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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Tanya Lee Stone served as an editor of children’s books for 13 years. Then she became a children’s book writer and has since published over 80 books. Her works cover a variety of topics from behind-the-scenes looks at how some familiar products are made (Made in the USA series) to picture books about famous females in history such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Her newest is A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, which takes a honest look at love, sex, and identity in high school. The novel, written in poetry, captures a distinctive voice for each girl (Josie, Nicolette, and Aviva) as they relate how they each fell for the same boy. Hailed as the new Forever (which plays a poignant role in the novel), together the girls find themselves through heartache.

Tanya graciously granted me an interview. Going off some of the discussions we’ve had on feminism, I sent her a few questions on the “F word.”

What does being a “feminist” mean to you?

It has meant different things to me in different phases of my life, which relates mostly to my growing awareness of issues that concern me. When I was younger, there were times when I balked at any label at all. Now I embrace the word, especially at a time when its meaning has gotten tangled up in some circles with negative connotations. To me, being a feminist means that I do not allow the gender label to limit me in any way.

It also means that I am conscious of helping to raise education and awareness of the strength of women and the immensity of their achievements. It means that I am on the lookout for language and actions that try to diminish a person based on the fact that she is a female. It means that I support the empowerment of girls and women to be who they are and do what they dream, regardless of societal prejudices or even unconscious limitations related to sex.

In today’s society, with young women idolizing the latest Hollywood party girls, wearing shirts emblazoned with “babydoll, princess” and being image-obsessed, do you feel a new wave of feminism will emerge as a reaction to this mentality?

Yes, and I think it already has. There are several good books attempting to get at what is bothering so many of us–and that is that many young girls are being given a false and superficial idea of what “girl power” is. I think many of us who are mothers or even thinking about becoming mothers are extremely conscious about how waylaid the ideals of feminism can be in our current celebrity, commercial culture.

Why do you think girls don’t encounter a positive portrayal of feminism until they reach university, and only then are they given an image beyond the stereotypical “feminazi”?

I’m not sure I can agree with that as it feels too generalized of a statement to me. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I can tell you anecdotally that I am happily surrounded by women raising daughters with very positive portrayals of feminism. Every woman giving that gift to their daughter (or son, for that matter) is helping both with an individual’s consciousness and in a larger societal role.

When did you become a feminist?

I was probably always a feminist in my beliefs. And I was raised by a man who holds strong feminist beliefs. But I recall balking at the term even after college. Interestingly, it was a conversation with my best male friend from college that alerted me to my own prejudice about the term. We were talking about women’s issues and I was spouting some nonsense about how I never felt limited by my gender and isn’t it lovely how much the world has moved forward that I don’t need to label myself a feminist, and he nailed me. He said he didn’t understand how so many of the women he knew embodied feminism but pushed the label aside. It was an awakening moment for me! I was probably 23 at the time.

Who is a female (or male, lest we be discriminatory) you feel is a feminist?

There are so many, so I’ll choose one for fun, who you might not know some interesting feminist details about. Amelia Earhart. She lived her life, in every moment, the way she wanted to–limitations and pre-conceived notions of what a woman is, be damned. This included when she finally, finally, finally gave in to G.P. Putnam’s repeated marriage requests and said Yes. But the night before her wedding she wrote him a long letter that basically said, Look, let’s give this a shot, but if it doesn’t work out after a year we should agree to part friends. And oh, please don’t expect me to be faithful, it’s not in my nature! I’m paraphrasing, of course. 😉

What is a message you’d like a reader to take away from your novel?

To put your trust in yourself. Trust your instincts. Trust your gut. And don’t let anybody put you down, or make you feel small or worthless.

And this last one is just for fun’s sake..

If you could live inside any children’s book, which title would it be and why?

Well, if it was for a finite time, I’d say Alice in Wonderland. I would love to experience the surreal like that–but I wouldn’t want to stay there!

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