I have written about several books that contain brief biographies of courageous individuals across history. I am particularly fond of these books because I think they can inspire future, deeper study of the people profiled as well as the causes they champion(ed). There are many wonderful books that fit into this specific category of juvenile nonfiction, but few have impressed me quite as much as The Book of Gutsy Women by Chelsea Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Let’s start with the title. Gutsy is a word that evokes different feelings than words like brave or courageous, even though they are all synonyms. Gutsy is an active and physical word and it is the perfect fit for the many women profiled between the book’s covers. They all gave something of themselves to fight for what they believed was right. And that takes guts.
The authors chose to write about women from all over the world and throughout history. While this isn’t a short book (it is over 400 pages), obviously they were not able to include every gutsy woman. Some of the women they included are well known such as Harriet Tubman and Eleanor Roosevelt. However, these well known individuals are in the minority. Most of the women profiled are not found in juvenile biographies or are just starting to be recognized for their courage (Greta Thunberg). Other women profiled have been ignored in the history books such as Mary Edwards Walker and Mathilde Krim. Their contributions are honored beautifully in this book.
The authors write in the first person perspective, which gives the book a different feel than many biographies. Below the photo (or painting) of each woman profiled, the reader finds the name Chelsea or Hillary (or sometimes both). The authors feel personally connected to the women they are writing about and that comes through strongly in their writing. Sometimes Chelsea will add something to one of Hillary’s subjects, or vice versa, and these additional insights are noted in orange text. It is almost like you are reading a conversation between all three women, the one being profiled and the two authors.
It would be unfortunate if this book was left off of bookshelves in classrooms and homes because of politics. While Hillary and Chelsea have special access to some very gutsy women, that is really the only way that their social roles contribute to the text. This is a book that celebrates the contributions of women throughout history and that is something that we can all support.
Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards:
Diversity 10: I can explain how the way groups of people are treated today, and the way they have been treated in the past, shapes their group identity and culture.
Justice 11: I relate to people as individuals and not representatives of groups, and I can name some common stereotypes I observe people using.
Justice 14: I know that all people (including myself) have certain advantages and disadvantages in society based on who they are and where they were born.
Justice 15: I know about some of the people, groups and events in social justice history and about the beliefs and ideas that influenced them.
Action 19: I will speak up or take action when I see unfairness, even if those around me do not, and I will not let others convince me to go along with injustice.
RI.3- Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text (e.g., through examples or anecdotes).
RI.5- Analyze how a particular sentence, paragraph, chapter, or section fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the ideas.
RI.6- Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.