a different point of view. The book is incredibly helpful in displaying the challenges of a young Muslim woman growing up in Australia. Well worth a read.

Narelle Hill, Women’s and Anna Stewart Program Restricted Committee