You don't have to be a child to dig Kate Schatz's newest picture book, "Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future!" Nope, the love letter to amazing musicians, activists, journalists and otherwise iconic ladies has become a kind of phenomenon of late -- selling out its first edition basically one week after release.
MTV News hit up the writer/teacher/editor/feminist to chat about her new book, a tome on which she collaborated with artist Miriam Klein Stahl to tells the stories of everyone from Patti Smith to Jovita Idár. Who's that? Well, you better read on to find out:
MTV: So, your book is already sold out. What do you think made it fly off the shelves so fast?
Kate Schatz: It clearly has kind of touched a nerve. I think what we’re really seeing is it’s not just parents who are wanting to buy this for their kids, there’s teenagers loving it, adults are loving it. It’s touching on something.
I think especially when it comes to women’s history we’re so used to the seeing the same few names and faces circulated over and over and you know, with all due respect to them, they’re awesome -- I just think people are really excited to see some new faces.
MTV: So how did this idea start germinating?
Schatz: I got the idea when my daughter was two. She’s six now, so it’s been a few years in the making. As a new parent I was just thinking a lot about what it meant to be a feminist and a mom and a writer and an artist. Having a kid really shifts your perspective on everything and I was just thinking about wanting to create something for her that would be inspiring and educational and also fun to look at.
We also had like a million ABC books, because when you have a baby it’s just like you know, 'A-Z Animals,' 'A-Z Food,' and I was just like, 'What if I did A-Z awesome women?!’ It popped into my head, and I Googled it figuring I’d find a bunch of stuff, but I was really shocked to find there was really nothing out there.
MTV: Why did you decide to use the word 'rad'?
Schatz: So it was initially called 'Radical American Women.' I’m pretty sure it was my editor, Michelle Tea, who suggested we go with 'rad,' and I was like, 'Oh, duh. Obviously that’s so much better.’ I’m a California girl so I have probably been using that word since birth.
To be a radical you don’t have to be a full-time, hardcore activist leading the protest. I mean you can be that, and that’s awesome, but we wanted to show that there are all kinds of ways to make a difference and to be rad.
MTV: You must have done a ton of research to pick all the women in the book. Who was your favorite discovery along the way?
Schatz: I was really excited to learn about Jovita Idár -- she’s the entry for J. I’d say that she’s probably the most obscure figure in there. She was a Mexican-American educator, journalist and nurse working on the Texas-Mexico border in the late 19th century. She was just a total badass.
She basically started bilingual education. She opened the first bilingual school to educate Mexican children/Spanish-speaking children. She started the Mexican Feminist League. Her father was a journalist and ran this newspaper and she took over for him. The Texas rangers tried to shut down her printing press and she stood in the door and blocked them. It was really, really great to write about and learn about this total badass.
MTV: Who are some of your current female heroes?
Schatz: I think more and more, the people I’m super excited about right now are the people who aren’t famous -- like the people are just doing awesome rad shit every day.
As I do more events on this tour I feel like at every stop we do people come up to me and just start telling me about the rad women in their life, like their amazing great aunt who came from Russia when she was 11 years old and she taught herself how to sew, or their mom who had five kids and just got her PhD.
This book is inspiring people to think about regular women and tell those stories. I’d say those are people I’m super excited about. Also, the little kids who are coming to tell me stories about what they’re doing to be rad. I had these little girls come to an event and they made these little posters for a class project they’re doing to get clean water in Africa. That kind of stuff is really inspiring right now.