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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, by Penelope Bagieu. First Second, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2018. $23.50 ages 14 and up

"Tove Marika Jansson is conceived in Paris and born in Helsinki on August 9, 1914. She starts drawing before she can walk. Her father, Viktor, is a sculptor, and the family lives in an artist studio. Tove grows up in a joyous, creative household, where parents and children paint, tell stories, and have parties for days on end. Her mother, Signe, is an illustrator. She draws, rides horses, shoots rifles, and keeps her husband ... "

I did not know Penelope Bagieu's work. So, I was pleased to learn a bit more about her as I pored over the mini-biographies she presents in this book about strong and exceptional women. As happens often, when faced with knowing more about a familiar person or choosing to learn about someone new, I chose someone new. Doing that opened my eyes to many women whose stories I did not know. I love that!

There are 29 biographies here, and they have no connection one to the other. Instead, these women are internationally known, some in the present and many from the past. I had little or no knowledge of all but 8. So, I am feeling smug that I have now learned about many remarkable women. That learning was done by reading those stories in graphic form which requires the artist to be concise and often dramatic.

There is a lot of information presented in the 8 to 10 pages given to each amazing woman. In 6 to 9 panels per page, interested readers will read powerful tales of activists, athletes and artists, of explorers, leaders and scientists. Their lives are chronicled from birth through the events in their life that make them admirable and worthy of the readers' attention, and sometimes to their death. Information provided is sure to encourage further study. It is a marvelous format and provides inspiration and encouragement for young women wanting to make a mark on their world. Original and engaging, I have been rereading some.

Having recently read and posted Islandborn (Junot Diaz), I was especially interested to read about Las Mariposas (Rebel Sisters). Born in the Dominican Republic when Rafael Trujillo and his secret police are wreaking havoc in their country, the Mirabel sisters grew up in a happy household. Trujillo's persistent pursuit of  Minerva, one of the two younger sisters is unwelcome and resisted. Three of the girls become staunch fighters against the despot, leading to many arrests, torture and finally death.

"In the eyes of the Dominican people they are the face of the revolution ...
... and become an even greater concern to Trujillo, who can feel the winds
of change coming.

Las Mariposas are on edge. They worry about those famous 'car accidents'
that happen so often these days. They are right to worry: on November 25, 1960,
while driving to the prison to visit their husbands, a car cuts them off. They are
hacked to death with a machete, then their bodies are put back into the jeep, which
is hurled over a cliff."

Six months later, Trujillo's reign comes to an end when he, too, is assassinated.

This is an exceptional collection of stories that will be of great interest to many.

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