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Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World


Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World

At an early age I realized that there was something wrong in my social studies and history classes as we learned about the heroes and saviors of the past (all men) and the women who stood behind them. I became known for being the angry girl early in eighth grade because of my reactions to the way women's stories were ignored or glossed over in favor of the man's story. History versus herstory, am I right?

If only I had BRAZEN by Pénélope Bagieu back then. If only I could do epic presentations in front of every boy who groaned every time I raised my hand and rolled their eyes when I asked about wives, daughters, the witches burned at the stake, the women sacrificed to the barren void of generations of future ignorance.

"This meticulously real, well-researched and stunning collection is so, so important. I hope...that people from all over the world can take some inspiration and motivation from it during strife and good times."

Thank goodness, then, for BRAZEN. Originally published in French in the newspaper Le Monde, the graphic novel biography showcases rebellious, feisty, brave and intelligent ladies from around the world and throughout history.

Through small graphic novel vignettes, Pénélope Bagieu gives readers a glimpse at the decisive moment in the lives of amazing women that lead them to become rebellious, incredible and awe-inspiring. These women did what they want, no matter what the reaction was by family or society and created change while doing it.

Most, if not all, of these women's stories are heart-breaking and full of hardship and grief no matter if they were born in dynastic China or modern America. Despite it all, a thread of triumph over adversity, independence and freedom prevails. Paired with realistic and beautifully drawn illustrations, the book makes it easy to think that every new woman you encounter --- from Nellie Bly to the Mirabel Sisters to Mae Jemison and Betty Davis --- could be your favorite new hero to look up to.

For instance, did you know that Margaret Hamilton (a woman who was first turned away from acting for the way she looked) from The Wizard of Oz suffered horrible burns after a set fire and had to endure painful treatment to get the green paint that was melted into her skin off? It didn’t heal correctly and for weeks she was forced to wear the paint on her hands, even before reprising the role to finish filming the movie. Still, her Wicked Witch of the West remains one of the scariest characters in film history (and even with half her scenes cut!).

There are so many interesting stories rendered in vivid graphic illustrations so much that I feel like I got to know these women so much more than I would have if I read about them in a book. The greatest thing that BRAZEN does is unearth these women from their buried place in history. After each story, I felt galvanized to do what I wanted as these women had, to go out and fight the patriarchy, to march, to make these ladies proud and honor their stories in the way they deserved.

BRAZEN gets to the heart of these women’s stories, showing them at their bravest and showing anyone who reads it the challenges they faced and how they overcame every obstacle in their path. This meticulously real, well-researched and stunning collection is so, so important. I hope it becomes a must-read for every 14-year-old in school and for fun and that people from all over the world can take some inspiration and motivation from it during strife and good times.

Thank you, Penelope, for your wit, for your illustrations and for making sure that these women have the voice they so desperately deserve to have. I really hope that there can be more volumes of BRAZEN to showcase the other incredible ladies that didn’t get to be a part of the first volume.

Reviewed by Brianna Robinson on March 27, 2018

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World
by Pénélope Bagieu